Fauna and flora, nature’s two most beautiful artworks, are the foundation of Atelier Shikaarbagh, founded in 2012. Known for its bespoke Indo-French chiffon, satin, tissue, and georgette sarees, the label is the brainchild of Maayankraj Singh of the erstwhile aristocratic family of Kayasthpada, Dholpur, Rajasthan. The label has the likes of Kokilaben Ambani, Nita Ambani, Smriti Z Irani, and members of Indian and international royal families, as its clients.
Shikaarbagh’s newest collection Primavera combines the best of English tailoring and Indian embroidery techniques with French and Indian fabrics. Named after the season of spring and new beginnings, Primavera’s range of evening, wedding gowns, day dresses and over layers, recalls the glamour of the 1950s–1960s.Detailed construction and tastefulembellishmentin delicate pink, ivory, navy, black, metallic silver, and gold, bold ruby red and emerald greenmake up for thisAnglo-Indian colour palette. Released in March 2021,Primavera also featuresfirst-of-its-kind Indian lace, which has a hand-guided Cornely embroiderydepicting a royal springtime hunt.
Singh explains the thought behind the name, “Shikar means faunaand Bagh means flora,encompassing subjects which have been traditionally covered in Indian fashion. In our case it was also a tribute to my father, Ravindra Singh’s deep connection with wildlife conservation.” Ravindra Singh was the wildlife warden for the Hadoti region, due to his efforts in stopping the illegal mining in the Chambal valley and Gharial sanctuary.
Singh attributes his passion for couture to his eternal muse and grandmother, the late Maji Sahab Urmila Devi. Her collection of 270 sarees and diaries of personal accounts, samplers of various embroideries have been a constant source of inspiration.
Urmila Devi understood the power of fashion and the symbolism of royal garments. “On her wedding reception (February 1952) in Kesar Bagh Palace, Dholpur, she wore an apricot saree, embroidered with blooms in silver with Rose and Aqua Topaz, which was my late grandfather’s birthstone. The saree was worn only once and was lovingly stored in a camphor box of its own.”
Even the Queen of England, Elizabeth II on her first trip to Independent India in 1961 had complimented Urmila Devi for her French Organza saree. It was made bySir Norman Hartnell, the British royal couturier, who created Queen Elizabeth’s 1947 wedding dress, as well as her coronation gown.
“She detested tasteless pairing and synthetics and I do too. Sometimes, even a cotton blouse looks good with expensive chiffon, and I go with it,” says Singh.
Singh is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in ‘The Evolution of Rajput Royal Costumes,’ from Kota Open University, and is set to open a digital museum of costumes, encapsulating the family collection of Western/Indian fashion of a bygoneera.
Atelier Shikaarbagh also creates decorative embroideries for cushions in hand-dyed, hand-embellished, and hand-woven chiffons and tissue drapes. “Cushion covers were a charade to keep the society at bay, since it was thought that making sarees was a profession not suitable for a gentleman,” says Singh.
The fashion atelier highlights traditional needlework techniques, like aari, zardozi, fareesha, nakshi, taarajadai (sequin work), motijod (beadwork), marodi in combination with French techniques, such as French knotting, French sequin work, Chantilly lacework, pearl work, silk floss, and crewel work. Authentic fabrics and raw materials are sourced from suppliers in India, Hong Kong and Paris. ”I prefer chiffon since it drapes very well, takes 10 pounds off you. Organza has a diaphanous nature. Love for chiffon is in my veins, whereas the love for organza has been inculcated with careful research.”Talking about the royal connect, Singh says ”Chiffons have been a favourite for royalsas it isa luxury commodity, especially woven in France and the high price made it a sign of royalty at the time.”Organza also has a history in India, as it was used inBanarasi weaves to make extravagant sarees in the late 1950s and has made quite a comeback recently.
Atelier Shikaarbagh’ssarees are manufactured in-house by a skilled embroiderers, dyers, coming from a line of artisans who have worked with Singh’s family for almost 10 generations. His grandmother had employed a retinue of skilled embroiderers from Dholpur, who now form the core of the team.Shikaarbagh’s creations range from ₹6,500 for chiffon ombre pieces to ₹5,00,000 for exclusives, featuring precious embellishments and antique embroideries.
Atelier Shikaarbagh currently retails online via its Instagram handle and private appointments in Kota and Delhi.