Kolkata store Kunbi has a wide collection of kantha and silks
Located near Golpark, the nearly two-year-old store Kunbi is a great venue for some serious retail therapy. Be ready to fill your shopping bags with not just unique pieces of art, handbags and pouches, but clothes too. In fact, the garment section had most of our attention once we found out that it stocks rare saris sourced from different states. The boutique is the brainchild of Poonam Sarkar, who opened this store in April 2017, and travels frequently to collect a variety of saris from different parts of the country.
Whether it is the Madhubani print from Bihar or Bhagalpuri silk, Chanderi from Madhya Pradesh or tussar, Swarnochuri and Bishnupuri silk from West Bengal, you will be spoilt for choices with the unique collection of saris on offer. Kunbi is, in fact, popular with celebrities too as you can find some really rare pieces, such as the Dongria sari (tribal weaves from Orissa), Phulia (from West Bengal), Khandua, Matka and Gheecho, apart from Kantha work on silk, Benarasi, Katan and Maheshwari.
Blouses made from Hakoba, lace, kota and even patchwork can be found here, with some featuring hand-embroidered designs that can be teamed up with any sari. If you’re looking to accessorise, you can find a few unique choices in their collection of fashion jewellery, like the Kada from Dokra or handcrafted tribal jewellery from Santinektan, all picked up by Poonam on her travels, apart from jackets of Khesh, batua works of kantha and khadi stole, with patchwork and colourful pom poms.
The name Kunbi comes from a handwoven sari of Goa, explains Poonam, who happens to be a student of zoology. “In India, everybody has an inherent creativity that translates into a personal sense of style. Kunbi aims to revive the traditional arts and crafts of Bengal, whether it is with handloom saris or hand-painted cups, or pots made with paper mesh and jute. We deal with many artisans and try to promote their work.”
“We consciously avoid machine-made things — all our saris, kurtis and blouses are handmade, and one-of-a-kind, and take time to make. The kantha saris take almost nine months to produce. That is why we ask for time when taking an order,” she adds.
Poonam informs us about a Gandhian charkha that sits atop the kurta racks, overlooking the gallery entrance. “I wanted to include it because it is an emblem of the indigenous textile industry in India, which had a successful run before the advent of the East India Company, which completely drained it.”
The gallery has a room reserved for a diverse collection of artworks, featuring everything from paintings to patachitra, batuas and pouches made of kantha and small ornamental handcrafted furniture as well. Roasted Darjeeling Mission Hill Tea, which the hosts serve their guests, has found its way into the store too, by popular demand. Though Poonam insists, “You cannot commercialise every place. There should be an atmosphere to absorb, for the people who walk in. We don't consider ou guests from a business point of view, instead we teat them like family."
Price for a Kantha sari: Rs 10,000 onwards