October 21, 2021

Traveling in Lucknow, India: Chikan and Zarduzi Handiwork Gives Lucknow Name in Fashion

Clothes in the United States usually come from overseas assembly lines. In India, popular, traditional wear comes from the skilled, rapidly moving hands of Lucknowites.

Cities in India are often recognized for particular crafts and skills. In this sense, Lucknow is best known for its embroidery trade.

Lucknow’s Chikan and Zarduzi Embroidery Fashions

Lucknow is known for its chikan-stitched suits—used for daily wear—and its zarduzi suits—bejeweled and be-sequined—for wedding ceremonies. Both styles are stitched with know-how passed through generations.

Anjum Jafri, a 51-year-old wife and mother, has built a chikan business—Dreams Creation—from a lone effort at home, to one employing nearly 700 women. She did it in seven years.

“I am working for the cause of the women,” Jafri says.

Her work space is a bare, square room with one window. Metal shelves are loaded with wooden block stamps used for making patterns on fabric. Jafri, and her 23-year-old daughter, Amina, apply the patterns for work groups—15 women, give or take—to then embroider.

“At first we were totally local. It was just a pastime for her,” Amina said of her mother’s work. “After three years, we started to get local retail orders. Then we got a design order and it’s continuing. Recently we went to Delhi.

“After seven years, we are exploring India. We have not done that yet,” Amina adds.

But already, at a desk in a nearby room, the elder Jafri shows samples of designs she’s sending to New York. To her, reaching big dreams means helping more women.

On the matrimonial side of Lucknowi embroidery, 28-year-old Shuaib Khan has already broken through, buying silk from China, and placing the zarduzi needlework of his Real Ratna Fashion with European retailers. Like Jafri, he too hopes to reach markets in the United States.

Where to Stay & What to Do in Lucknow, India

Transportation: Lucknow, a sizable city with population 2.5 million, has an airport (www.LucknowAirport.com). Many international airlines fly into New Dehli. Shuttle to the domestic terminal to fly Indian Airlines the rest of the way, four flights daily. Other options from Delhi: seven hours by express train, 12 hours by bus.

Accommodations: Arranging hotel accommodations before arrival is recommended. Consider requesting airport pickup; there may be a fee for this service. Accommodations range from less than $10 per night (not highly recommended for the faint of heart) to four stars that run little more than $125 (USD) – Hotel Clark’s Avadh and The Taj Residency. But there are many options in between which are reasonable in comfort and price. Look along Latouche Road and near Hazratganj, the main shopping district.

Food/Drink: Besides shopping at Hazratganj, there is refreshment, of course. Moti Mahal is an air-conditioned restaurant that may serve as respite from street bustle. Barista is a coffee house chain not unlike Starbucks.

Modern Shopping: Nearby is Saharaganj, a new shopping mall thoroughly Westernized and modern. It’s everything trendy and fashionable about North American or Western European urban shopping experiences. And many locals are laughing at themselves as they get acquainted with the escalators.

Sightseeing:

  • Bara Imambara is much more than a religious tomb, it contains a labyrinth to get lost in.
  • The Residency, site of an historic Indian rebellion against British colonialism, is also a quiet, garden reprieve from city noises and crowds.
  • La Martiniere College’s students fought with the British in defense of the uprising at The Residency, for which they received honors of valor from the British Empire; stop at the school to see some of Lucknow’s most intriguing architecture.

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