Weaving her real dreams: Ritika Mittal

Weaving her real dreams: Ritika Mittal
Ritika Mittal
"Imagine a Chai, spiced with a handful of Ahomiya jungle mist, the tickling laughter of Kutchi women, the spicy wet earth of Kerala and the booming railroad whirring of Punjab's song and dance. That is Mora for you." This sentence on Mora's website captures the spirit of Ritika Mittal's textile brand and draws a whimsical word picture of the saris, dupattas and skirts that she designs and retails through it. She talks to Chandana Banerjee about why she left the reality shows to find the real India and why she doesn't regret it one bit
Weaving more than just textile
Ritika personally designs each piece, drawing inspiration from whatever catches her fancy, while her mother, Madhu Mittal, gets them crafted by a team of tailors in Jalalabad, Punjab. Mora products are created with handloom cotton and silk, and are a heady mix of traditional textile techniques, with patch-work borders and pallus. Take one look at the beauties and you'll want one for your wardrobe, to hold and enjoy, to flaunt and relish.
"We use a multitude of methods like block prints, Mizo and Naga weaves, Kutch and Kantha work, Sanganeri prints and so on," says the effervescent Ritika, who spends months travelling to the interiors of India, discussing and exchanging ideas with handloom weavers. It's while travelling on rickety buses, living with the villagers in their huts, tucking into simple meals of rice and ginger, and swapping tales with the locals across crackling bonfires that this feisty young entrepreneur manages to weave such interesting tales on textile. Probably this is why, she is able to imprint her saris and 137-pleat skirts with the true flavour of India.
Breathing life into the dead
Ritika loves finding weaves that craftsmen aren't working on anymore and then convincing them to create a roll of it for her.
Presently on a sojourn to the North Eastern states in search of rare weaves, she says, "When I started Mora sometime in 2009, I started with the easier-to-approach places like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Kutch, West Bengal and Lucknow to source textiles for our saris. But now, we're focussing on the North East, which have beautiful techniques and weaves that are dying. It's more difficult accessing remote villages there and understanding the language, but it's an amazing experience because unlike a bustling big city, in villages people have the time to bond, to form real relationships."
She reveals, "In the North East, I am planning to revive the bamboo silk and Stinging Nettle weave."
The switch from reality TV to real India
But this wasn't the life Ritika had designed for herself, who was a Supervising Producer with a television channel in her earlier avatar. "There are only so many reality shows that you can put together," she says.
She designed her first sari for her own wedding, when she decided that she didn't want to wear one with bling and sequins. "It was a mulmul sari with borders from some fabrics that I liked," remembers Ritika, who, spurred on by the response she got from people, designed nine more. "I sent the designs to my mother, who got them stitched in Punjab. When I received the parcel and saw the saris, I cried. I never thought I'd be able to do this." The entire batch was bought by someone from Vizag. Incidentally, the earthy name - MORA- was born in an auto rickshaw, when Ritika and her husband wanted to label the saris. And it's an apt name since each design is as unique as DNA and a treat for the buyer.
After the first sale, Ritika handed in her resignation and headed to Ladakh to think things through. "I called my mom from there and asked her if she was ready to do this and that's how we took the plunge," says Ritika, who feels that it's because of this special mother and daughter bond and the way they are able to read each other's thoughts that the pretty saris are what they are.
Growing up
In the short span of a year-and-a-half, Mora has expanded from being a design label to a textile brand. "We retail only through my website and do not plan to retail at stores or turn to mass production," emphasises Ritika, who believes in keeping things simple and pouring her heart and soul into her work. Amen!
Visit http://www.mora.co.in/ to know more about Mora