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Bandhej and the Rangrez Women of Jodhpur | The Reinvention of a Historic Craft

Sonica posted on 3rd October

By Sonica Kapur

My first memory of wanting to be a fashion designer goes back to when I was perhaps 11 years old. The idea of creating colors, patterns and textiles, and draping them on the female form was thrilling for me. As I grew older, this childhood fantasy molded itself into an ambition to make clothes that helped women feel beautiful inside, and out. However, after many years of being exposed to the “ugly” side of the fashion industry - the rampant poverty of the artisans and the environmental degradation caused by the use of toxic dye chemicals, I finally decided to go my own way and support fashion that has a soul. I wanted to create and wear clothes made from authentic hand made textiles that paid artisans well and preserved communities and cultures.  This quest has taken me to several places off the beaten path and, most recently, to the city of Jodhpur, famous for its tie dye.

None of us are strangers to Tie Dye or Bandhej, a popular traditional craft of Rajasthan. All of us have grown up wearing tie dye, or at least admiring our moms as they draped saris with patterns of some form of bandhejBandhani or the dot pattern,  leheriya or the wave pattern, shibori or Japanese motif – in tie dye, the possibilities are endless. As a young girl, I always wondered how these exquisite patterns were created and, on my recent visit to Rajasthan, I was finally able to see with my own eyes!


The tie dye of Jodhpur is done largely by the women of the Rangrez community {meaning “dyer” in Persian.} I had the good fortune of being welcomed into the homes of some of these women, who are the master artisans of this craft. The craft of tie dye is passed down through generations, and young boys and girls learn the skill from the elders in the family. As a result, in many households, several generations of family members tie and dye together.

Needless to say, visiting these families was an eye opening experience.  I saw firsthand that tie dye work is an authentic home based enterprise that employs several members of financially challenged families, who work in a communal fashion to create beautiful textile art. As a supporter of ethical fashion, it was heartening to meet confident and empowered  women who are artists in their own right and make a good livelihood from their craft.

bandhani before {Making of Bhandhani}

I watched in amazement as these women sat on the floors of their homes, tying silks and cottons in a sort of household assembly line with such speed that I could barely see their movements; The deftness with which fabrics were being twisted, tied into intricate patterns, and dipped in beautiful colors… the process being repeated several times over to create a kaleidoscope of colors and motifs. As a complete novice, I had a lot of questions about how tie dye is made, and the women were gracious enough to walk me through the basics of this magical craft. While one may take years to learn tie and dye, I understood that the basic principle applied  is that of  resist dyeing. A design or pattern is recreated onto a textile using various forms of knotting, twisting and tyeing. There are various ways to do this. Tiny knots create the dots of bandhani, repetitive loops of tied thread create the waves of leheriya, intricate running stitched to pleat fabric create shibori and so on. When the tied up piece of fabric is put into a dye bath, the entire fabric takes up the color, except the tied up portion, and hence emerges the design in white against the colored back ground. The process can be  repeated several times over, depending on the number of colors we want to tie dye. Amazing!

bandhani after{Bhandhani}

As enchanting as the craft itself is, I was particularly surprised to discover that it is typical for most of these enterprises to be headed by the women of the family, who are considered the master artisans in these endeavors. The craft of tie dye is stunning and yet, it is the women making the fabrics that have really enchanted me with their life stories. A typical day in the lives of these women would make any of us sweat. For instance, Wahida, who is a forty year old mother of two, typically rises at 5 am each day, takes care of all the household responsibilities, sends her kids off to school with a packed lunch, entertains visitors and guests through the day, takes care of the elderly in the house and also manages to put in 6-8 hours a day into tie dye work!

In some cases, these women are earning more than their husbands and are using this income to educate their children and to save for a better future. It is heartening to see that financial independence has given these women a sense of self worth and confidence that is truly awe inspiring.

shibori before{Making of Shibori}

shibori after{Shibori}

Even after I came back to Delhi, I could not stop thinking about how the craft of tie dye is empowering entire communities of women and how we, the women of Delhi, could support this quiet revolution simply by going out there and shopping for tie dye! For me, it is so much more meaningful to buy a hand made authentic tie dye textile for myself or as a gift for a loved one, instead of a mass produced item of clothing.

