23:23 Designs is associated with a Small cluster of Chikan Artisans in Uttar Pradesh.
Chikan, in the literal sense means ’embroidery’. This traditional embroidery style is one of Lucknow’s most ancient and well-known art forms, believed to be introduced by the Mughals. The simple and precise handwork on the garment, gives it a very subtle, classy feel that modern embroidery techniques lack. The main essence of the garment is a simple design, and while motifs are now added to make the garment look rich, it still remains a simple and affordable fabric choice.
Origin and history
Indian chikan work goes as far back as the early 3rd century BC, with one tale mentioning the story of a traveller who taught chikan to a peasant in return for drinking water. However, the most popular, and factually checkable story is that Noor Jahan, the wife of Mughal emperor Jehangir, introduced the Persian art in India in the 17th century. She herself was a talented embroideress, and had a particular fondness for this art. Her husband is said to have loved chikan work too and has established several workshops to perfect this art form in India.
Started as a white-on-white embroidery form, back in the day, the favoured fabric was muslin or mulmul as it was best suited to the warm, slightly humid climate. After the downfall of the Mughal Empire, chikankari artisans spread all over India, but Lucknow remained the main center, with Awadh a close second.
One of the most prominent features of the Lucknow chikankari work is the stitches. Each and every stitch is done to perfection and the neatness in the work is hard to find elsewhere. The delicate and artfully done hand embroidery gives the garment a look of richness and skillfulness, which is exactly what you pay for.
Having started out as a white-on-white embroidery work on muslin cloth, chikankari has now evolved and embraced the use of colours. Many say that the change is in keeping with the modern fashion trends, and still swear by the classic all-white garment. While white does rule the roost, don’t be surprised to see colourful and silk threads too tracing the motifs, making each garment more versatile in nature.
Floral patterns and chikankari go hand in hand. Due to its strong Persian influence, flowers have always been a staple with stems, buti and leaves added in to complete the design. Other motifs include embellishments like Mukaish, Kamdani, Badla as well as sequin, bead and mirror work, all of which give the simple work a richer look.
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