March 28, 2015 Asmita Aggarwal

Inner Engineering

Indigo-dyed Khadi denim and kala cotton, give Himanshu Shani’s 11:11, a distinct flavour, as autumn creates a mood for sustainability

By Asmita Aggarwal

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His mother is a chartered accountant, father an engineer and brother a structural engineer, so when Himanshu Shani decided to study at NIFT, Gandhinagar, there were many raised eyebrows. But the boy who won a scholarship to Domus Academy, Milan knew what interested him were not textbooks but painting and sketches, something that you create with your hands, when he found it, there was, as they, proverbially no looking back.

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In 2006, Himanshu came back from Italy where he had set up a consultancy firm, Celldesign, to India and created hislabel 11:11. Having worked in Milan for five years with brands like Diesel, as well as the biggest motorbiking company Dainese, giving design inputs, what he learnt was inner engineering. “How a garment is moulded on a body, so a flare comes about not by adding panels but how it falls on the body,” he explains.

Interestingly, 11:11 kind of is a confluence of No.1, which has a completeness about it, it is also the master number, more balanced and doesn’t have defined gender roles, so it seemed like a great fit. Himanshu came back with a clear vision to keep the label craft-oriented and sustainable. So that passion that export houses lack, where they are churning out stuff which is cheaper and faster, Himanshu decided to shun that and go back to the Italian way of life, slow fashion. “I work with Gujarat, Bengal and South artisans, each season, it is not periodical, as to even understand the aesthetics of each craft it takes at least three years,” he says. Hence, his Bandhini is not done the way it is usually, rather it is executed on a garment and not fabric, so each design is well-defined. “We work with natural dyes, even the printing that is done, is fully organic and the clothes we make are not fantastical, but something you can go from morning to evening with a little bit of engineering even if it is a straight silhouette,” he confirms.

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The Autumn line will have two of his favourites-Khadi denim and kala cotton, the latter being a rare cotton, produced with no pesticides, naturally found growing in Gujarat that he sourced with the help of NGOs. And the former, hand spun denim that is indigo dyed. “India produces 1 billion metres of denim, but there is nothing called Indian denim, in that quest, we came up with this project—Khadi denim which we now hope to make in kala cotton,” he says.

Autumn will have layering in fabrics and a range that begins from wool, felt, khadi, heavier cotton and goes on to fine silk, and a reinvention of the kimono inspired by old pieces sourced with the help of his Japanese partner Mia, converted into coats. “I want to make 11: 11, an Indian brand with a global presence, as I was thankfully taught by artists and architects rather than fashion designers which early on in life shaped my vision. I am thankful to NIFT for that and I hope I can carry forward this line of thought further,’ he concludes.

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