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Sunaina Suneja graduated from the American Embassy School, New Delhi in the mid-70s and went on to major in French at JNU, New Delhi. Passionate about the language, she worked as a translator initially, translating many texts, essay, documents, articles as well as a few books on wide-ranging subjects. After six years she decided to plunge into the world of fashion which, in fact, she had grown up in: her mother, Raj Suneja, opened Raj Creations, the first boutique in New Delhi as early as 1967 at a time when none other existed.

So from juggling words Sunaina began to play around with fabrics, weaves, textures and embroideries. As she delved deeper into the magical and legendary wealth of Indian textiles, she realized her own personal need to learn more about their origins and she researched several, namely, jute, indigo and khaadi. These have all resulted in major exhibitions over the years. She feels this research which has involved talking to and working with the craftspeople who have been perpetuating these crafts over generations, has helped her acquire a special affinity for these textiles and this is reflected in her designing. She loves working with the handcrafted textiles of India and shaping them into styles that are totally Indian, Western or a crafty blend of the two.

She reflects on her work with khaadi starting in the 80’s and in her words: “That was when I began to wonder about the origins of khaadi and consequently, I began to read and research. I had already read Gandhiji’s Experiments with Truth and referred to it first. It led to writing a few articles.

In the meantime, a few years passed and so did the newness of khaadi. And I realized it had become a victim of fashion’s whimsical nature, my very first experience with the ups and downs of a fad. But by then, I had read enough to convince myself – and maybe anyone who cared to listen!- that khaadi deserved more than a few years of eminence; its historic significance, in my eyes, was so great that it needed to be nurtured and worn by every caring Indian. And I guess I became a ‘khaadiian’. In an article written for the Hindustan Times in 97 as India prepared to celebrate its 50th anniversary, I coined khaadi as the ‘national fabric of India’.

“That was also the year I decided that my personal tribute to the 50th year of our Independence would come in the way of organizing presentations to promote khaadi amongst women, Indians as well as foreigners. Four years later and many many more presentations later, I think I have made some progress but there remains a lot to be done. Working with and researching the making of khaadi is a very humbling task; its production is such an awe-inspiring undertaking; to even the uninitiated, unraveling the warp and weft yarns of a small piece of khaadi should manifest the wonders of a handspun yarn.

“In today’s context, to me khaadi represents a return to the basics in all aspects of our lives.

I love working with khaadi. I’ve been doing it for so many years that not only am I the designer, but also the observer as I distance myself from the designer-at-work to observe what I will create next with it. It’s always a source of great satisfaction that it’s invariably something new and different. This year it’s been a very Westernized collection; short dresses and skirts, strappy dresses, even a few long evening dresses! Of course, the final success of any collection lies in the eyes of the customer. And I’ve been delighted with their response.”

Sunaina has presented “Khadi, the concept” for international groups resident in Delhi, as well as holding exhibitions in her outlet, participated in the launch of “Afrikhadi” , South Africa,and has also exhibited at the Indian Embassy in Washington D.C. and the World Bank and at the French Ambassador’s Residence. In 2006, Sunaina volunteered her time and experience work with the young women of Srjan tailoring training center at Gandhi Smriti , New Delh. Her concept was to create a collection of college-wear for students and in this way incorporate khadi into their lives.