One of India’s foremost fashion designers with a fifty-odd year legacy and Padmashri recipient for her exceptional artistry in the field of fashion and textile craft, Ritu Kumar altered the way the world views handmade textile craft through a prism of contemporary globally- relevant design. With a background in art history and museology, Ritu Kumar’s understanding of ancient designs and the innovative use of traditional crafts has created a new classicism which is the core of every single product she designs.. from couture and pret to the home line.
Ritu Kumar started her design journey in the Sixties as a student of art history from Lady Irwin College. While studying museology in Calcutta, she visited Serampore, a village in West Bengal, where she discovered a small colony of hand block printers that were out of work. She began a small enterprise of giving designs that the printers began working on. The result of this effort were beautiful hand-block printed saris. After the positive response to her exhibitions in Kolkata, she knew this was her calling.
In 1969, the eponymous fashion brand was launched with just four hand block printers and two tables in a small village near Calcutta, India. Without a business strategy in place, she kept soldiering on at her work and slowly production and retail of the products took shape. Since, the fashion designer developed a unique style, showcasing the ancient textile traditions of India in a contemporary vocabulary. Her understanding of ancient design and the innovative use of traditional crafts created a new classicism and today the company is renowned for its distinctive colors, quality fabrics, intricate hand embroideries and a rich Indian aesthetic.
Since the company was built on the patronage of craftspeople, it has made a significant impact in creating employment in underdeveloped areas. Over the years it has patronized several organizations working in these areas and helped in developing skills and taking them to the market.
Today her fashion brand has grown to retail through ninety three stores across the country. She has successfully demonstrated that hand-made products can be as profitable and even more glamorous than those made by machine. The company sources the finest fabrics and craftsmanship from across the country and subsequently reviving great textile skills and providing employment to hundreds of artisans.
Sustainability is the core of the fashion brand. "Sustainability is woven into the DNA of Ritu Kumar and has always been at the forefront of everything the brand undertakes. Each collection over the years has included pieces crafted out of fibres that are as close to nature as possible," she tells Vogue. "For us, it is more than just the product itself; it is also about the sustainability of livelihood and crafts with which we have always been closely connected."
Ritu Kumar as a brand has been admired and worn all over the world. Its clientele includes Indian cine stars such as Miss World Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Lara Dutta and Dia Mirza to name a few and international celebrities such as the late Princess Diana and Anoushka Shankar. Since 1994, Ritu Kumar has also designed the wardrobes for the Miss India contestants for their participation in international beauty pageants such as Miss Universe, Miss World and Miss Asia Pacific.
In 1999 Ritu Kumar published a book "Costumes and Textiles of Royal India" which chronicles the history of textiles and art design in India. “If we realize what the history of textiles is, and what we are consuming, new younger designers can find places to source materials. I am also writing another book to direct such designers to find embroiders, printers and weavers because they don't live in cities. They live in the rural heartland. That knowledge is very important for the students as well as the craftspeople," Ritu Kumar tells Explosive Fashion.
In 2002, the company launched a sub-brand LABEL – Ritu Kumar. The pret line s popular among the younger set. Whereas its influences are global, its identity originates from Indian design. 'Today we are part of the India's re-awakening individuality and cultural impact around the world. As part of the team for LABEL we are looking to add voices from the forefront of this phenomenon. Collaborating and working with talent in the arts we seek truly unique expressions from today's generation. The associations are an open platform where the design house provides a structure on which the artists build their vision. The process is collaborative as well as individualistic…' states a note on the official website.
In 2019 the fashion designer diversified into a home line, launching 'Ritu Kumar Home' — a contemporary craft-inspired initiative to bring her design aesthetic to crockery, cutlery and furnishing. From the school of Jamavar in Kashmir and the jaalis in Lucknow havelis to Masulipatnam craft and vegetable printed Kalamkaris in Andhra Pradesh, to booti and bagh prints from Rajasthan — it is all beautifully recreated on crockery, cutlery and covetable furnishings. The collection builds on, and re-interprets, her classic motifs.
She has also been the recipient of important awards such as 'Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini Award' for her contribution in the field of fashion, "Chevalier des arts et des lettres" by the French government and Achievement Award at the Loreal Paris Femina Women's Awards. most importantly- Ritu Kumar has also been awarded the Padma Shri Award in 2013, the country's fourth highest civilian award, for her exceptional and distinguished service in the field of fashion, textile and craftsmanship.
As a brand, Ritu Kumar has been reviving and showcasing the ancient oft-languishing textile traditions of India in contemporary design. Her understanding and innovative use of textile crafts has created a new classicism, and today, her label is built on the patronage of craftspeople. The eponymous brand has also made a significant impact in creating employment and developing skills in rural areas across the length and breadth of the country.
Padmashri Ritu Kumar has always envisioned modern, globally relevant design steeped in centuries-old textile tradition including hand-block printing, zardozi embroidery and Benarasi brocade which she hopes to revive through her collections. In the process, the revivalist designer has provided a financial impetus to the community of weavers engaged in these indigenous processes.
Ritu Kumar (Founder)
Amrish Kumar (CEO)
Recognition and Awards
Products and Services
Indian fashion brand Ritu Kumar comprises of three sub-brands: the classic “Ritu Kumar”, edgy, global and fashion forward “Label by Ritu Kumar” and bridal couture line “Ri”. In recent times the fashion designer diversified into a home line with 'Ritu Kumar Home' — a modern craft-inspired initiative to bring her design aesthetic to crockery, cutlery and furnishing. All sub-brands reflect how Ritu Kumar has transformed the way the world perceives handmade textile craft through a prism of contemporary globally- relevant design.
- Official website Ritu Kumar
- Ritu Kumar’s new festive collection is bringing back Bohemian style Vogue
- Brand history Ritu Kumar
- Label Ritu Kumar’s first ever activewear collection Vogue
- Ritu Kumar on making a return to Couture Week after a decade Vogue
- Facebook page of Ritu Kumar Facebook
- Ritu Kumar Pernia's Pop-Up
- Twitter page of Ritu Kumar Twitter
- Meet Ritu Kumar, the doyen of Indian haute couture Mid Day
- Wikipedia page of Ritu Kumar Wikipedia
- Kalki Koechlin shoots for Label Ritu Kumar Indian Express
- LinkedIn page of Ritu Kumar LinkedIn
- Ri Ritu Kumar revives the joys of Spring with its latest collection Vogue
- Instagram page of Ritu Kumar Instagram
- “Sustainability is woven into our DNA” Vogue
- In conversation with Ritu Kumar Explosive Fashion
- Ritu Kumar Outlook Business
- Label Ritu Kumar introduces relaxed casuals with the launch of Label Basics Vogue
- Ritu Kumar utsavpedia
- Brand Ritu Kumar Eyes The Millennial Market Voice Of Fashion
Ritu Kumar (Founder)
Amrish Kumar (CEO)
Fashion and Textiles