October 10, 2017 Asmita Aggarwal

The Misfits

Two boys Amit Vijaya and Richard Pandav (of Amrich) decide to abandon the technical skills they learnt studying IT and Botany and join NID to study textiles and swim with the sharks in the fashion pool

By Asmita Aggarwal

For those who like to keep quiet and do their jobs, can sometimes be left behind in the ‘rat race’, and in a city as cutthroat as Delhi, this virtue can become a sin, as some rather clever ones can swiftly copy your ideas and take away coveted awards for something that you might have engineered. Some accept it graciously, others feel bitter. Amit Vijaya and Richard Pandav, learnt this the hard way and are more the former than the latter.

However, the Delhi-based duo, have worked with Jamdanis, Shibori and ikat, three of their favourites, and have found loyal devotees like the former PM Sonia Gandhi. Though the two refuse to accept it, but say she could have bought some of their hand spun saris.

The climb to this summit wasn’t an easy one, for both; Richard studied information technology, but realised “I was lying to myself”, and switched to design, and got through NID, Ahmedabad to study fashion and textiles.  “As a kid, I used to style my sisters and that’s how the interest grew,” says Richard.

While Amit, who was raised in Kolkata, the city where craft and heritage are primary, did his BSc in botany and aspired to go abroad and study horticulture, but found there were no scholarships or funding available.

His father started a graphics and digital unit offering website services, and requested him to join. That’s where he was exposed to design, during his interactions with clients. “I started making graphics for Kolkata-based designers and that’s when I heard a talk on Indian textiles at a local event titled ‘Sutra’ and met Darshan Shah, from the Weaver’s Studio, who motivated me to study. I applied to NID and gave up a paying career to study once again,” he smiles.

Though he shyly admits that he at one point also wanted to be a doctor till someone told him he has to study till the age of 32, and he mentally decided to flee!

Amrich, their label launched in 2011 (Amrich is a mix of their names Am-it and Rich-ard) has a rather simple philosophy, elegance of simplicity, indulgence of comfort and the beauty of hand made. Though before this they both worked in Ravissant, where they designed the bridal line.

“We had some common lessons in NID that overlapped and that’s how we first met. But what was great in our friendship was that we used to critique each other’s work and take the feedback positively. There was no ego, just camaraderie and we knew we would work together in the future,” says Amit.

The label reflects their passion for crafts and techniques, so much so that from sketching to sampling, they try and do everything on their own. Their innate belief is that the product should make a statement minus any embellishment. “Those who get it, get it. The rest don’t matter,” says Amit, adding, “We stayed away from fashion weeks and opted to work quietly, even though we saw rampant copying, due to no intellectual property rights enforced, nothing could be done. We thought it is the work that matters not fame.”

The duo executes crafts that excite them, and Amit says that they give a twist to Indian techniques, whether it is batik or bandhini. “We earlier used to source our craft-based work from clusters, but realised there was replication so we trained women artisans in-house. This time we have taken the original khadi from Bihar, the petti charkha and tried to weave it differently in Chanderi for a cross-pollinated effect,” he says.

For the first time, they have forayed AIFW and this SS’18, they have titled their line, “Ties that Bind”, as most of their clients travel all over the world. They may have been inspired by African textiles but have added a bit of shibori in it, and the silhouettes can be Korean or Japanese.

“Today we are all influenced by various cultures and motifs, it is no longer local, rather it is global. Most of us have everything, and social media has kind of taken away the most important thing and that is empathy. All we need is love, the rest kind of falls into place, that’s why such a title for our line. I have also learnt in my career that you have to sometimes go with the flow, as God has his own plans,” he concludes.

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