March 18, 2017 Asmita Aggarwal

Green warrior

Pune-based Karishma Shahani hopes to build a brand that works on three virtues—recycling, upcycling and sustainability

By Asmita Aggarwal

There were many professions that Karishma Shahani pondered over—from being a vet, to an environmentalist to an anthropologist, and fashion kind of gave her an opportunity to amalgamate all of these, and maybe more.

So after studying at the London College of Fashion, she launched her label in 2012, working solely with upcycling, recycling and sustainability. “We have a zero waste policy,” says the 30-year-old, adding, “we source all our materials from a weaving unit down South and really, the fun is, in the way we do our embroideries.”

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Karishma converts waste fabrics into embroideries, textures from which she even designs a line of shoes. But what seals the deals is how she earlier used onion sacks and intermingled them with ribbons to create an ingenious fabric. Old saris which had Benerasi borders, were reused and something new was created out of this, much like the faded and torn T-shirts out of which she made cardigans. “Indians like to buy cheap and they also like to buy a lot so they in turn waste a lot, which hikes up the consumption rate leading to rapid consumerism,” admits the Pune-based designer.

That’s why her eco-friendly line, which she confesses is not “boring or staid”, looks at the same things in a new way, changing the perspective totally, this autumn-winter 2017. She looked at photographs of the earth from various vantage points, including the sky, and it kind of gave a whole new twist to man, machines, nature and land, out of which Karishma created textures, using patchwork and appliqué along with weaving techniques to curate leftover fabrics. “Cotton is a beautiful fabric as it works as well in the South as it does in the North, so that has been used in abundance along with pure silks and new blends we make out of mixing together the katrans (waste). We also work a lot with colour and layering to keep in touch with our inherent Indian-ness,” she adds.

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Her label Kasha, was a abbreviation of her name, as they were two sisters, she wanted to carry her father’s title forward, through the medium of her brand, but her real education about fashion came from her paternal aunt, who took the two sisters to museums as kids and educated them about history, a subject that she still loves. “Fashion is also a bit like history, it kind of dexterously mixes the past with the present in unique ways,” she smiles.

Making clothing that is versatile and also engaging, she offers reversible coats which change colours so that you can wear it for an evening, as you turn it inside out. She has also taken elements from Indian wear and added them to a Western silhouette like the pleats in a sari that make it easier to walk have been included in a dress. “We do separates, so that you can mix and match as per your taste,” says the economics graduate.

Though what she would like to see changed in the world of fashion is to witness lesser PRs coaxing people to come and visit designers, but rather the press showing more interest in searching for new talent. “The front row should be more responsible and see the show rather than asking for a look book later. Their presence is important for young designers like me, as you need to see it first to judge it,” she concludes.

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