Dear Ibu Allies,
In 1998, I founded Bhairvi’s Chikan, a brand focusing on the chikankari technique of exquisite hand-embroidery that defined the wardrobe of the Awadh aristocracy. Born in Lucknow’s bustling area of Chowk, the traditional hub of chikankari, I have lived my entire life in the city’s mercantile district and the traditional craft is part of my DNA. I grew-up in a large extended family with my mother and aunts who would embroider their clothes, and now after years of being a part of the chikankari community I continue to explore it with a child-like curiosity… perpetuating its skills among women artisans is my dream and has become my passion.
Chikankari was undergoing a rapid transformation at the time I started my training. Commercialization led to mass-production and the craft, its craftsmanship, and the craftswomen were suffering. This commodification of chikankari clashed with my personal philosophy and commitment to preserving its quality and serving the women associated with it. Inspired by one of my most talented artisans, Shaquila Bano, I dedicated myself entirely to the craft and the craftswomen: innovatively recreating and mainstreaming traditional motifs and encouraging the women towards independent livelihoods. I was determined to help them overcome the challenges in their home and village environments, and free them from patriarchal strangles and the clutches of middlemen.
I started with a small team of 25 women which gradually grew and now is more than 300 strong. They are some of the finest practitioners of the craft, and their work will ensure that Lucknow’s living heritage of chikankari will remain contemporary and alive.
Susan Hull Walker and I met in Santa Fe at the 2014 International Folk Art Market, and she immediately started ordering garments for the Ibu marketplace. Over time, this business relationship transformed into one of friendship and trust, and within a few years, I became an Ibu friend and ally.
L to R: Mamta, Susan Hull Walker, and Mamta's daughter Bhairvan in 2017; Hannah Blatt, Ibu director of artisan outreach, Mamta, and Susan Hull Walker in 2022.
In addition to collaborating on the design of new products, the Ibu Foundation provided funding to help Bhairvi’s Chikan grow. In May 2021, we received an Ibu grant to revive two sophisticated techniques of chikankari embroidery: Daraz, a decorative hand-stitching technique used to join different parts of a garment; and Jaali, a lattice-work stitch and the final and ultimate step for finishing a chikankari product. We were able to have chikankari expert and author, Paola Manfredi, to mentor the trainings and write a handbook on the daraz technique. These trainings have successfully adapted and created a repertoire of contemporary clothing that fuse textiles and techniques while staying true to the principles of the craft.
Clockwise: Artisans learning the daraz embroidery technique; Paola Manfredi and Mamta Varma leading the daraz training sessions funded by Ibu Foundation; Detail of the daraz technique.
The Ibu Foundation grants, made possible by donors like you, have aided in our efforts to rewrite the revival story and change the lives of the women in remote villages. Laughter, love, and a sense of camaraderie pervades the women in the chikankari centers where they come to work together. When you buy a garment created by a Bhairvi’s Chikan artist you provide the gift of recognition, and financial sovereignty, to our artisans.
Thank you donors to the Ibu Movement for trusting in me with your generous support towards elevating and thus impacting the lives of many women!
Founder, Bhairvi's Chikan