Artisans in the Chanakya atelier in Mumbai. Chanakya
India’s karigars — an Urdu term for the highly skilled artisans who specialise in handicrafts like embroidery, beading and appliqué — have long been a lynchpin of the global luxury fashion industry, stitching ornate garments for luxury brands such as Dior, Gucci and Valentino.
Though there has long been a “respect deficit” when it comes to recognising the important part these artisans play in luxury fashion’s supply chain, today, as India faces a record-breaking Covid-19 crisis and big weddings and black-tie parties remain off the table in Europe, these craftsman are facing the complete obliteration of their businesses, The New York Times reports.
“Red-carpet dresses and cocktail outfit orders have largely disappeared, which has meant that financial pressure on specialist workshops has continued here,” Max Modesti, the founder of Les Ateliers 2M, a Mumbai embroidery firm that works with Chanel and Hermès, told The New York Times.
Those two luxury houses and Louis Vuitton were the only three that increased their Mumbai orders in the last year, while orders from other Western fashion houses were either reduced by around 50 to 70 percent or cancelled, he added.
“In more than 35 years of business, and several recessions, I have never seen anything like it,” Modesti said.