March 27, 2022 FDCI

Fashion Disruptors

Genderless clothing finds space in Anvita’s closet, while Huemn intermingles graffiti with traditional embroideries. As silvery sparkles mark Dadu’s spring homecoming, Bollywood’s rajah Manish Malhotra woos millennials with his “affordable” prints and some star sprinkle

By Asmita Aggarwal

The beautiful aspect of fashion is its diversity in the manner in which professionals from myriad fields find it an interesting space to exist in. That’s why it is not surprising to meet Anvita Sharma, of the label Two Point Two. An economics graduate from Hindu College, and master’s in finance from Durham University, England, her parents never really liked the unpredictability fashion offered. She went along and made them happy by studying more “accepted” subjects, till her cardiologist father understood, Anvita was “cut out” for design.

Her mom, a professor of botany, in Delhi University supported her dreams and sent her to Istituto Marangoni for a master’s in apparel and design, which helped launch the label Two Point Two in 2017, just before Covid changed the world. “I wanted to make genderless clothing and was a big supporter of the LGBTQ+ community, to enable identity rights. I have seen friends from school struggle with suppressed identity, too afraid of being shunned or bracketed by society. I believe fashion can open this dialogue and it was time to have that conversation,” says Anvita.

Thus, Two Point Two is beyond gender binaries, the name also signifies taking things to the next level. Inclusivity and diversity were the mainstay of her brand, and she admits she doesn’t see any person as her muse or ambassador as the brand is for anyone, sans age, sex or colour demarcations.  “Two Point Two doesn’t fall into any men’s or women’s wear distinctions, and is more of a heady mix of streetwear, casual and sometimes formal clothing. Each season, the goal is to discuss something personal through our collections,” she explains.

The aim since 2019 has been to become sustainable, with fabrics made from rose petals, bamboo, orange and lotus, adopting zero waste policies.  Anvita wanted to take the brand global and just before Covid, had participated at the London Fashion Week investing not just money, but enormous amounts of time and energy. There were talks with stores in the US, UK and Japan and the world was shut down by the virus. Like every other small brand, she was forced to pause for two seasons, but she managed to retain her team, and is still recovering from the consequences business-wise.

This year for FDCI X LFW her line titled, “Behind Closed Doors”, is an ode to human suffering, the roller-coaster called life, embracing light at the end of the tunnel and emerging from the chaos. “It has also been a spiritual journey for many of us, which we tried to show through the monochromes, as colour was added to embody the spirit of hope and happiness; the tiny details we added made a big difference,” she says.

The question to ask is if fashion is not a necessity what future does it hold? Anvita’s deduction is based on simple principles— top luxury brands will bounce back as they have a fixed clientele, the small ones which come in the fast fashion category satiate cravings, will make them sail through. But the middle ones, like hers and many more, face the fear of extinction. “Frankly, wedding wear will never see a dip as all the postponed or cancelled weddings took place eventually. But the need of the hour is sustainability not the desire to survive,” she says.

The mood this season is not to be stuck at home, so there, bikinis, jumpsuits, jackets and kimonos and double-breasted blazers as well as boxer shorts. And for the audience it was a delight to see Huma Qureshi and Saqib come together on the runway.

Stories in linen:

Kaveri Lalchand saw her super glamorous mother make her own embroidered saris, growing up in Chennai, it was a sight that remains etched in her memory. Her mom had moved from Sri Lanka to India, and was well-travelled way back in the 60s.

She wasn’t happy with what she found, as she wanted to wear something that reflected her spirit, so a tall Muslim man or who she fondly calls “Zariwala” would visit their home with rolls of paper and she would see her mom tracing the most fabulous designs on it. She would then get these embroidered through a convent in Chennai, where specially-abled girls would work with the finest threads.

“My mom was an artist, and I think designing came naturally to me, as I was always surrounded by fabrics,” says Lalchand. Her grandfather ran a textile shop, while her father was an exporter, but she faced a different challenge.

Being a big woman, she was often judged at designer stores, with snide comments made on her weight, and she realised custom clothing was not just expensive but also time consuming. “My label was born out of this need, where we never charge anything extra for fabric or the comfort fit we offer. My journey began ten years ago and I had five stores before covid hit, making it difficult to run businesses,” she explains.

The super soft, supple linen she crafts her clothing out of is perfect for summer months as it looks classy and keeps you cool. “I make clothes to make women feel good as when you feel so, you look good. It is also about how confident an outfit makes you feel,” she explains. In this line, she has done photo prints, making a dark room, but she admits she is a huge fan of everything classic and vintage and she only works with linen. Each piece must have a soul and connect with the buyer offering simplicity and longevity!

Pret on the Go:

There is a perceptible change in the way women are looking at fashion post-covid and one of the most interesting trends, has emerged is the want for classics over fads. But the desire for sequins hasn’t diminished, and that’s why Nikita Mhaisalkar, is offering her luxury pret line with the options of repeating your outfits, mix and match as well as going for ensembles that don’t last just for a single night out.

