Ritu Kumar, a name synonymous with Indian fashion, has left an indelible mark on the global fashion landscape. Her journey from a small town to the world's fashion capitals is a testament to her talent, determination, and passion for traditional Indian textiles.
Born in Amritsar, Ritu Kumar's path to success began with a desire for education and a fascination with the arts. Due to limited educational opportunities in Amritsar, she ventured to Shimla for her schooling, attending the prestigious Loreto Convent. Her educational journey led her to Lady Irwin College in Delhi, where her path intertwined with her future husband, Shashi Kumar.
Her thirst for knowledge and love for art motivated her to accept a scholarship at Briarcliff College in New York. Here, she immersed herself in the world of Art History, gaining a deeper understanding of design, aesthetics, and the creative process. Upon her return to India, she continued to expand her horizons, studying museology at the Asutosh Museum of Indian Art, which is affiliated with the University of Calcutta.
Ritu Kumar's commitment to the arts and her pursuit of education didn't stop with her. Her son, Ashvin Kumar, went on to become an Oscar-nominated director, a testament to the creativity that runs in their family.
Ritu Kumar's foray into the world of fashion began in Kolkata. Armed with just two small tables and a passion for traditional hand-block printing techniques, she laid the foundation for what would become a fashion empire. In the 1960s and 70s, she started with bridal wear and evening attire, catering to the taste of Indian women. Over the years, her designs gained immense popularity, propelling her into the international fashion scene.
Her brand, "Ritu Kumar," established its presence not only across India but also in major fashion capitals such as Paris, London, and New York. Although the London branch closed after three years, her company's annual turnover reached remarkable heights, estimated at around ₹10 billion.
In 2002, Ritu Kumar embarked on a new journey by launching the "Label" line in collaboration with her son, Amrish Kumar. This venture expanded her brand's appeal and reach, bringing traditional Indian textiles to a broader audience.
Ritu Kumar's designs are celebrated for their focus on natural fabrics and a commitment to traditional printing and weaving techniques. Her creations seamlessly blend traditional Indian elements with contemporary Western influences, capturing the essence of a globalised India.
Over the years, Ritu Kumar's designs have graced the likes of renowned personalities, including Princess Diana, Priyanka Chopra, Lara Dutta, Deepika Padukone, Madhuri Dixit Nene, Madhur Jaffrey, Kalki Koechlin, Dia Mirza, Soha Ali Khan, and Jemima Goldsmith. The allure of her creations transcends borders and has garnered international acclaim.
Ritu Kumar's brand extends beyond the realms of fashion. The domain ritukumar.com, her brand's digital presence, attracted over 1.6 million users in 2019. To meet the surge in traffic, the company invested in robust server infrastructure, particularly vital during the bustling wedding seasons in India. The website's design is a testament to the brand's commitment to delivering an exceptional digital experience and aesthetic appeal.
In 2013, the Indian government conferred upon Ritu Kumar the prestigious Padma Shri award, recognising her invaluable contributions to the fashion industry. Her remarkable journey and outstanding achievements have also earned her the Achievement Award at the L'oreal Paris Femina Women's Awards in 2012.
Ritu Kumar's life and career exemplify the potential that passion, education, and a relentless pursuit of excellence can unlock. She remains an inspiration for aspiring designers and a symbol of India's rich sartorial heritage in the global fashion landscape.