Embroideries of Kutch

Kutch is famed for its fabulous embroidery, the breadth and depth of which are simply unparalleled

There are about sixteen different types of embroidery that are still practiced by artisan communities that live in the desert. Typically women used brightly coloured threads to hand-embroider motifs from nature and daily life. These are often embellished with tiny mirrors to create a unique effect that is instantly recognisable as belonging to the region.

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Each community has its own characteristic technique with different colours, motifs and styles. For example, the Ahirs are a farming community that use a predominantly chainstitch-based technique to create motifs of flowers, birds and animals that reflect their agricultural lifestyle. The striking embroidery, always done by the women, can be found on garments, in homes and even on the horns and backs of oxen.

Another famed technique has originated with the nomadic Rabari tribes. Rabari women wear only black. Their garments are woven from wool, which they believe is a scared yarn. Every young Rabari girl learns to embroider, creating dense, composite patterns on garments, wall hangings and bags for her dowry. A common set of motifs is used, but each woman places and embellishes them in a different way, so that no two designs are alike.

Much more than a craft, the techniques are a visual manifestation of identity and each craftsperson weaves time-honoured bonds and relationships into the rich patterns that she so painstakingly creates. Varana's collections in 2018 reimagine these different embroidery techniques through a modern lens. Keeping true to the spirit of the original craft, artisanal motifs have been recreated on contemporary silhouettes, to create products that are not only beautiful to eye and touch, but also offer a unique cultural sensibility.