October 16, 2020 Asmita Aggarwal

Call for a Reboot

Niki Mahajan showcases the craft of badla, reinventing it using patterns from the jaali windows of Mehrangarh Fort, breaking tradition by shifting from whites to a dark palette

By Asmita Aggarwal

It has been a tough year for most designers when on March 24th they had to close down operations. Unfinished garments were put into plastic bags and hastily stored, dust covers placed and retail stores closed doors. Niki Mahajan remembers in Lucknow, Rann of Kutch, Sanganer her artisans were told to abandon their pieces and leave.  “It’s been seven months, the calls don’t stop coming asking when work will resume. I have been working with these people since the last 30 years. I don’t say I am a part of the industry for three decades, but a part of their families,” she says.

Niki has always flown under the proverbial radar, but she has been true to her aesthetic. “My collection is about hand-made and really there is no theme. It’s all about craft and I feel it is gradually slipping away. I look around for the skilled artisans and there aren’t too many around. The younger generation— none! Who knows the next collection will not have any traces of craft left. Maybe it will be overtaken by digital prints and computerised embroidery. Like the environment we need to sit up and take a call about the future,” she adds.

With the pandemic all things precious, luxurious and timeless have taken a back seat. It has made way for affordability and practicality.“The customer today is getting used to online activity. The touch the feel is no longer a necessity. The need for luxury, opulence, excessiveness, is no longer relevant. Less is more is what works—along with comfort, functionality, elegance and affordability,” she explains. What remains her calling is that the coming generations should have timeless pieces from our heritage. Thus, she suggests, re-centre, realign and reboot. At this point it is work in progress and the entire process of discovery will happen all over again. New norms and systems will be placed, exactly as we did so many years ago.

The upside is, Niki believes she can reach millions with a touch of a button. “I can create awareness like never before. From urban to rural to the entire world I can speak my language, tell my story with great abandonment and freedom. That gives me infinite hope and it will be a new world with new rules, a more conscious world with respect and humility. I foresee a great new future where lessons learnt will mark fantastic new opportunities,” she adds.

Her advice for the future is to re centre as one does in Google Maps. “There’s no Rush. Take time off. You are here, your talent is here,” she concludes.

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