This season, her matte shine outfits are, of course, ultra glam, but they are a result of a laborious technique — georgette is printed, then surface treated with threads, finally sequins are added. “We developed our own prints after immense amounts of R and D, each print gets a unique representation,” she explains. Not much of a pop colours lover, her palette veers towards nudes, tans and blacks, even as she encourages her clients to opt for layering —wear a linen blouse with a sequinned jacket.

In the past, all her lines have been influenced by her love for travels, but covid put a stop to that, making her dip into the reservoir of memories. Her trip to North America and Mexico became her mood board from where she picked up the turquoise and granite stonework and ornate carpet prints embedded in the kaftans and micro minis —- two ends of the shape spectrum. As a brand she wants to cater to different customers through a variety of silhouettes without compromising on the design language.  “Every woman is updated, so she knows what international brands have to offer, so as a designer you can’t tell a story and not deliver,” she explains.  The experiments with beautiful crushed hemp silk are also one of her fabric innovations, even though it leans more towards couture than pret due to its price points.

Re-engineering Style canvas:

Rimzim Dadu has been a quiet but strong player in the field of experimental design, but covid has brought many to discover what really works in a market as diverse as ours. She admits, the biggest learning is to take nothing in life for granted and find joy in even small things. “As a designer, the break during Covid gave me a chance to reflect on my journey so far, and set goals for where I want to be and how I want to get there. And to do this while staying true to my core ethos of experimenting and creating with joy,” she explains.

The beginning of physical shows has been a motivating force for designers and Dadu brings with her the superlative surface texturing and dexterous reengineering with new experiments in surface creation. Thankfully, her brand never keeps huge stocks as every piece is handmade and made-to-order. So, when Covid shut everything down, she was not stuck with massive inventories.

This season, clean lines meet new-age craftsmanship. The signature cord technique in re-engineered material, re-imagines cocktail dressing to create fluid yet structured forms. Molten metallics, sparkly silvers and whites meet sculpted forms. “The entire show will be a statement on love and longing that was missing from our lives in the past two years,” she adds.

Better-known for her silicon jamdani sari or leather Patola which can be categorised as art pieces, this chapter is about,

a mixture of classics and more dramatic silhouettes. “Art is what inspires us – when you buy a Rimzim Dadu piece, it’s wearable art. You can expect more of that,” she adds.

It took Dadu 12 years to open her store during a time when brick and mortar was not relevant.  But she believes she has a loyal fanbase in India and around the world and is niche in her presence, so never felt the need of a physical store. “But as our reach grew, it became unsustainable to service our client base from a single location. And that gave birth to the store,” she concludes.

Through the looking Glass:

They have completed ten years of not “designing” as Pranav Mishra will correct you, rather “story telling”. This edition of the FDCI X LFW is super special for him and his business partner Shyma Shetty, who is now Bangkok based.

Coming from a small town of Lucknow, Pranav believes with no family background, connections, money or famous last name, he has managed this far, which he considers a feat in itself. Anything above this would be really commendable, as he learnt the ropes once again when covid struck. He admits he came out of the “bubble”, began strengthening his e-commerce, which now contributes 30 per cent of his profits.

The biggest change is rethinking priorities for most of the fashion fraternity, becoming more aware, unlocking the market in the product category, making his mainstay, T-shirts now priced from at Rs 3,500 to his fast seller sweatshirts that go up to Rs 35,000 in the premium range.

Pranav always dreamt of making a product that appealed to a larger crowd, and issue-based storytelling became an important aspect of the brand. Whether it was Kashmir or LGBTQ rights, the core of everything was the image. “But the motivation was not how beautiful it was looking, rather how honest we have been in the process,” says Pranav.

Clothing is no longer uni-dimensional, as the world is opening up and everyone is concentrating on responsible fashion, Pranav confesses it is no longer a trend, but a necessity to go trans-seasonal.

To mark their innovative trek into the fashion space, these young entrepreneurs have moved away from their signature oversized creations to a more fitted offering. “Life is short, fashion is cyclical, but young people want to celebrate making it through the tunnel, every aspect of their existence, most importantly their youth. Thus, at Huemn, our shapes have been altered to suit the needs of today,” he explains.

Brushed fleece, cotton tees, print-on-print on sunset yellows and aqua blues have been added. There is also a contrast as Huemn juxtaposes traditional embroideries with streetwear graffiti. Maybe the future will see their revolutionary ideas like the news shirt which calls out the fake news we consume today, the plight of Kashmiris, or rampant capitalism.

MM serenades with prints:

What an ending to the fourth day of the fashion week! You had the next generation of stars in the offing having their first brush with fame. Meet Shanaya and Siddhant Chaturvedi, with the latter taking on the catwalk with his seriously cool moves. What remains Manish Malhotra’s forte is his unabashed indulgence in prints this season with his bridge line, “Diffuse”, leaving his ornate embroideries for “happy brides” as he calls them.

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