chennai

From bell bottoms to actresses’ gowns, meet Chennai’s original trend-makers

K Shanker has kept generations of Chennai women in style for over 70 years. This Madras Week, the family looks back on its legacy

K Shanker has kept generations of Chennai women in style for over 70 years. This Madras Week, the family looks back on its legacy

In a small room that houses more tailoring machines than it does people, Anand Rao Khemkar sits back to remember how his father, dressmaker K Shanker, would pack up his tools to obey a summons by the late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa. It was par for the course for the man, whose clientele over the years has also included Sowcar Janaki, Swapna, Rati Agnihotri and the Vittalacharya family.

This reputation, for a dressmaking family running a seemingly humble shop, is less surprising for folks who know just how long K Shanker Dressmakers has been serving the city of Chennai.

“My grandfather was working in Pune, from where he shifted to Bangalore. Then from Bangalore, my father and his two brothers came to Chennai and opened a shop here before Independence, opposite Hazrath Moti Baba Dargah in Egmore, to cater to the fashion and wedding needs of the city’s Anglo-Indians. We were there for more than 60 years before shifting here to Fountain Plaza in 2005. Our customers would all come in cars, and this complex had ample parking,” says Khemkar, the 55-year-old fifth-generation dressmaker in his family. 

The late K Shanker had stitched clothes for celebrities for decades.

The late K Shanker had stitched clothes for celebrities for decades.
| Photo Credit: R Shivaji Rao

From bell bottoms to skinny jeans, there were plenty of fashion trends that Chennai’s young women wished to emulate without having to splurge on expensive brands. They, along with brides-to-be, become the primary client base for this dressmaking family, whose reputation grew fast and steady over the decades,

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  • August 22, 2022