There is no such thing as too many clothes, especially if you are a woman. The question that needs pondering is of course, from where to pick what. Life would be so much easier if there was a one-stop shop where your inner diva could order a saree one day, an opulent lehnga another or a chic block-printed fusion maxi the next. That too at the snap of that delicately manicured finger. The wishing genie heard you and now brings to you Zari Mahal – a royal boudoir of rich brocade, delicate lace and pristine pearls.
The brainchild of 32-year-old Manjjaree Biswas from Kolkata, Zari Mahal is a place where you send your design (or pick one from those available), transfer the money and the outfit of your dreams reaches your door. Manjjaree got interested with royal fabrics like benarasi and zardosi work in one of her visits to a museum in her college days. “I was captivated by the intricacy and detailing of zardosi and the sheen and lustre of the benarasi fabrics. Just looking at those outfits I remember feeling like a princess. So when I got the opportunity to visit Benaras I went to the weaver villages to understand the variety of the benarasi weaves and how I could incorporate it in today’s context. For the zardosi work I self-taught myself the art by visiting and spending time with the karigars who specialise in it,” reminisces Manjjaree. Coming from a middle-class family, fashion designing was never part of the plan, however she knew it was her calling as she always found herself to be one of the few kids who was more eager to be part of the backstage production in school plays than performing on stage.
Behind every well-dressed woman has to be a man who loves her. It is true in this case as well. “Till about four years ago I was part of the corporate rat race and I used design for myself, friends and family as a stress buster. But once my son was born and I decided to become a full-time mom and homemaker and finally turn my childhood hobby into something which has now become my profession,” says Manjjaree. Credit should also be given to the other man in Manjjaree’s life, her husband, whose encouragement meant a lot to her. “The name Zari Mahal signifies royalty and was actually my cousin Parshwati’s brainchild. While teasing me one day she said that my living room was the “Mahal” for the princess in every woman. And Zari Mahal was born,” she laughs.
Zari Mahal in a way is a tribute to the desire in every woman to feel and dress regally. And Manjjaree also seeks to popularise the rich and intricate craftsmanship of zardosi and royal yet natural fabrics that are so much a part of India’s rich textile heritage. “My goal is to make zardosi more popular and affordable. Unfortunately most people including many of my clients used to be very apprehensive when I used to talk to them about zardosi and benarasis. Reason being actual zardosi work is hardly available in the market. What most retail stores sell as zardosi is stone embellished sarees which are very gaudy, heavy and basically one time wears. Benarasi on the other hand has been restricted to a bridal wear. Besides, most of the stuff available at boutiques is overpriced and very expensive,” explains Manjjaree.
The ultimate aim of Zari Mahal then is to popularise zardosi and benarasi weaves in a way that middle class women and men can not only afford to buy them but also use them often. And Manjjaree plans to make it contemporary too. “Though designing sarees remains my first love, I have recently started work on a line of western outfits and even fusion wear due to demands and requests from my friends and clients. My clothes are usually custom designed- they are non-fuss, wearable and distinctly suited to the person I am designing for. So you will not find a huge collection when you come to me. I design for the personality and life style of my client,” says Manjjaree. So though the material, colour palette, general design may be similar for two designs, they will never be the same.
And what is it that is this gossamer dream weaver’s ultimate fantasy? “Having started from my living room with doodles as sketches I am looking forward to becoming a part of every living room through the people I design for and who have so lovingly been encouraging my small efforts and egging me on,” declares Manjjaree.
Wishing genie, thank you. A dream wardrobe is just a wish away, or at the-click-of-a-mouse away. One could get in touch with Manjjaree by looking up Zari Mahal on Facebook (link provided below) or call her at 09836800243.
Zari Mahal – https://www.facebook.com/ZariMahal
Text by Aarti Kapur Singh