July 26, 2019 Asmita Aggarwal

City of Light

Banaras, the sacred city, alive with the world’s within, serves as the leitmotif for Sulakshana Monga as the ICW line is redolent with cultural landscapes

By Asmita Aggarwal

Sometimes silence is the biggest conversation you can have with the world and that’s just what Sulakshana Monga did for the last 30 years. Quiet and reticent she worked relentlessly to create a niche for her label starting small with two craftsmen to now boasting a posh address in Mehrauli.

Being a political science student, from a nondescript town in Rajasthan, fashion was a big move for Monga, who’s love for art drove her to running a mammoth factory in Noida. “My father was an art lover/collector and my mom did embroideries, beautifully. I think I inherited that passion for the creative space,” she smiles. Speaking in chaste Hindi and explaining techniques and influences showed her involvement in the entire process which was soaked in cultural ethos and reverence for heritage.


Brides today are well-heeled entrepreneurs and have seen the world, it’s tough to sell them something that is not fashion-forward. When Monga started designing, being self-taught, she admits she learnt everything on the job, there was no fancy fashion school she studied in. Encouraged by her husband and mother-in-law to foray into the business they supported her courageous efforts. “Twenty-five years ago the mothers-in-law would pick the trousseau and the bride would coyly accept. Now brides want the lehenga to match the skin tone it is a 360-degree turn; you need to give them something fresh and appealing as they are the decision-makers. For example, if we are using pashmina as the mother of the bride wants it, the bride will look at the fall of the garment, that matters to her more. As a designer we have to make the twain meet,” she adds.

Her story for ICW 2019 is based out of Banaras, as she admits the “colour opulence” set the mood, she recreates the sights and sounds of the ghats using references of sindoor, betel leaves, colours of Holi, Hanuman mandirs and the aarti.  “It is a misnomer that brides don’t want volume, they do, but restrained, even as most like it gossamer. The silk is woven in Banaras and its texture is buttery giving the garment a soft rustle and whispery billow-ness,” she adds.

Monga believes fashion is global, it is not limited to one country, craft or tonality, has frankly no geographical boundaries. “And I strongly feel you can’t be successful if you are not rooted and you don’t know where you are going if you aren’t aware of what you left behind. That’s why if you use red or orange or even pink, give it a new spin,” she adds.

There is a monumental shift even in the usage of embroideries, sequins, raffia to moulding and blending of fabric to create textures on the ensemble, it has to be in tandem with the language of the material worked on. “Material exploration has been my mainstay I know how much embroidery I can render without compromising with the fabric’s virtuosity. So I chose wisely depending on what the bride desires,” she explains.


Radha-Krishna motifs and booties bloomed on bridal lehengas and Monga used art inspired symbols, the ‘lal dewar’, staired ghats, the resilience of Ganga, religiosity, ash-smeared sadhus and thread-bearing pundits everything resonated with the essence of the line. “It is important for me to justify the look I am suggesting and also see it goes with the bride’s bodyline and what she would like to wear without my impositions. Neither does anything have to be repetitive nor outdated,” she explains.

And when you have a show stopper like Malaika Arora Khan who looks as fresh as morning sea breeze, even at 46, readying to be a bride again you know you have captured the hearts of all age groups with your gentle offerings.


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