March 13, 2018 Asmita Aggarwal

Power of Now

Can you make fashion sustainable in small ways? Diksha Khanna’s denim with a heart, unwashed, unbleached as well as nature inspired embroideries, create a better planet.

By Asmita Aggarwal

It was a cool breeze of Almora, Uttarakhand surrounded by the Kumaon hills that was Diksha Khanna’s first brush with nature’s abundance. Her father, unlike her grandfather, was a civil engineer and didn’t show much inclination towards the family’s textile business and a shop they ran for decades.

But, a naive Diksha was seduced by the rustle of fabrics, the diaphanous drapes and also the unique weave each one offered with a lucid texture and propensity. So, she decided quite young that she will pursue designing and cleared NIFT (Delhi) and then went on to discover the joys of the School of Design at Leeds and a pattern cutting course at the London College of Fashion. “I always knew that colours and fabrics is what I will work with; after an internship in textiles with Mirjam Rouden, London and working for a while with a young label Bunmi Olaye, I wanted to come back to my country and launch my own label,” she admits.

Mirjam, a Central Saint Martins graduate was more of an artist and she taught Diksha some of the more subtle nuances of design—-colour discharge and digital prints. While Bunmi, a Nigerian, had worked with Prada, so the R & D they do, is what really impressed her. From the reason a line or a curve was introduced at the sketching stage to the way they made the first prototype, themselves using muslin to craft a silhouette, that involved pattern cutting, made Diksha understand the technicalities and processes that revolve around design.

“In India we are spoilt, we have masters and pattern cutters as well as people who can sew for us, so we tend to take things for granted,” she admits.

From UK, Diksha returned to work with Goa-based designer Wendell Rodricks, from where, she admits, she gets her minimal, relaxed and comfortable aesthetic. “Wendell never kept fashion assistants at that time, but somehow I was the lucky one, and what inspired me was his fluidity, and they way the garment moved on the body,” she says.

These principles also got reflected in her label, but Diksha found her niche, when she started her experiments with fabrics and learnt by trial and error how to maneuver them around the human form. This time for autumn-winter 2018, being her first time, at the Amazon India Fashion Week, she has juxtaposed two opposing elements——-the organic with the industrial. It’s like we live in a concrete jungle, but that green patch exists, however small it may be. That’s why delicate needlepoint embroidery on handloom linen is teamed up with distressed denim.

“The softness of the embroidery clashes with the ruggedness of the denim, making them strange bedfellows but creating a perceptive creative tension,” she confesses.

Nature has been a recurring theme in Diksha’s life, as her earlier line was named “Vertical Garden”, inspired by the new offering where you can get some nature in your home, by planting a green patch somewhere, even your wall, as urbanisation has made space a constraint. Her aut-winter 2018 line is homage to the bounty of nature, an unmanicured garden, replete with all its vagaries, in its natural state, leaves falling freely that you can see in the embroidery. There are house plants on cocoon jackets, cactuses growing on skirts and mostly nature-inspired motifs that heighten the oversized and sometimes boxy silhouettes. “I believe you should own the garment and not the other way round; I’ve kept most of the line ivory, grey and neutral with pops of lavender flowers that surprise you with their engaging nothingness,” she smiles.

Though Diksha’s line has a heart too, that beats for the planet that’s why all the denim is sourced directly from factories so it is unbleached, chemical-free and not washed which she has used as patchwork in her line. “I have been a big fan of Pratap (Rajesh) and the way he makes the ensemble beautiful inside out. That has been my endeavour too,” she admits.

Diksha believes that prêt has evolved over the years, so much so that there is a fine line between this and diffusion and the two are meeting somewhere in between and probably will have a great future. “We, as designers, value add in a garment, it is not run-of-the-mill and machine made, it is hand crafted, made for you, with a pretty detail inside and that’s what is its USP,” she concludes.

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