Ritu Kumar’s Tryst with Royalty

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Ritu Kumar is one of the most popular fashion designers in the Indian fashion industry. Unlike a lot of Indian fashion designers whose work is appreciated throughout the world but are relatively unknown in India, her name is well-known. Her bridal trousseau is to die for. She has always stuck to her roots- blending Western techniques with Indian traditions. Her focus has always been more on elaborate designs rather than innovation. A Padma Shri recipient, Ritu Kumar is one of the most accomplished women in the country.

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Her tryst with Princess Diana began way back. It was when Ritu was still making a name for herself and had just opened a boutique in  South Audley, London. According to her,

“Diana was a patron of my store in London.”

Lady Diana was famous for her elegance and style. And although beloved by everyone, she never went out of her way to get noticed. Even though she knew that her one command could bring Ritu to her doorstep, she wanted to be like a regular customer. And maybe, that is where her humility lies. Ritu says:

“Diana was a very private lady. But she would break protocol, and in fact call the store herself when she wanted to visit. She would cycle down to the store, park at Mayfair behind our store, and walk the few minutes to it. She would only request us to keep a part of the store free of customers to give her some privacy, and would enjoy browsing there.”

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The iconic blue salwar kameez that Princess Diana wore when she was visiting Lahore in 1997 with Imran Khan and Jemima Khan was Ritu’s creation. Ritu is also known to have dressed Jemima Khan and between the three of them, one can guess how it all worked out. Apart from this blue salwar, Princess Diana also ordered other outfits from Ritu. One was a sari that she had wanted to wear to the opening of a religious place in London, and a few more salwars. There are no official records of her ever having worn them, however. According to Ritu, blue was Princess Diana’s favourite colour.

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When Princess Kate visited India last year with Prince William, Ritu had suggested that she wear a blue suit not quite similar to Princess Diana’s but with a modern touch.

“The Duchess of Cambridge is a graceful, beautiful lady. Though I have no doubts that she will look gorgeous while in India, it will be so appropriate to see her in a similar blue outfit worn by her late mother-in-law, years ago…When visiting the Taj, a blue kurta with a churidaar and long dupatta will be a bit more modern and will complement the Duchess’s sartorial sense versus the classic salwar worn by the late Princess.”

Even though that may not have bore fruit, one hopes that Princess Kate will adorn a Ritu Kumar someday and that will be a full circle.

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