“All my garments and work come with a story”
Having studied jewelry design from Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, Mrunal Hritik Khimji (Creative Director, Mrunals Boutique at Muscat) found her calling in crafting personalized couture garments that tell a tale. She left India at a very young age, although her roots in culture and crafts remain very strong.
Her eponymous boutique, Mrunal’s Boutique (www.mrunalsboutique.com) has been successfully running since 2008 in Muscat, Oman. She specializes and focuses on promoting ancient embroideries from India, with all design and production done locally in Oman. Speaking to the Madhurya Blog Mrunal says, besides reviving traditional embroidery, she continues to encourage her clients to use organic handloom fabrics to promote eco-friendly resources.
She seamlessly blends her Indian sensibilities with an Arab influence and completes the holy trinity with western silhouettes. The bespoke brand aims to create couture affordable and accessible in Oman and all around the world. Mrunal created a culture that focuses on personalized service to make every client feel special and unique.
In continuation of her pursuit to promote handlooms and local traditional craftsmen, Mrunal works closely with Madhurya Creations to create bespoke pieces specially designed for the Middle East market. The project ensures that benefits go straight to the craftsmen themselves, in order to inspire them to continue the traditional hand work.
Her latest venture — Rumi Design Studio — is an accessory line with Rushali Jaising. As childhood friends they always wanted to work together, Rumi Design Studio is homage to that dream, she says. Currently, they’re focusing on sustainable, vegan and biodegradable accessories that are made in India.
As with all her projects and personal ventures, Mrunal ensures the use of sustainable and organic material and fabrics wherever possible and works with partners and clients in promoting sustainability.
Find out more on Mrunal and her passionate pursuing of fashionable fabrics and couture that have her deal with heritage weaves
* Early years of Mrunal and her study…
I was born in India and lived there until I was 15-years-old. I moved to Switzerland for further schooling at the Institute Le Rosey. Subsequently I completed my college at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York with a Major in Jewellery Design.
* Her love towards fabrics and handloom….
My mother is one of the true reasons why I love and feel passionate about handlooms. From a very young age I travelled around India with my parents and always admired the cultural aspect of the country. I was always creative and enjoyed various forms of art. Over time I took a lot of interest in the different types of clothing and the history behind each fabric. As a child I remember my mother would wear different handloom saris and pair them with unique silver and gold jewellery and how graceful, effortless and chic she looked! She patiently answered all my endless questions about fabrics which piqued my interest for a lifelong affair with handlooms. I enjoy reading about our history and rich culture through different dynasties. There’s so much more to a fabric than a piece of material, it tells you a tale of the past. The story intrigues me and I love narrating it through my garments.
* Mrunal’s Indian-ness and the roots have remained strong even as a jewellery designer
My love for arts and crafts comes through as a passionate jewellery-design enthusiast and a textile designer with rooted Indian-ness. Travel and exposure across India, thanks to my parents was something I really enjoyed. But personal interest and enthusiasm in the space excelled my learning. At the end of the day if you are passionate about any subject, it automatically leads to love.
* Mrunals Boutique and its connection to Indian crafts and Madhurya…
I was initially introduced to Madhurya for a cultural project where I could buy some items of interest. Over the years I started taking interest in their methodology of sourcing and working with local artists and handloom weavers across India. It was a rare occasion where I witnessed the artists getting directly paid for their hard work without any middlemen taking commercial benefits. I realized how important it was to support the artists directly in order to ensure the sustainability of the art for generations to come. This was a turning point for me to see what more I could do to support the local artists through Madhurya’s platform.
* Mrunal’s take on the Paithani lehenga done in collaboration with Madhurya…
The Paithani panel lehenga that we made in collaboration with Madhurya in 2019 was really the first ever official panelled handloom pure-silk real-zari lehenga made in India! Panelled or ‘Kali Wala’ lehenga are horizontal panels of fabrics attached along the flare of the lehenga to increase the volume of the flare. This was a tough task for us as a team because we had to bring in our design-heads together without any clashes! We had to bring weavers from Banaras to teach the technique to weavers in Yeola, Maharashtra. It was beautiful to see the unity come together in the weave - the craftsmen respecting each other to hold the torch for handlooms. For me, it was my privilege to work with these weavers and Madhurya to showcase the piece internationally. It’s been an amazing journey. The lehenga was a lavender-English colour not attempted ever before because you generally get very bright colours in Paithani. So, from the colours to the weave and motifs brought in, it was a phenomenal piece. The customer for whom we made it was naturally over the moon!
* Her love for Indian embroideries, and Jamdani work in particular…
I am a creative person, trying to create exceptional pieces with a story. This goes hand in hand with my love for embroidery and Jamdani work. Each piece has its own craftsmanship and story that fits the individual whom I can guide and educate.
In my passion for handlooms, Jamdani holds a special place for its unique history as it was originally made on a muslin fabric leaving a minimal carbon footprint and crafted by women at home. Since cotton grows so abundantly, weaving it has been environment-friendly, yet a luxurious process. Jamdani transitioned from an everyday fabric like muslin to a more luxurious fabric like mulberry silk. The weave has its influences from floral and geometrical designs. Floral influences are not only from nature but also the influences that we had from the Persians, Turkish and Moghul rulers in India. I have a sari in the Jamdani weave which illuminates the forest life with birds and animals. Originally woven only as a sari, today the technique is used for stoles, dupattas, jackets and home furnishings too.
* Association with Madhurya craftsmen to promote handlooms…
We work with several craftsmen across India but the main aspect here is a direct connection with the source. The typical business model has middlemen who deny the craftsmen their full dues. Thus identifying the right craftsmen with a handloom-legacy family is an extremely difficult factor in promoting this kind of work. We are extremely careful in ensuring that the sources are identified correctly to get the right benefits. I realized the importance of sustaining the handloom industry before automation and machinery would take over the artists. More than a passion it is now part of my mission to educate and spread the word.
* Why would Mrunal recommend youngsters to Madhurya as customers…
I would say that education is essential. Once there is a story and a full picture, the selling process becomes much easier. What we additionally offer are the creative aspects. After sourcing material from Madhurya weavers, I try and bring in new age designs that interests youngsters that combine both heritage and style. For example, I manage to unite sports and music with design to see that the interest level of the youth remains understood.