It Sheila James’ Czarina boutique, her ‘fests’ are a reflection of the season. As temperatures continue to soar, the much awaited Kota Utsav is just being wrapped up. Soon, the Crème de la Crème festival will usher in the collection for Vishu and Easter.
The boutique’s founder Sheila James shares her love for Kota saris and what makes the just-concluded Kota Utsav a hit every year
Kota saris are an extension of what Sheila prefers to wear herself. She tells us everything one needs to know about this delightful material. Kota saris are sourced from the Rajasthani village of Kota in their basic white form and Banaraas where the super net variant is woven before being dispersed to other parts of the country for what the entrepreneur calls “value additions”.
These take place in Delhi, Kolkata, Andhra Pradesh and the like where craftsmen specialising in embroidery, kalamkari, mirror, appliqué, crochet and block printing like dabu, add their magic resulting in beautiful pieces that feel like a breeze to drape in the summer.
“It is an idea that came to me 7 or 8 years ago because I had been noticing that every summer people come asking for Kota saris. We always have a range but I felt it wasn’t enough. So we introduced a special collection and it ‘clicked’. So I have been organising one every year since.” Sheila reveals that she is a regular Kota and Tussar silk wearer herself apart from the occasional handloom cottons.
The Kota Utsav runs for 15 days in March and is almost always extended by another week owing to customer demand. “It is difficult to accommodate the entire collection at a time so we display them in installments.” Available in variants of cotton, silk and super net, Sheila says the last type is especially popular in the city. “Kota is perfect for our kind of weather. Super net is also a fast mover for us. Rajasthani pure cotton Kota is very soft, almost like cotton, and also in high demand. There are patterns for party wear too, apart from office wear that starts from Rs. 500. That gets picked up in large numbers by customers.”
Sheila’s foray into the business in the 80s also began with her embroidery patterns on Kota which acted as the perfect canvas.
Every collection is planned six months ahead. Sheila has been at work on the Kota collection from last October-November. “While WhatsApp is good to follow up on the progress of the work, I prefer to exchange ideas with the craftsman in person.”
Czarina has similar collection sales all through the year. What started as an attempt by Sheila to keep complacency at bay is now something people look forward to every season. “My only intention at first was to stay busy during the off season, especially after Onam, since there is a lull. That is how Tussar Trove took shape. Now we have collections for Christmas & New Year, Kota, an NRI Fest and Mix ‘N’ Match Mania. I am happily busy all through the year. It motivates me to stay updated.”