Mrunalini Rao’s new bridal line is a coming together of Europe’s aesthetics and Hyderabad’s chintz
In March, when the lockdown was imposed to curtail the spread of COVID-19, Hyderabad designer Mrunalini Rao understood that this year, the business was not going to be about volumes. Weddings were either getting postponed or becoming intimate and smaller. She drew up a plan for her signature label’s new bridal collection Chitra and prêt line, Uri.
In the slowdown caused by the pandemic, she saw an opportunity to experiment. “I wanted to break away from what my label has been doing for the last six years,” she says, citing the example of a new and expanded colour story for Chitra.
Deep-hued jewel tones are Indian wedding favourites. Alternatively, there are ivory whites and powder pinks. Mrunalini wanted something more. Along with the deeper hues, she introduced saris and lehengas in pistachio greens, dull blush pinks and lilac violets.
She also kept zardosi, a Hyderabad favourite, to a minimum. The ensembles have embellishments such as thread embroidery, floral patterns as surface textures, and ruffles. “We tried to bring different elements together — pattern making, surface detailing and embroidery — and do it harmoniously. I like some drama in the garments; I am a fan of European art and culture and like to introduce some of that aesthetic to Indian garments,” says Mrunalini.
The bridal collection is a meeting point of Mrunalini’s fondness for Victorian-era style statements and Hyderabad’s own chintz — plain-woven calico cotton hand printed with floral patterns or birds and mordant or resist-dyed in vibrant colours (the word chintz originated from chint or chitta in Hindi).
“The patterns were hand drawn and the surface techniques were also done by hand,” she says of the bridal line priced between ₹30,000 to ₹3.5 lakh.
The prêt line Uri is a new addition to label Mrunalini Rao and new collections will roll out each season: “The prêt line is to cater to those who would walk into my studio and look for something other than occasion wear.” Saris, flowy dresses and separates in soft cottons with floral patterns are priced from ₹5,000 to ₹30,000.
An alumnus of National Institute of Fashion Technology, Hyderabad, Mrunalini debuted at the Lakme Fashion Week Spring-Summer in February 2020. Soon after, she had planned to work extensively with handloom weavers for Chitra and Uri. “The travel restrictions made it tough to reach weaver clusters, so we opted for soft cotton (not necessarily handlooms) and tried to cut down on wastage. Moving forward, we want to make the label more sustainable and zero wastage in the coming seasons,” she says.
Label Mrunalini Rao is available in select multi-designer stores in Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru and Ahmedabad.