September 27, 2019 FDCI

A Room of One’s Own

Pratima Pandey celebrates “beauty with intelligence” as she completes ten years in the business of making women look powerful having returned after a successful showcasing in Jakarta recently

By Asmita Aggarwal

What happens when you meet a strong, intelligent woman who knows her mind and is unafraid to voice her opinion? Most avoid, some cringe and others look at her as an anomaly, few respect and want to engage. Unfortunately, fashion in India is still finding its feet, so when someone who is well-read comes along and challenges the status quo, she is bound to face hurdles. Pratima Pandey one of the brightest stars on the firmament prefers to steer clear of the naysayers and hopes to carve her own small, quiet place in the roaring world of glamour as she completes ten years.

India has myriad of customs and norms, so when we talk about empowering women, the adaptation is different with perspective. The sari saw a resurgence this year, highlighted at the Lotus Make-up India Fashion Week  Autumn-Winter 2019 in multiple variations, fabrics, and silhouettes. Does the age-old sari, empower women with its years of glory and grace? Pratima adds, “It is all about being Indian. The educated, exposed, intellectual women I know, they all choose the sari over anything else. That’s when I realised it’s so important to deliberate on this attire.”

As the organic brand proudly calls theirs ‘Pramaa Sari’, “It is handloom, celebrating a lot of people and artistry. Everything is put into one piece of fabric. There is too much history attached to it,” she says.

Raised by a family where discipline and integrity was valued thanks to a father who was in the defence forces, Pratima’s acknowledgment and approach towards clothing is rich yet minimal, individualistic yet inclusive. “It is only when you read the past, you realise who we are and what we have become,” she says. After completing her post-graduation in Fashion Design from NIFT, she teaches the history of costumes there now. Her interludes include exploring “Varanasi weavers project” to revive and promote craftsmen, as a part of her Masters project which was a “turning point” and then she launched her handcrafted label in 2009.

It is safe to say a more realistic approach is rare nowadays, amid the age of social media where the standards are high, but self-confidence low.  She says, “We have gotten a taste of loneliness and it is backfiring. We are all suddenly realising that it’s not working. Let’s go back to who we. And, being real is the only way to do that,” says Pratima.

She is inspired by design trailblazers like Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto and Sabyasachi Mukherjee, who did not succumb to borrowed ideas, rather formed their own circuit of the “misfits”. That’s why to celebrate influencers, who have been part of her 10-year sojourn, she launched her campaign. “Instead of picking up one day and saying this is my day, I started celebrating 10 years from January. There are too many people to thank and I can’t do it one day,” she smiles.

The most recent campaign has 10 women who carry a tag of simplicity along with their great achievement in the fields of art, science, commerce, fashion, and films. This is not an ordinary sight but rather, an insight. “All the women in the campaign are the new Pramaa women, who are confident, strong-minded, celebrating themselves and their journeys are inspirational. My mother is in the campaign too. I can’t start anything without her,” she affirms.

Her mother is an interior designer and artist whom she claims is her “biggest critic.” She grew up watching her paint murals which contributed to expanding her horizons as a designer in terms of colour and style. Interestingly, she reveals her father, is a decorated army officer who did his master’s in music and credits both her parents for being supportive and inculcating creativity. Apart from her mother and among many is Dr. Varsha Gupta, who is a professor at NIFT, Bubbles Sabharwal, an author, actor, and director, and lastly it is the co-founder of an artificial intelligence and robotics company, Sangeeta Das.  Preceding this one is a campaign packed with weavers and embroiders, who have been a part of her design family and joined forces with an initiative started in Kerala, ‘Save the loom’.

Pratima is a woman who values tradition, tenacity and travelling. “I am a very simple person and don’t like complications. I don’t like too much fuss in my work. Most of my work is simple, easy-breezy but is rich in textiles.” Her new capsule collection, ‘Tara’ borrows from the 120-year-old Hindu College. To commemorate its 100th year, the government came out with a new stamp. Highlighting the importance of education, she elaborates Tara is a character who represents the fearless and free-spirited women of the college.

Unpretentiousness permeates through the collection which has a soothing pastel colour palette of skirts, crop tops, blouses, crinkled tunics, kurtas, palazzos-majorly made with Chanderi-with tiny motifs of flowers. She acknowledges the Western influence in her collection saying, “We are not cut-off from West but we must celebrate our Indianess too. We are trying to take what we want to and leaving what we dislike and of course, connect deeply with our past. I hope the Tara of today knows what she is wearing. She is a smart girl,” she concludes.

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Fashion Design Council of India