Let’s go Dutch

Dutch architecture has remained etched in the memory of Pankaj and Nidhi, as they revisit past classics and romance the present with new surface techniques

By Asmita Aggarwal

Sometimes you have to let go of the past to enable a better future and that’s just what Pankaj and Nidhi did this season. Abandoning appliqué their all time favourite, and moving on to hand-crafted, interesting surfaces, P & N take up ribbons. They attempt fringing with it and elevate it to a new level by adding scallops.

The beauty of the label is how they start from the sourcing stage, where metallic sheets are cut according to unpredictable shapes giving the ensembles a fresh dimension. This year, they have revisited what they did almost 10 years ago in 2008, when they were in the fashion incubator, attempting to make a place for themselves in the design sphere.

Trapunto, or the Italian stitch is mostly used in quilting, a process the duo loves (both the quilts and the technique). This season, it is back, not a solid base, but executed on prints. Memory and fashion has a direct connect, even though this may not be Freudian, as both don’t fail each other, maybe that’s why the husband-wife team’s visit to Netherlands Rijks Museum where Rembrandt to Franz Hals reside visually, left a lasting impact on them. That’s why the quilting found a rather unseemly soulmate—- graphic art inspired by the artworks they appreciated.

Understanding sustainability is the need of the hour, they source ethically and now have endeavoured to work with vegetable dyes. Though it is a misnomer they don’t include textiles, their Chanderi striped ensembles are a sold out in their boutiques and their design intervention in Benerasi is quite well…cool. “Instead of the regular gold we worked with silver yarn and added rose motifs on the weave,” says Pankaj. For their Paris outing, they did revisit appliqué but not in neoprene or patent leather rather in velvet that had this malleable mushiness.

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Experimentation remains the basis of the label, even though they are lovers of new-age technology, fine mill-made yarns as well as laser cutting. “We try and do our bit to ensure zero waste, so the laser cut waste is again refashioned into jaalis, which we use as adornment,” he explains.

Twelve years ago when P & N began, they were intrepid, created with abandon, now that kind of has been overtaken by the need to survive in an industry that is unforgiving to those who aren’t updated. “It is a challenging time but creativity is never going to be passé,” says Pankaj.

The change that he sees, is there are lesser flights of fancy in fashion, it is more pragmatic, easier, less restricting and also about missing and matching, coordinates and separates. “It is less about brands now but more about looking for unique pieces that’s why, people are scouting flea markets and vintage shops looking for that novelty,” he adds.

P & N’s survival kit is pretty simple— give the West what it can’t do, beautiful embroideries; so there can be a crewel work bomber jacket, or an aari work blouse, the Parisians love, as tailoring they are masters at.  Diversity is the foundation of their label, so you can see both a handloom fabric and polyester mesh exist hand-in-hand in their repertoire.

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Social media has changed the paradigm, its reach has impacted many businesses and even though Nidhi, now a mother-of-two Laila, 6, and one-year-old Vir, took the lead and started it, four years ago, their followers have grown organically. “It is a great way to put your brand out there, even though none of us, have personal accounts,” says Pankaj.

Four times a year in Paris can be exhausting, and even though when they went there for the first time they felt a bit lost in a sea of heavy red carpet looks, soon their found their niche. “Brand extensions excite me, I want to do something in the area of home; soft furnishings, the whole nine yards is what I would I like to offer in a few years,” he signs off.

Imaginative Realism

On Einstein’s birthday, it is best to quote him: “Life is like riding a cycle, to find balance, you must keep moving”. Prashant Varma encapsulates this agony and ecstasy of what we all ‘indulge’ in everyday—- Life!

By Asmita Aggarwal

His brother Siddhant, supported Prashant Verma’s dream by becoming “the soldier on the catwalk”, at the showcasing of his LMIFW’19 line. A show, where the designer sang for a good 11 minutes, in perfect rhythm, opera style, about the hopes and aspirations of the young and the weight of it, once it has been lived. With dancers from Danceworx, Prashant says, “If I am singing alone vs. when I am singing with so many other performers with me, we are not only are we feeding off of each other’s energies, but there is also a sense of security.”

He got a melange of theatre actors and real people to translate his concept onto the runway breaking the monotony of predictability. “It was organic. Once I knew what I wanted to do, I started a conversation which naturally led to this. I met Niharika, then met Aishwarya who was my first director for a play I did in Delhi in 2013, and I started discussing the idea with them. I told Aishwarya I was looking for serious actors, and she connected me to Ms. Haider, and from there I got connected to Sabina, Radhika, Mr. Sunit Tandon — everyone and everything just came together,” he says.

The NIFT (Delhi) 2005 graduate, last he showed in 2010, and he was producing work till 2013, after which he showcased in 2015. In 2016, he was doing external freelance projects. In 2017, he shifted to Bombay and in 2018 he did a show. He admits he didn’t have to struggle with finding people. “It’s not like I wanted to do the show, it was a show that had to be done,” he smiles, giving credit to serendipity. Verma, moved to full-time acting and confesses there is this phase when you’re trying to find your identity through labels. People in theatre are always inquisitive about what else you’re doing, whereas in fashion, it’s “are you an actor or a designer”.

