The woman behind zameeni – Mrs. Manisha Jhamb
Fashion today not only reflects an era’s culture but helps shape it, too. It gives us the
freedom to express ourselves through clothing and accessories.
Manisha Jhamb, the curator of zameeni, grew up adoring her grandmother’s 6-yard
elegance. Even though she belonged to a Punjabi family, she saw women in her family
drape sarees rather than wearing traditional Punjabi suits. Fascinated by it, Manisha
developed a flair for fabrics and refers to sarees as ‘ six yards of beauty.’’
When asked Manisha if she always wanted to be a designer, her prompt response was “I’m
not a designer but a Curator of fabrics.” She states, she always loved sarees but curating a
variety of fabrics and sourcing authentic work has brought passion to her.
Narrating the start of zameeni, Manisha says it was by chance that she took up curating
sarees. It all started when her Doctor friend, who shares the love for sarees, stated she was
bored & together they started research on fabrics. Manisha with a concept of Make in India
proceeded ahead with the research and selected weavers across areas. She started
zameeni in August 2014 by inviting her circle of acquaintances to her home and she sold her
first saree & dupatta there.
What does a saree mean to you?
‘ A perfect blend of elegance and attitude’, said Manisha passionately. The elegance aspect
grew as Manisha grew up in awe watching her grandmother in simple sarees. The love for it
was deep-rooted and later came to be known as zameeni.
How is working in fashion different today than from when you started out?
The positive changes in the industry are the variations and varieties of fabrics, designs and
techniques, says Manisha. She emphasized the negative impacts of the powerloom and how
the handloom industry has taken a backseat. The rapid and vast production of powerloom
has consumed the market and has threatened the livelihood of many handloom workers.
The handloom weavers are shifting to other industries and the original art is disappearing.
‘zameeni is Handloom’ says Manisha firmly also stating that they are working closely with
weavers and bringing awareness about the craft.
Tell us about zameeni. How have you evolved over time?
zameeni is all about promoting the weavers craft and bringing the traditional style into
today’s world. To Manisha selling a product is not important, selling a story is. She focuses
on curating the authentic styles and traditional crafts from all over India. The weavers of
zameeni have been associated with Manisha from the start and they share a strong
relationship. She focuses on the weavers plight and assures them the best working
environment. ‘The weavers have asked not to compromise over the cost of the product as
the efforts into making a single saree cannot be bargained’, stated Manisha.
Hence with a clear intention, zameeni is focussed on being transparent about the cost with
their customers. Owing it to the weavers, zameeni has now evolved into an exclusive brand.
On being asked how zameeni is different from other brands, Manisha says, ‘ zameeni is
zameeni – rooted & exclusive.’ Further stated, she was never into competition and was
always clear on exclusivity.
zameeni focuses mainly on tribal arts and their sourced fabrics. The current collection is
using gheecha, Tussar and other types of regional silks (apart from southern silks). The
recent tribal sourced fabric Manisha is working on is made by vagabonds from Karnataka.
They travelled from Punjab, then travelled to Rajasthan and have now settled in Karnataka.
The designs are focused on simple embroidery work which is a fusion of the three places.
One of the current problems zameeni is facing is sourcing different fabrics from various
weavers around India. ‘The little or no knowledge of customers in identifying the authenticity
of the fabric / work is a pressing problem in the industry right now’, states Manisha. This
eventually affects the sale of the authentic products which then hamper the livelihoods of the
weavers. Manisha has a clear concept that she doesn’t bargain with her weavers and she
doesn’t prefer people bargaining with her.
What does ‘zameeni for cause’ mean to you?
Manisha positions herself to be a social activist, so as to that her husband has started
believing that she isn’t commercial anymore but a social worker only, says Manisha
laughingly. It is very important for her to be connected with a cause thus zameeni is
connected to its roots. ‘One who is connected to its roots is automatically connected to a
cause’, states Manisha.
zameeni is connected to different causes at different levels. The paper bags for zameeni are
made by differently abled children providing them a source of income. zameeni has started a
NGO called ‘mind Buddies’ which helps with mental health. It was recently recognized by the
What lies ahead for zameeni in the future?
