Neelgar’s Kamaldeep Kaur is in Chennai with her evergreen, heirloom bandhanis  

Kamaldeep Kaur, the designer and founder of Neelgar, has played an immense role in the revival of this tie and dye technique that dates back to centuries.
Neelgar's Bara Dozi collection
Neelgar's Bara Dozi collection

There is good reason that bandhani textiles are coveted. Intricate dots dyed with the highest level of precision on a feather light fabric, their charm is undeniable.

The centuries-old craft has retained its immense popularity over the years, and has seen a decided comeback in the form of contemporary Indian wear this year.

Kamaldeep Kaur, the designer and founder of Neelgar, has played an immense role in the revival of this tie and dye technique that dates back to centuries.

She started Neelgar about 20 years ago after doing a course in fashion design. “During the course I was introduced to tie and dye techniques and it was love at first sight. And I started exploring everything around me to see how I can make a design out of this. By the end of the course, I had a huge library of designs,” recollects the designer, whose first job was with none other than renowned couturier JJ Valaya. Kamaldeep later went on to work with Gurjari- Gujrat State Emporium, where she got to work with craft communities in the villages.

<em>Patch work sari from Bara Dozi collection</em>
Patch work sari from Bara Dozi collection

This mix of high fashion and her exposure to craft communities stood her in good stead.

“Just eight hours drive from my house I came across people who were so deprived of what I considered the basics. I started training them to my quality requirements. It was an incredible journey; I started learning about life in general,” she tells us.

But it was an antique dealer who really opened her eyes to the need to revive this almost dying technique. “I happened to visit an antique dealer in Gujarat who showed some amazing bandhani he had in his collection. It was breathtakingly beautiful and I asked him who makes them. And he said they have all gone to the graves. I decided then and there to focus on reviving the technique,” says Kamaldeep, who managed to find eight women who did very fine work. Now, after 18 years, she has 3000 women all across Gujarat working for her. She supplies regularly to leading couturiers, Abu Jani and Sandeep Kosla. And thanks to them her creations have made it into the closets of some of the leading Bollywood stars and even the Ambanis.

<em>Models showcasing her latest collection</em>
Models showcasing her latest collection

For the exhibition in the city, Kamaldeep is showcasing two of her latest offerings – Bandhani Festive Collection and Bara Dozi. “Dozi is an Arabic word for patchwork. We have combined patch work and bandhani for this collection. At one point we used to do garments for companies and we took the leftovers to make bandhani saris with patch work. The collection became so popular that our customers started asking for more such pieces. We collect samples of different things to design one sari. So, you get to see different techniques in one piece and that makes each piece exquisite and unique,” she says.

In her latest offering, you will find saris, dress materials, dupattas and stoles with embellishments like delicate hand embroidery and beautiful Mukesh work with sequence.

<em>Designer Kamaldeep Kaur  </em>
Designer Kamaldeep Kaur  

When Kamaldeep started working with bandhani it was a traditional craft used by only certain communities. “I realised that to give constant business to the craft community, I must expand the market. So, I started doing a lot of international shows, and got invited to museum shows all over the world,” says the designer.

Kamaldeep has also revived a lot of old traditional designs acquired from museum archives as well as pieces she collected from antique dealers, so that ancient designs are not lost.

All her hard work paid off as one of her designs – a Bandhani sari -- is part of the permanent display at the National Silk Museum in China.

Her designs may be rooted in tradition but they have an international sensibility, if the styling and colour combinations are any indication. They are classy with an understated elegance. And while you may find the usual bandhani colours like fuchsia, reds, and greens, you will also find greys and blues too and several other colours that are not what you usually associate with bandhani.

“A lot of young brides come to us who don't want traditional bandhani. They love our colours and style, which are elegant and international. You will find lots of greys, mauves, powder blues, moss green… all non-traditional Bandhani colours. You will also find lots of dots, lines and geometric designs. They go well with a brocade or woven blouse, or even a shirt, for a more contemporary look,” she adds.

Price starts at Rs 6,500

July 21 and 22. From 10.30 am to 7 pm.
At Folly, Amethyst, Royapettach.


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