The Kolkata Fashion Week-II kicked off in style Wednesday with Brazilian model-turned-actress Gisele Monteiro the star attraction as she showcased famed designer Ritu Kumar's ensemble of Indian and western attire made by the craftsmen of West Bengal.
Eighteen models sashayed down the ramp displaying the attire of the 65-year-old grand dame of Indian fashion, who had started off her work with four hand-block printers and two tables in a small village near Kolkata four decades ago.
Monteiro - of Love Aajkal fame - enhanced the oomph factor to bring the curtain down on the inaugural show of the five-day event, which is without any title sponsor after Emami pulled out Tuesday on contractual issues.
"Today's collection was a tribute to the craftsmen in Bengal," Ritu Kumar later told reporters.
She praised the craftsmen of Bengal and its hinterland saying: "You have great hand weaving in Phulia, embroideries of Uluberia and painting of Sreerampore."
Kumar remembered when she started her career, none of these people in the hinterland of Kolkata were interested in nurturing their talents. They all wanted to become truck drivers or peons.
Her collection started with traditional lehengas, salwar kurtas and sarees with light, muted colours like cream with heavy golden embroidery work and moved on to darker shades like black, green, purple, magenta before ending with the muted orange lehenga of Monteiro.
Kumar said it is the responsibility of the designers to make sure that the works of these craftsmen do not die out. "It is our duty to bring out the best of the talents from these craftsmen into the ramp," she added.
With the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation declaring 2009 as "The International Year of Natural Fibre," KFW-11 has "Earth Couture" as the theme celebrating India's ethnic roots.
"As far as silhouettes are concerned, I started with the Mughal period, moved through Indian history, where we showed the sarees and the unstitched garments. In between, we showed modern India with jackets with paintings," the Delhi-based Kumar said.
One of the paintings was by city-based Jayshree Burman.
Kumar added: "Our craft is very multi-dimensional where you can actually customize every generation and for everybody and that was the whole essence of it."
The show ended with the bridal collection.
Talking about recession and its effect on the industry, she said: "It's a cyclic phenomenon that will keep happening but craftsmen will continue with their work."