Jamal Siddiqui has been sewing embroidered clothes for more than a decade, but until recently, had no idea who wore them.
On Thursday, he was proudly smiling and showing his skills to people on the ramp at the India Fashion week.
“I am making a beautiful dress,” he told a woman, even as he expertly stitched tiny hand-cut pieces of fabric together to form 3D textures.
Mr Siddiqui came to Delhi from the eastern state of Bihar in 2006. He didn’t have a college degree, but he did have fine embroidery skills.
A decade later, he was on the runway at India’s premier fashion week.
“I come from a small town and never knew that people appreciated my profession. I still can’t believe what has happened, I saw models walking wearing the clothes I had made,” he told the BBC.
Mr Siddiqui works with Delhi-based designer and textiles artist Rimzim Dadu, whose idea it was to showcase not just clothes, but the people who created them.
She told the BBC that she thought of her show as an “anti-thesis” of fashion.
“I wanted people to interact with the artisans who make our clothes. I wanted to take the focus away from just the final product and put the spotlight on the process,” she said.
‘Studio on the ramp’
Mr Siddiqui and his 15 colleagues demonstrated different stitching techniques in workstations placed on the ramp and among the audiences.
Audiences were handed instruction manuals before they entered the show area, and were encouraged to “touch” and “interact” with the textile designs, both on the ramp and off it.
Mansi Malhotra, a member of the audience, told the BBC that it was “unique” that people were allowed to walk on the runway, which is usually sacrosanct and reserved for models and designers.
“I had never seen anything like that. The artisans were so keen to talk and explain their techniques to audiences,” she said.
Ms Dadu said she preferred creating her own fabric and textures, which required fine craftsmanship.
“That is why I opened the gates 20 minutes before the show began, to let people understand our techniques better,” she said.
Chandan Srivastava, who comes from Bareilly in northern Uttar Pradesh state, was thrilled to be part of the show.
“I have lived in Delhi for more than a decade and worked mostly in workshops, but today I got to show my skills to people at the fashion week. I am so happy,” he told the BBC.
Jaffar Ali, who was working on a unique technique to turn delicate chiffon into fine yarn, told people that it sometimes took two to three weeks to make a single dress.
“We tear chiffon into small pieces and weave them to get mildly stiff cords, which are then sewn on clothes to get unique textures,” he said.
Ms Dadu said she wanted the audience to feel like they were visiting her studio.
The designer wants to keep putting focus on India’s artisans and textile heritage. She took nearly two years to create a silicon Jamdani sari as part of an initiative to “reinvent” Indian textiles last year.
“I am happy that my colleagues got this opportunity. They were just thrilled to see their hard work on the ramp. I hope this can be a step towards achieving more transparency in an otherwise glamour-driven industry,” she said.
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