Designer Ritu Kumar honoured with prestigious French award

December 9th, 2008 - 11:58 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 9 (IANS) The French government has honoured veteran designer and revivalist Ritu Kumar with the prestigious Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres award (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters) in recognition of her contribution to Indian fashion. The award was presented to Kumar by French Ambassador Jerome K. Bonnafonte on behalf of Culture and Communication Minister Christine Albanel at the French embassy here Monday night. A minute’s silence was observed in memory of the Mumbai terror attack victims before the ceremony began.

“The award is a celebration for Indian textiles and fashion community. France feels that India is one of those countries where fashion is taken seriously,” Bonnafonte told the audience, comprising the city’s glitterati as well as Kumar’s family and friends.

The French ambassador said Kumar was chosen because her work transcended the boundaries of mere fashion.

“Ritu Kumar is keeping alive the cultures of India. The history of fashion industry and the history of culture is the history of human civilisation. France believes that wanting to dress yourself and your environment in a sophisticated manner is our way to overcome limitations,” Bonnafonte said.

The envoy said at the heart of Kumar’s success in transforming traditional Indian craftsmanship and designs into objects of daily use and Indian prĂȘt was a story of globalisation that upheld values of modern life - dialogue, communication and the spirit of living together.

Kumar, whose career in Indian fashion spans more than four decades, said she had been invited by the French government to accept the award in Paris, but she refused the invitation saying she would love to receive it in her country in the presence of her friends, family and well-wishers.

The revivalist, who went out of her way to make the award ceremony memorable, personally designed the venue on the embassy lawn with giant wall-hangings from Andhra Pradesh done up with Kalamkari motifs with a matching settees, cushions and chair drapes in red and block prints from the southern state.

The ceremony was preceded by a 15-minute documentary, which traced Kumar’s early years as a student of rural Bengal textiles in Kolkata and its neighbourhood in the 1960s, her journey to Mumbai and abroad and her “Tree of Life” fashion show in 1989 that became a trademark for the best of Indian fabrics and clothes.

It also chronicled the developments in the fashion industry that wove itself around Kumar’s work for better part of the 1960s, 70s and the 80s.

The award was instituted May 2, 1957 by the French ministry of culture and confirmed as part of the L’ordre National du Merite in 1963 by then president Charles de Gaulle.

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