The dot that went for a walk

Pooja Shroff connects the dots by reviving Batik from Java, Indonesia and preserving its originality and candour

By Asmita Aggarwal

There are many firsts for Pooja Shroff this year, her debut show at LMIFW’19 and her new store opening at MG Road which she calls a small, quiet retreat.

Four years into the business of fashion, Pooja from a reputed construction magnate family has both her hands dipped in gold, with her husband being in the premium education business. But the designing career is her space where she takes no help from either side of the family and runs it as a solo initiative.

After School of Fashion Technology, Pune, she went to study design at Parsons School of Design, New York. Working as an intern with Kenneth Cole and coming back home, she honed her skills under Sabyasachi Mukherjee.

“I am from Kolkata, I started my store there and believe it or not, I dabbled in Western wear at the beginning, which was short-lived. I got married and moved to Delhi. Though once a year, I do a pop-up there to keep the Kolkata story alive,” she explains.

The move to Indian and more so fusionwear was largely driven by commerce, as women here tend to spend more for a traditional outfit. At LMIFW 2019, Pooja has had many firsts, she has moved away from embellishments and taken up art, so Batik has become her semantics, this season. “I travelled to Jakarta last year and was consumed by the tie and dye Batiks I saw there. I wanted to give them a new dimension. Batik is derived from the word ambatik; ambameaning cloth and tik means little dot — ‘a cloth with little dots’. It mostly comes from Java with a heritage that dates back to 1,500 years meant only to be worn by royalty. It is done on cotton and silk and is a skill-based, manual wax-resist dyeing technique which is laborious and time consuming,” she adds.

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Ready-to-wear was the medium she chose as buyers today are looking at buying off the rack and being able to wear it. Pooja has indulged in collaborations to give a 3D appeal to her show. From Teal, with whom she is crafting customised shoes to go with her Batik offerings, she has also focussed on accessories. Rishma Lath of Crazy Palette has crafted trunks to round totes as an accompaniment to her dresses and trench coats, mostly separates, using the dot paintings of Jakarta.

“We have taken care of little details like the tassel laces we made by hand, dyeing the sequins or teaching our workmen the craft of making Batik here. We have developed embroideries using the same motifs (in the past there was Garuda, lotus, dragon and Tree of Life) that are emblazoned on the original fabric,” she adds.

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The palette is dominated by blacks and keeping autumn in mind, there are rushes of navy blue, gold, olives and chocolate browns with a splash of reds. “I’ve deliberately kept the silhouettes straight-forward to add a balance in the line. To do my bit for the environment we have made Batik fabric bangles from the waste katrans,” she concludes.

The Man who knew infinity

Edgy, funky, colourful and multifunctional—Manoviraj Khosla, dresses a man of many seasons

By Asmita Aggarwal

His father who worked in Tata Tea, was a simple man, but Manoviraj Khosla, growing up was greatly influenced by his mother, a woman of fine taste. From Hermes, Balmain to Kenzo, she wore everything and the young boy was fascinated, even though fashion was never in the conversation at home. “When I first went to study at the American College, England, my father didn’t really approve of the idea, he was conservative, but my mom fully backed me up,” he confesses.

Among the frontrunners 30 years ago when Manoviraj began his foray were Suneet Varma and Rohit Khosla, who was a family friend. The two above did womenswear, Manoviraj was always interested in menswear, even though men at that time mostly wore grey, black and brown. “I recall when I started, women at a party would dress up, but templates for the husbands remained boring. Now that has reversed women are simpler and men are becoming dandies,” he smiles.

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Manoviraj offered colours, which was missing, along with edgy embroideries and surface embellishments, funky prints —– nothing was subtle. He didn’t believe in doing sherwanis with embroideries rather his interest was a leather jacket with bold threadwork, an ingenious mix of Indian and Western. “A man’s relationship with colour has been tumultuous, from absolute non-acceptance to gradual love, pastels have faded into oblivion, rather it is all about courageous hues now,” he observes.

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LMIFW saw Manoviraj’s affection for everything larger-than-life—rivets, adventurous prints and a mix of street wear in the formal language. “We have also attempted footwear in velvet, leather and added sneakers this time for the show. Though my biggest influence which has remained my first love is street wear,” he says.

