Suzani - a traditional handmade decorative embroidery on textile items, which has rich historical roots in the countries of Central Asia.
The very origin of Suzani art is believed to have started in the Fergana Valley, further spreading across other regions of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, remaining a popular artwork throughout the centuries. Traditionally, Suzani embroidery was developed and practiced by Central Asian women, mothers used to teach their daughters to master suzani embroidery as a part of the culture.
Originated from the Persian word “Suzan” meaning needle, this traditional craftwork served as home décor, prayer mats, bedsheets, and decoration of yurts. Suzanis were also a significant part of a bride’s gift while getting married. A bride would bring it for her wedding day to bring wellbeing into her future married life.
However, with the modernization of life under the Soviet Union, the art of suzani crafting lost its deserved essence and charm as a unique type of traditional art and remained unvalued for a while. An embroidered suzani cloth would be lost in some hidden corners of Uzbek houses as something unnecessary or old-fashioned.
As Uzbekistan became an independent state, with the beginning of 90’s Suzani became a much demanded and highly valued handicraft product not only in Uzbekistan but also in the foreign market. When Uzbekistan started opening its gates to foreign investment and businesses after becoming an independent state, Suzani started getting highly noticed among local expats, who started decorating their modern houses with this fine piece of art and chose Suzani items as fashionable fragments of their wardrobe.
As a result, Suzani products got hits among tourists visiting Uzbekistan as well. Cities of Bukhara, Samarkand, and Fergana, where suzani art is one of the essential handicraft cultures and traditions, started producing more traditional Uzbek embroidery items by the increasing demand. Local fashion designers started using colorful Suzani patterns in their modern tailor-made products, such as clothing, bags, hats, wall décor, etc.
Consequently, with the scale of the increasing demand for these wonderful national art patterns encompassed in Suzani, the prices for such a luxury began to rise likewise. Foreigners, who felt the true value of these bright silk stitches embroidered on cotton or silk fabrics, were ready to pay multiplied rates for ready Suzani items, a true exotic gift of art to their taste and perception.
Following the local designers, foreign fashion designers also started using these colorfully bright Uzbek embroidery patterns in their products, making Suzani even more popular worldwide. We can recall the same tendency happening to Uzbek Ikat – Adras on an international level. The stunning blueprint of Uzbek Ikat became remarkably popular in designers' artworks after independence, while having lost their value by the end of Soviet times in Uzbekistan and Central Asia.
“Suddenly Suzani – the rise of Asian embroideries”, the article of the Financial Times dedicated to Central Asian traditional embroidery art, talks about the history and progress of Suzani throughout centuries. It describes Suzani highlighting its uniqueness and beauty as “Hanging a tapestry or a material on a wall is a way of softening a space. It adds liveliness, depth, and texture”.
“We don’t have much information on them before the 18th century, but there was a tradition of embroidery far before that time” – was also mentioned in the article talking about the deep history of Suzani.
The article also describes the variety of suzanis as being of fabulous colors and designs that have a really dynamic, contemporary feel. The author also made a research on the prices of these masterpiece products of suzani, marking that prices depend on the complexity, patterns, and the origin of these pieces of handmade textile art. “If they are particularly early, or they’ve got a really good provenance, or the design and colors are just that little bit different,” then the prices can be a lot higher than the rest.
Many of vivid and colorful samples of suzani used as wall décor, pillows, bedspread, and clothing were demonstrated in the article by various photos published by the Financial Times.