There was a trend in the 90s which had Lucknow zardozi ruling the roost as far as couture and homespun ceremonial wear were concerned. Once considered the realm of only royalty, Lucknow zardozi is making a comeback into the main stream now that the spotlight is firmly focused on Make in India and Made in India. Almost as famous as the delicate Lucknow chikankari, zardozi today is regaining its foothold in the non-traditional international markets also.
It said that the Mughals brought zardozi from Persia to the subcontinent, where now multiple generations of artisans continue to pass on as well as practice and ply their craftsmanship. The craft flourished under the patronage given by the Nawabs of Lucknow, although it had fallen on hard times during the rule of Aurangzeb.
Wired To Win
The embroidery with gold wire, or zar-dozi, is a process of wrapping metal or precious metal wires around a silk thread and sewing it in floral patterns onto the cloth. Zardozi is intricate, back-breaking work, requiring the handling of sharp metallic wires and semi-precious stones, acute focus, and speed. The fabric, which in earlier times used to be organza, has been replaced with new blended textiles, more suited to pulling and stretching. A wooden frame, or adda, is used for stretching the fabric, for the technique and ease of embroidering. The designs are drawn on tracing paper, which is placed on the fabric, and a needle is used to poke through the paper so that the swabbing of kerosene with dye transfers the pattern onto the cloth. The embroidery is then done on this transferred tracing. While semi-precious stones and precious metals are rarely used nowadays, the golden and silver metallic wires suffice, as do the plastic or glass stones. The Geographical Indication tag has afforded all zardozi cloth made in Lucknow the ability to differentiate itself from the zardozi done in Delhi, Bhopal, Hyderabad, Agra, Kashmir, etc.
You can differentiate Lucknow zardozi from that of the other regions by way of its ornate and spread-out designs, which have an almost three-dimensional quality due to the use of a swab of cotton-filling called bukram. This is embroidered over to give the desired effect. The zardozi, which is done in Hyderabad and Agra, has minimalistic patterns. Apart from clothes, zardozi can now be seen on purses, belts, shawls, and shoes, etc. This has especially been possible due to innovations via modular machines and textile blends. The use of inexpensive raw materials, as opposed to gold and silver wires, has led to zardozi being accessible to more consumers.