Track suits, multifunctional jackets, and casualness in clothing is what Manoviraj explains what he did, in 1990, which is a rage now. “Look at Gully Boy and hip hop as well as graffiti and irreverence, that’s what in now. Menswear has been an ignored genre and was restricted to three shades, now they want to be part of the fashion circle. And age is not a defining factor, 60 is the new 50, people are pushing the envelope and experimenting now,” he explains.

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Tucked away in Bangalore, he laughs and admits that sometimes North Indians forget there is a “country” called South India and even though they aren’t as vociferous as their brethren. “I would like to expand my label, my brother is an architect, so designing spaces seems like a natural progression,” he concludes.

Fresh from the Runway

From a mysterious smoky eye and graceful braids at Vaishali’s showcase, to Rahul Mishra’s eclectic burst of colour and glittering tear ducts, each look at LMIFWAW19 was paired with stand out hair and make up looks, that added to the magic of the show.

LivaEco Show –

Four leading designers came together to take huge step towards a sustainable future, and this called for a stand out look that would compliment four completely different design languages. So, it was apt that the classic, and unquestionable red lipstick emerged on the runway, to celebrate the beginning of LMIFWAW19. A clean and sleek ponytail intertwined neatly with soft muted lips, a sculpted face and darkened eyebrows.

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PC : Diya Mathur

Amita Gupta –

Amita Gupta’s collection was a celebration of contrasts as she designed for the woman with a gentle heart and a tough exterior. Models stormed the runway in braided buns that were parted from the center, with the finishing touch of metallic silver bands that perfectly complemented the collections sheen factor. Make up included black kohl, smudged on the eyelid with a touch of bronzer and brown lips.

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PC : Diya Mathur

Pallavi Singh –

Arcvsh by Pallavi Singh was homage to the resilience of natural beauty despite the traumatic influences of mankind. Perfectly in sync with this celebration of purity was the hair and make up  — an untouched look, with enhanced brows and braided hair. The element of industrial influences was reflected in the bold black kohl applied precisely on the top lid, with a touch of white kajal on the lower lid.

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PC : Diya Mathur

Diksha Khanna –

Adding to the mystical element of Khanna’s tribute to the souks and deserts of Oman, was the sultry make up that complemented the exquisite collection. Darkened eyelids were paired with perfect contouring and highlighting that sculpted the face and created a chiseled look. A gold sheen from the bronzer added an element of depth, while adding to the magic of Khanna’s showcase. An elegant and sleek low bun added a sense of subtle glamour.

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PC : Diya Mathur

Pratima Pandey –

The collections delicate silhouettes and floral embroideries were complemented with two plaits, which started with a French braid at the crown of the head, parted precisely from the center. The ‘less is more’ philosophy seen in every garment of the collection transcended to the make up, that constituted of nothing but dewy skin, soft muted lips and lengthy eyelashes.

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PC : Diya Mathur

Vaishali S.

Vaishali’s simplistic yet powerful design ideology was complemented with delicately teased braids, which were reminiscent of simpler times. An extension of this celebration of the past was the make up that featured softly smeared kajal on the bottom lid – a classic and timeless look, which has survived the test of time and been passed on over generations.

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PC : Diya Mathur

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Complementing the blend of quirk and structure of this collection were pony tails – some sleek and parted on the side while others were held high on the centre of the head, exposing natural curls and waves. Some flaunted their natural hair, with a touch of product that gave their mane a wet look. In sync with this effortlessly chic look was the make-up – luminous skin, flush of colour on the high points of the cheeks, finished with a nude lipcolour.

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PC : Diya Mathur

Rahul Mishra

Adding to the electricity of Rahul Mishra’s show was the make up — a celebration of colour, texture and lines. A multilayered eyeliner look was a contemporary take on the classic cat eye — electric blue offset on a bright pink base. Pink seemed to be the need of the hour, as the nails and lips were dabbed on with a berry shade, meanwhile a subtle blush and heavy bronzer added depth to the look. The stand out element however, was a silver shine applied on the ducts, that extended into white kohl in the lower lash line. This rather complex, but effective look was paired with a sleek ponytail, with slivers of hair going against the face in sharp thin lines.

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PC : Diya Mathur

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On a beam of light

Candid, irreverent, funny and unadulterated fun, brilliance is not defined by concepts, but by absorbing what we see around us, everyday from memories to upheavals, and translating it into intelligent design, just what Suket Dhir does!