‘I want to see zameeni on the top as I have connected it to multiple causes and want to give
shade to the causes which are not that well looked after’, states Manisha passionately. For
her, top doesn’t mean having multiple & big outlets everywhere. It means to become strong
enough to provide support to the causes & people connected to it.
zameeni is coming up with a new line of jewellery made out of semi-precious stones & pure
silver. The stones used are the by-product small pieces left after moulding the stones. They
are also looking forward to ceramics products. Zameen means ‘earth’ thus zameeni literally
means ‘the one grown out of earth’. zameeni is coming up with ‘Ethereal’ online store for
On being asked for a few tips for women entrepreneurs trying to make it in a big competitive
world, Manisha advised them to be focused, be clear & be transparent with the people you
work with. She asks entrepreneurs to be consistent in their working style without competing
with others. Manisha ended the session not before emphasizing on being supportive towards
the underprivileged ones and not just helping them once but to be a support to their growth.
February 2020 ed.
The sari is one of the world’s oldest and the only surviving unstitched garment from the centuries. Though a lot of changes has been in it over the centuries, it has not only become a sensuous, glamorous all time wear for women, but also the ‘canvas’ for weavers and printers to create artistic weaves, prints. Widely seen in countries like India, Srilanka, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh.
Historians say cotton and the art of weaving came to India from the Mesopotamian civilization. The men and women of the contemporary Indus Valley Civilization were therefore familiar with cotton fabrics and wore long pieces of material, which could best be described as loincloths.
The relics of all these civilizations, now available in seals and figurines, prove this fact. Women of most of these civilizations, it seems from available evidence, wore only such loin cloths, leaving the upper part of the body bare, except in winter when animal skins or woolen shawl-like garments were used for protection from harsh weather.
Gradually as the man and his knowledge towards fabric started growing, they started experimenting with other natural fiber like silk or jute etc.
The story behind the making of exquisite silk is as fascinating as the fabric. Behind every silk saris the sacrifice of thousands of silkworms and the sweat and toil of hundreds of men and women. Brocade Silk is one such fine example, which includes Banarasi saris or Kanchipuram Saris, known for there exclusivity worldwide. Indian Royal families have mostly been seen draped in their royal portraits, whereas cotton used to be favorite among peasants.
Then came the Independence era, where Mahatma Gandhi, introduced us to khadi, our own handspun fabric, to abolish the British govt. policies.
19-20th century has seen machine revolution, and introduction to the new fiber “Polyester” to the world, because of its low maintenance and high volume, its demand has always been high since its inception. And so been introduced polyester saris, addressing the needs of the mass market.
Whereas 21st century has given us Information Technology, cutting down lot of human involvement and executing work by computers, and never the less sari manufacturing has got the complete new assembly line, to cater the need of fast pace consumers.
It won’t be an exaggeration to say, the sari is the only attire in the world, which has gone trough constraint changes time to time, and yet been treasured.
Khadi is a term used for fabrics that are hand-spun and hand-woven, usually from cotton fiber.
Khadi, the word, is the synonym of freedom struggle and gain its popularity by “Mahatma Gandhi “and his “Swadeshi movement”, which was a symbol of self-reliance, sustainability for the people and the economy pre-independence era, from British’s policy.
But, after independence, khadi was neglected for many years, becoming a poor man’s fabric. Thankfully with the efforts of many contemporary designers and govt. run projects, khadi fabric has evolved to become a luxury product.
However, contrary to popular belief, khadi is also manufactured from silk and wool, known as khadi silk & woolen khadi respectively.
Khadi fabric is known for its rugged texture, comfortable feel and ability to keep people warm in winter while keeping them cool during the summer, perfect for tropical weather of India.
It’s airy, Eco-friendly, elegant and most importantly, supports the small cotton farmers and spinners. It is a brilliant way to connect us to our roots, make us aware of our heritage and strengthen our belief in the ideals that have got us here today.
What does khadi mean to the youth?
Khadi has evolved to become a cooler fabric because of its India quotient. The youth today relates it to a sense of patriotism, and to its ‘India proud’ factor. Also, the Indian fashion industry has played a pivotal role in making khadi fashionable again. “I love to wear khadi —it is comfortable, and very fashionable according to me,” says 20-year-old student Komal Kanth. “When we’re proudly embracing fashion statements from the ’80s and ’90s then why not include something of our own? Khadi is highly popular again and is affordable too. I wear it with pride!,” says Nimesh Mathur, an 18-year-old Mumbai University student.
Khadi silk saris are one of my favorites of all time. We at zameeni share wide array of khadi cotton,khadi silk saris.
So lets celebrate the Indianess again and again.