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Revival of a lost craft

Appliqué, a neglected technique, is now becoming popular with designers. Nisha Kundnani tells more.

india Updated: Jul 18, 2007 17:29 IST

In India the appliqué technique is celebrated even today in small villages in Uttaranchal, Orissa, Gujarat and Assam.
Countries like China, Mexico, Africa and Jakarta too have long-aged traditions of this beautiful craft that is revived from time to time. It's indeed a way of survival for millions of craftsmen who earn a living by stitching pieces of cloth together.

The craft could have become extinct, but some designers have kept it alive.



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The word applique comes from the french appliquer which means to "put on".

It is an ancient needlework technique in which pieces of fabric, embroidery, or other materials are sewn onto a foundation fabric to create designs.

A famous example of applique is the Hastings Embroidery whose designs are appliqued onto the backing fabric using a variety of embroidery stitches.

Applique is used extensively in quilting.

"Dresden Plate" and "Sunbonnet Sue" are two examples of traditional American quilt blocks that are constructed with both patchwork and applique.

Baltimore album quilts, Broderie perse, Hawaiian quilts, Amish quilts and the ralli quilts of India and Pakistan also use applique.

The craft can also be used with materials such as beads, sequins, etc.

It is often combined with other types of needlework such as embroidery to create the desired effect.

genius Alexander McQueen showed a stunning collection of skirts made from quilts and recycled patchworks of shirting material at the Paris Fashion Week in 2004.

It was crafted to the McQueen ‘sex-bomb' template.. the show shook the fashion world, McQueen showed how beautifully the craft can be used.

John Galliano too has mastered this art, his garments have surface ornamentation combined with appliqué, to create the dramatic clothes that he's popular for.

Indian roots
Indian designers, by far, are most popular for their embroideries.

We've mastered the craft and the world is an awe of what we've produced over the years. Debutante designer Zubair Kirmani says, "I have nothing against embroidery.. I did it when I started off too. I was on the verge of developing my signature style then."

"Now I'm intrigued by appliqué and cutwork technique." Bloomingdale's New York is discussing business with the newcomer and has loved the texturisation of appliqué in his outfits.

Artistic approach
Designer Manish is most Arora admired for his usage of the technique. He's used it innovatively and that's the reason why his garments look versatile.

His collection at last season's Delhi Fashion Week had heavy appliqué work with three dimensional effects.

For his Spring Summer shows last year, pieces of cloth were stitched together to make them look like a single print.

Arora's take on appliqué is artistic. He uses it in a narrative form. The heaviness in his work makes his garments look like installations.

"Yeah, I love what I can do with tex tiles. I almost turned weaver with my last collection. I used Varanasi's famous silk and wove it myself to create a fabric that was unique to me. I also used it for appliqué," said Arora in an interview.

Chennai-based designer duo Raj Shroff and Neetu Gupta have had a loyal clientele ever since they started their label Ravage three years ago. Like Arora, their take on appliqué too is artistic.

"We cater to a younger audience and I think young people like experimentation.. 3D effects; garments that are unique and artistic. It's a technique in which one can imagine and experiment endlessly. It will become more popular with designers," says Shroff.

Textiles approach
There are others like Rajesh Pratap Singh, Abraham and Thakore, Zubair Kirmani and Nachiket Barve who use a textile approach to the technique.

Their clothes are simple, non-fussy and are easy to wear. "It's the blending of two things together that makes appliqué so beautiful. The texture looks like a print when two or three type of fabrics are put together. That becomes exclusive to a designer," Kirmani explains.