Madhu Jain followed her heart and went on to carve a niche in the world of fashion
Pic by Avantika Meattle
I come from a very conservative background and it was understood that the women in our family would never work. After I got married and expressed my desire to get into fashion designing, my mother-in-law asked me why I wanted to venture into something that was totally alien to me. She emphasised that I could never make it in the cut-throat fashion industry. I decided to take that up as a challenge and that motivated me to create my own designs. I think that was a blessing in disguise for me.
Two years later, in 1989, one of my major turning points happened. I went with my friend, jewellery designer Poonam Soni, to the Ensemble store in Delhi that was owned by Tina Tahiliani Parikh. We had gone just to check out the newly- opened fashion store as it was generating a buzz and we saw Tarun (Tahiliani) there, surrounded by people. He spotted me in the crowd and said that he simply loved the kurta that I was wearing and wanted to know who had designed it. I told him that I had designed it and when he showed interest, I left my contact details with him. Three months later I was a part of Ensemble.
In 1996, I had the opportunity to work with BRAC (then Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee), one of the largest NGOs in the world. We aimed to revive nakshi kantha embroidery and work with local weavers. I subsequently showcased this collection at the Miss World pageant in 1997 and revived the famed Dhaka muslin of Bangladesh. The project proved to be quite a remarkable turning point for me and today I realise how lucky I was to have had an opportunity to work with so many Bangladeshi artisans.
In 2003, I tied up with model Milind Soman to set up Projekt M and together we showcased a bamboo-based collection at the VIIth World Bamboo Congress. We explained to people how bamboo fibre could be used for high fashion. The collection was important as it showcased what could be done in the field of eco-friendly fabrics.
In 2010, Milind and I even designed The Tree of Knowledge — a 110ft-high, 40in-wide installation made from woven fabric — that was unveiled during the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. This project was a huge game-changer as well since we got to showcase our work to viewers across the world.