This fashion designer-entrepreneur is on a mission to revive dying Suf embroidery in Kutch
Vanshika Gupta discovered Suf embroidery while working on her college project. She decided to create a platform through her startup Label_Vanshika to help revive this dying artform mostly practised by women in the Kutch region of Gujarat.
Vanshika Gupta jumped into entrepreneurship soon after completing college.
Her final year project had led her to discover new crafts into design and she came across the highly intricate embroidery form, Suf, practised by women artisans in the Kutch region of Gujarat. Her mission to popularise this art form and help the women formed the impetus for Label_Vanshika.
She was pursuing a bachelors in fashion design from Pearl Academy in Delhi, and in 2019 she decided to turn entrepreneur with her eponymous label, Label_Vanshika.
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While pursuing her bachelor’s degree, Vanshika noticed the disparity when it came to recognising skilled women artisans.
“Being a woman, I always noticed this disparity and saw their work go unnoticed. I wanted to create a platform for the hard-working women in the craft sector, where men had become the face of the craft,” says Vanshika.
On a trip to the Kutch region in Gujarat, Vanshika discovered the intricate art of Suf embroidery practised by women. It involves a painstaking process and is centred around triangles called suf. The artform is slowly dying and is supported by a few NGOs in the region. Vanshika wanted to support the craft and the women creating it and thus, she started incorporating the work in her own designs.
In her first collection, Navajo by Women, Suf embroidery formed the star attraction. Vanshika works with 12-15 women from the Sumrasar village in Kutch.
Reviving a dying art form is not easy. Vanshika would visit the craftsmen and women every month while doing her project, document the craft, study it, get familiar with the artisans, ask them to try different loosely woven cloth and threads for the sampling and embroidery, make them understand her own concepts, give them colour stories to work on the fabric and incorporate their sense of design also.
She overcame all these barriers and made her graduation collection with Suf embroidery at the centre of it all. A fashion show featuring the collection received an overwhelming response for design and the craft. In 2018, she also displayed her collection at Amazon Fashion Week, where she gave the traditional sari a modern Indo-Western twist.
With financial help from her father, she started Label_Vanshika and was in the process of bringing her collections to the market when the coronavirus pandemic struck.
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Dealing with the pandemic
Even before the pandemic hit, Vanshika was experimenting with the idea of masks. After masks became the ‘new normal’, Vanshika knew that she had to continue to make them. She received her first embroidery sample in January and had started to incorporate Suf embroidery on the masks as well. She hopes that the introduction of Suf embroidery through products like masks will help her gauge the interest of consumers in the craft and help her expand her collections based on consumer demand.
The cost of the masks is rather high and ranges from Rs 200 to Rs 1,000. Vanshika clarifies, “I am helping these craftspeople through these masks and trying to get the craft alive and spreading awareness about it.”
Due to the pandemic, the launch of her label’s first collection, which was supposed to be in August is on hold and she hopes it will happen early next year. She is in the process of launching her website soon to help people buy her collection and products.
With the help of her small team comprising a masterji, two tailors, a senior designer, trims handler and helper and the craftswomen from Kutch, Vanshika hopes to make her unique mark with Suf embroidery as her label’s USP. In the future, she hopes to work with different crafts and weavers, make her own fabric, and experiment with Suf and more crafts.
(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)
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