Thus began my tie dye shopping spree. I was hesitant at first because I tend to shop for clothes that are modern and practical, but I was pleasantly surprised to find so many emerging stores and designers creating modern collections using forms of tie dye that are both avant-garde, and ethically made. I found so many clothing options I could integrate into my wardrobe - clothes I could wear to work, to a girls’ weekend brunch or a night out!

Here is my curated list of designers creating truly avant-garde fashion using tie dye |

Krittika Sharma


Krittika is a textile designer who creates exclusive collections of sarees, stoles and textiles each season, made by artisans across India. Her one of a kind tie dye scarves and dupattas “style up” any outfit. She sells her collections through exhibitions and facebook .Contact Krittika at Visit her website here.

Mura Collective


Sisters Kusum and Prabha of Mura Collective are aficionados of the intricate Japanese shibori form of tie dye. Not only do they employ women living in rural pockets of Delhi and pay fair wages, they also support and employ the handicapped.

Mura has an extensive collection of tunics, fabrics and stoles in cottons, silks and wool in a range of colors and patterns.They have a store opening soon at the Asiad Village, and sell at exhibitions around Delhi. Contact Mura at

11.11 CellDSGN 

nile front

Next to what was formerly Grey Garden in HKV is the flag ship store for 11.11 - a brand designed by Himanshu Shani, Smita Singh Rathore and Mia Morikawa. It also houses collections by several other designers such as Savio Jon, all focused on modern interpretations of tie dye. If your sensibility is understated and chic and you love tie dye, this is your one stop shop for the most exclusive collection of artisanal hi-fashion. Bandhani tunics that mold to the body, clothes with marbling, natural indigo dyed garments, handwoven and hand stitched garments… they have it all. Grey Garden is right by Smokehouse Deli at HKV, overlooking the lake. Contact them at 011-26513067, or check out their Facebook page here,

Olivia Dar Accessories


Olivia Dar designs some of the most unique belts and wallets that mix shibori patterns in bright colors with leather. A rather unique use of the craft of tie dye. The accessories are funky and hi-fashion at the same time.Visit her store in Shahpur Jat for your fix of unique accessories. Contact Olivia at

Gaatha-A Tale

gaatha  is a website that sells modern craft products with an agenda to “bring handicraft back to public memory”. They are certainly succeeding in their mission by providing a platform for products that are artisan made, and yet have a clean and modern aesthetic. Gaatha has an entire section of their website dedicated to tie dye products. Start there, but I guarantee you won’t be able to stop! Go shopping here.

Brass Tacks

brass-tacks is a shopping website that effortlessly introduces modern tie dye pieces into your everyday wardrobe. Great for tie dye dresses, indigo t-shirts and shibori shirts you can wear to work or to a weekend brunch, all at wallet friendly prices!

Our picks from the website | Shibori Heart ShirtGoan BeachKnit BohemeTie-Dyed Rain {Olive/ Mint}, Tie- Dyed Rain {Black/ Beige}, Woodgrain Shirt

WE-Nature & Me


Based on the philosophy of Eco-Viable Fashion, this brand interprets Indian crafts in a modern light, with an earthy sensibility. Their tie dye pants, blouses and dresses rendered in handwoven cottons and silks make for elegant evening wear. With modern silhouettes and on–trend colors, this collection has several options for that first date or a classy evening at a jazz bar. Available at Kimaya at Terminal T3 {airport}. Contact Danisha at +91-8800377378.

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2 Outlets in Delhi
Hauz Khas Village

A18, Hauz Khas Village, New Delhi

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Shahpur Jat

5-A, Ist Floor, Dada Jungi House, Shahpur Jat, New Delhi

The Grey Garden

Hauz Khas Village
Clothing Stores
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