From learning block painting herself, to setting up a label the whole country admires – Recapping Ritu Kumar’s 45-year journey

She is a fashion icon who started her career 45-years-ago without a plan, in a village with two tables and four hand-block printers. Ritu Kumar opened her first boutique in 1966 in Defence Colony, Delhi, and now runs 30 boutiques across the country.

She rarely talks passionately about competition or the market. Instead, Kumar talks about the country’s textile heritage and its future instead. She says that India has an organic fashion handwriting based on indigenous skills. “When the Zaras and the Mangos of the world came to our high street, I was actually concerned. I thought that we had become just like China, that we would turn out to be like the rest of the world, where everybody wears just one uniform, with Euro-centric, Euro-dictated or American-dictated handwriting,” says Kumar. Thankfully, the market proved her fears wrong.

Today, Ritu Kumar’s enterprise has three distinct brands in the market: Ri, a premium bridal and formal wear line; Ritu Kumar, a traditional prêt brand offering ethnic daily and semi-formal wear; and Label, a fashion prêt line. But she’s not alone in the world of ethnic wear. Quite a few women ethnic wear retailers have emerged on the scene in the last decade, outgrowing Kumar’s retail store numbers by far.

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