From the plains of Sindh. The intricate applique work on your kameez, which you absolutely adore, is inspired from a rilli. What’s a rilli, you ask? It is a traditional bedspread made by artisans hailing from rural areas of Sindh. Many years ago, our savvy fashion designers took the intricate patterns off the bedspread and overlaid it on our kurtas, dupattas, and even lowers! The op-art look was a great hit amongst the fashionistas. “Initially, rilli was a way to preserve worn out clothes,” says my mother, who happens to have spent her entire childhood and teenage years in a tiny village in Sindh. “Men’s clothes, which were made out of stronger fabric, were dyed in various colours and cut into tukris [pieces] to form a rilli. That was your basic rilli. And then occasionally, ladies experimented with the shape of the tukri to make it fancier ones.”
While the old clothes made the base of a rilli, the men’s garments made the top layer. Another surprising addition to the mix was silk shalwars! Yes, women intermixed their patterned silk clothes with the solid colour of menswear to funk things up. “I remember my grandma fondly reminiscing how a specific rilli was close to her heart because it had a bit [more specifically clothes] of her and her husband in it,” my mother shares with a smile. “In those days, rillis were a necessity and every girl was expected to learn how to make them.”
Then how did the shift to new fabric happen? “Eventually, rich people who appreciated the craft started buying yards of brand new fabric and got rillis made out of it. But apart from the top, everything else remained same. A traditionally made rilli has worn out clothes as the filling. But women in Thar still use old fabrics to make rillis for those who can’t afford the modern version.” Apart from the old and new version, there are apparently three different types of rillis? “Yes, there is one with tukri work (patchwork), and the more expensive and trendier rilli uses katta (applique) work. Sometimes they also embroider the top of the tukri (patch), but that’s rare and done mostly on clothes.”
Do we hear clothes? Yes, the younger artisans have diversified their craft and have made the age old applique work more palatable by incorporating it into our daily wear. Apparently, the super talented ladies in Sindh recognised the craft’s potential and enhanced it with time. Generation’s Cottage line is all about empowering this lot of talented artisans and making rilli mainstream. This season, the Gypsy Folklore makes use of this age-old craft on lawn shirts and cotton trousers.
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