Sushant Abrol’s Countrymade captures the images of war through ‘bleeding’ checks and ‘draining’ camouflage prints that intermingle with knits, reminding you of the warmth of home.
By Asmita Aggarwal
It is a relationship that can’t be defined in words—brotherhood, bonding there can be several synonyms. But for Sushant Abrol, who lost his three-year older brother, an Air Force pilot, Samir at the age of 33, was a loss that he could never come to terms with. Countrymade, his menswear label is an homage to that deep and intense love he felt for the sibling, who supported him in all the decisions he took in life.
Sushant belongs to a middle-class family of Ghaziabad, both his parents run a small business, so fashion was always a dream. He wanted to follow his brother’s footsteps and join the armed forces, but he couldn’t clear his SSBs. He joined NIFT Mohali to study design, as he missed the NIFT Delhi exams which clashed with his Forces interview.
“I saw how disciplined the dressing was in the Armed Forces and then I saw the slouchy, baggy distressed denim on the streets, somewhere the desire to make men dress elegantly was the goal,” he admits.
Sushant to hone his skills worked for a leading designer for nine years, but wanted a break from the set template of embroidered sherwanis with Mughal architecture graphics, thus his label Countrymade came into being. You would associate the name with cheap liquor or guns, but in actuality it reflects small, homegrown businesses. His latest line “Homecoming” is accompanied with a song he has written about soldiers who return after the war, like in the US and get a royal welcome. “I saw disturbing images of the war where soldiers in Vietnam had written on their helmets, ‘War is hell’ or ‘Bring me back home alive’, it resonated with me,” he explains.
This casualty of war is reflected in military elements that dominate the line—camouflage ‘draining’ prints, ‘bleeding’ checks, or hand knits that remind you of the sweaters your grandmother knitted for you and the literal and metaphorical warmth they provide. The hues range from earthy to orange, the latter internationally is a colour of ‘rescue’, when fighter pilots fly over a country, they don orange overalls.
“My brother gave me seed money of Rs 20,000 to start my business, it was a token of love, I got a sewing machine, found a rented space, one karigar and began my journey. But his untimely death forced me to shut down till a friend asked me to make clothes for a buyer in Spain,” says Sushant. That didn’t excite him, he wanted to tell his own stories in 2019.
The first poem he wrote for his brother was “Beyond the Clouds” ; each line was shot in black in white to fit the verses. His collections are soaked in imagery from the Armed Forces, like “Connect the dots”, his third line took visuals from the aircraft fuselage and converted it into graphics. “I try to play with striking prints, stark neutrals, and use cotton thread embroidery. I don’t want to do gotta, zardozi and paisleys, there is enough of that already in the market,” he concludes.