Claimed to be the first designer to introduce boutique culture in India, Ritu Kumar is one of India’s finest fashion designers. The designer deals in bridal couture and is known for her unique style that subtly reflects the Indian culture and traditions through her contemporary outfits. Ritu has a very refined understanding of ancient designs that she painstakingly translates into the modern bridal couture of today; all thanks to her background in museology and art history.
Called the ‘Couture Rani’ lovingly by her admirers, Ritu was born on November 11, 1944 in Amritsar. She lived in Delhi later where she graduated in 1964 from the Lady Irwin College. She went off to the US in 1966 to acquire higher education from New York’s Briarcliff College. Ritu’s business started from humble beginnings and it is amazing to see where her handwork and determination has landed her today. Her business was set up in a small village close to Kolkata in 1960 with a few block printers and two tables. Over the years, Ritu’s business has grown exponentially and work is sold in over 35 outlets throughout India today providing livelihood to hundreds of artisans. Known as the first designer to add the word ‘contemporary’ to India’s bridal couture, Ritu’s work has matured beyond textile crafts. What makes Ritu a strong force to be reckoned with in the quite competitive bridal couture market is her ability to create refreshingly modern silhouettes by incorporating traditional textures and embellishments making her collections feel like a breath of fresh of air.
Since Ritu’s company was founded on the patronage of craftsmen, the company has played an instrumental role in providing jobs to people living in the undeveloped areas of India. The designer discovered Ranihati’s embroiders in the early 1970s living in the outskirts of Calcutta and provided them with a workspace in their own native environment making them more comfortable while they work. Ritu also helped revive the age old craft of Zardozi which dates back to the era of Mughal emperors by using it to make her bridal outfits and eveningwear along with gold embroidery, unique patterns and rich fabrics. In 1999, Ritu wrote a book on the history of India’s textile and art designs titled, Costumes and Textiles of Royal India.
In 2002, Ritu launched her company’s sub brand called LABEL in partnership with her son Amrish Kumar which targeted the foreign and local fashion markets alike with their traditional yet contemporary fashion oriented outfits. In 2005, Ritu Kumar became one of the founding members of the All India Artisans and Craft Workers Welfare Association alongside Laila Tyabji, Fabindia, Madhukar Khera and Pritam Singh.
Ritu has won many prestigious awards throughout her career. One of them is the Padma Shri Award she received in 2013 for her distinguished services to the Indian fashion industry. In 2012, she won the Femina Women’s Award by L’Oreal Paris. Ritu was also awarded the Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini for her contribution to the field of fashion. In 2000, she was awarded the Kingfisher Group of Industries’ Lifetime Achievement Award. The French Government also bestowed upon her ‘The Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters’. In 1998, she received two awards; the Outstanding Women Entrepreneur Award by PHD Chamber of Commerce and the National Institute of Fashion’s Lifetime Achievement Award.