The style world wants things in certain formats; the cycle of fashion is so fast that it affects the pace of everything that happens in your life. It’s a 6-month wheel, in which you’re exposing yourself to, liking and then getting over things. “So in this space, I had an idea of doing multiple things and that idea is not easily absorbed in the fashion industry. One feeds off the other. If you don’t do this, then there’s a part of you that won’t be exhausted and that itch will pour over into other aspects. I can label myself as a designer, actor or a singer, but that will be inaccurate. It’s not the words, it is the work,” he says.

Few know Verma worked with Alexander McQueen and John Galliano and he admits his core influence is the World Book Encyclopaedia, where under the “Art” section it spoke of the six things needed to make great art —– line, point, perspective and so on. The book showed all these aspects individually, in different paintings of Picasso. “Then I went to McQueen, when Sarah Burton (at that time, Sarah Heard) was the head of the studio. I learned that you can’t do just one thing. You have to do embroidery, pattern making, print, draping. From suits to gowns, you have to do everything. You have to win it all,” he explains.

Artistically inclined, Prashant does think about commerce, “I don’t have the kind of money to have a factory and an office, which is why I called it the ‘Miracle show’, because it’s full of favours. An actor’s daughter is getting married and she agreed to do this to get the pressure off. The jewellery was sourced too. Someone else loaned us their house for the day to get ready for hair and makeup. So when I am doing a show, I am not thinking of commerce. But do I want to make money? Yes. But I look at them as two separate things.”

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At the end of the day, there are countless times when he feels like something wasn’t right, or that there were compromises. But over time, you choose the compromises, you are okay with. The rest fade away. “Your body of work has to be just that not for your clients but also for yourself,” he admits.

Showing with Huemn came along, and it was surreal because they are on a different space of using real people, he observes, as “you saw with the children walking the ramp”. “My parents haven’t ever questioned my weird way of finding myself work-wise. I used to even tell people that I was an Economics graduate from Khalsa College, out of the need of staying completely anonymous. I didn’t want anybody’s perception to be coloured by their judgment on the industry I came from, because people seem to have a construct about what it is like,” he says about sharing one room in Versova with five struggling actors.

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“When I came back to Delhi, I realised people aren’t like that — contrary to popular belief. However, I do think that when you’re good with yourself, you’ll find the right people anywhere,” he concludes.

Laws of Simplicity

Rahul Mishra talks about his three obsessions – Maheshwari, monochromes and tailoring

 By Asmita Aggarwal

A regular at Paris Fashion Week, completing ten seasons and five years this year, Rahul Mishra is not one of those who will rest on his laurels, rather he looks at what’s next?

For any artist a good line creates a void, and this time for LMIFW’19, Rahul is bringing his best pieces to mirror his ten-year-long trajectory in design. “It is an effort to show my product-wise evolution and how riveting this ride has been—emotionally, physically and mentally,” he explains.

A maverick in the way he fuses elements together and focuses on construction, resembling an 80s Armani, sans padding or Western cutting techniques. His PFW show saw jackets, made out of handloom (khadi and handloom) not woollen and the results were comparable to any designer jacket in the world. That’s where Rahul scores over his contemporaries, and this time he went with no embroidery as he felt compartmentalisation is the death of a brand. “I would like to explore, and I believe when you make clothes you don’t have to be a slave to a certain technique or technology, the fun is in trying and failing or sometimes succeeding,” he adds.

He adds the Indian fashion world is forgiving in contrast to the West, where you can’t repeat, as that shows no evolution, therefore taking risks becomes rewarding and the gain is pure learning. “I remember a few years ago, I did a show with caterpillar sleeves and I was criticised. No one liked it, as it didn’t have embroidery just construction manipulations,” he explains.

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Most of Rahul’s repertoire revolves around Maheshwari and some of these pieces found their way to the LMIFW’19 show, as he relooks at how they can be worn. Styling has now come into the spotlight. Strong, crisp looks, he hopes to bring a surprise with each line, whether it is form, shape or aesthetics. “Monochromes have never left my side and neither has hand cutting and patchwork. Maheshwari I have done ten collections with, it is clearly my favourite despite it being a duppattamaterial. I have added length, breadth and dimension to it creating almost anything out of it that you can imagine from tunics to coats. I have being doing 3D embroideries, which I greatly enjoy. This could be seen in the ‘Metamorphosis’ line, a few years back, where the embroideries rise on the fabric making them supremely graphic. At PFW I did a much advanced version of these,” he explains.

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The reason why Rahul dabbles in both couture and Western prêt is it shapes your ideology and polishes the rough edges. “I can’t keep doing lehengas, even there I look for adventure, whatever I do, even if it’s a collaboration, it must be harmonious with my core ideas and sometimes you have to unlearn, to move ahead,” he says.

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Fashion Design Council of India