By Asmita Aggarwal

Once going home in 2008, for a ‘Jatera’ at his village, a newly married Suket Dhir was driving his wife Svetlana. She noticed on the highway, in the interiors of Punjab, big Jats, riding bullets with their long beards splitting in two, due to speed and the naughty winds. Impressed by their sass, abandon and strength, Svetlana, who Dhir says “is quite desi, despite a Russian mom”, told him he should try a beard. “It took three years to grow; mine doesn’t split in half while riding a Bullet,” he laughs, “but she loves it, that’s what matters.”

He never loses his sense of humour during our one hour long chat, self-effacing, self-deprecatory and above all—mirroring Indian middle-class virtues. “When I was young, I used to love eating and had to open my pant buttons, if one extra parantha on a cold winter day was gobbled up. So I thought while designing why not give that option in pants,” he laughs. So the parantha belt is a hidden, cleverly engineered one, which allows you to eat with abandon. His grandmother would tell him not to waste food, take three helpings but don’t leave anything in the plate, which taught him the virtues of frugality.

The beauty about talking to Suket Dhir is his absolute disregard of any kind of tradition—he speaks in Hindi (in a largely anglicised style world where people also have fake accents and platinum blonde hair), peppered with smatterings of Punjabi; laughs gregariously and will tell you that he is “lazy as hell”, a reason why he hasn’t participated in fashion week. This is what also becomes the most endearing part about Dhir, born in Banga, Punjab, a resilient man, who was featured on the cover of The Economist.

He admits that everything he does is soaked in childhood memories, spending time on farmlands, seeing his grandfather a cloth merchant taking his summer white kurtas into winters with bright bundis. And there is no doubt that unlike most in fashion, he is a happy, free-spirited soul, who has created a small space for himself in Lado Sarai, his sanctuary. This is much like the mind space he formed when he was sent to boarding school at 9, Colonel Brown Cambridge, Dehradun.

Armed forces discipline, set routine and inhabited with three kinds of kids—studious, sporty and the bulky ones who used to beat everyone up. “I was neither, in fact a scrawny fellow who was hated as I came from Delhi, after my family moved there from Punjab,” he adds with a smile. Handling a tough all-boys school equipped Dhir to not succumb to the pressures of being a resident of the sequinned world. “I meditate and sometimes just zone out and focus on nothing, that’s the way I preserve my sanity,” he admits.

It is this personality trait that has made Suket an astute observer, and his attention to details can be attributed to this—quirky elements, each button stitched with newer colours, linings are vivacious and above all he has ventured into women’s wear with similar aesthetics. Svetlana, his half-Telugu-half-Russian wife used to “steal” clothes from his wardrobe, specially jackets, which used to hang from her shoulders. “When we launched our line for women I just made these more structured, keeping the length intact,” he explains. His offerings range from bundis, bomber jackets, loose palazzos and slouchy trousers.

‘He For She’, the apt title for his line, embodies all the elements of an effortless existence, without abandoning his comfort zone, fitting a certain body type and size. Dhir’s acumen is his ability to treat things with irreverence and still not lose respect, so the brocades have lost their shine as they have been washed out, and ikats are his canvas and will always be.

“Textiles are our heritage, ‘dharohar’, we must be able to keep their vivacity alive,” he informs. The combination that he offers as a result is a tee, jeans and a brocade bomber, which in his words is a certified “mood elevator”.

Dhir is one of the few designers, who is a straight arrow and says it like it is, minus any politically correct statements, so you can expect things like — “I made a promise to myself I will only make things that I like to wear”, and another priceless one is “I never focused on weddings, but I did observe what my grandfather wore”.

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Interestingly, Dhir is a riveting storyteller, and his salt and pepper beard as well as bowler hat, both have history. Meeting a friend in New York for the Governor’s Ball, at Central Park, some years ago, he requested for a boater’s hat, the straw ones with a leather band. This was misheard as bowler, and he got stuck with it for the night. The next morning he loved it so much that he never wanted to take it off; today he boasts of a large collection of bowler hats from all over the world.

Life has been quite a ride for Dhir, who began working with Wrangler, college placements, and then the realisation dawned on him that he was meant to do design. Winning the International Woolmark prize was not a contrived move, for him it was a shock, something that took a lot of time to come to terms with. Dreams came with a limit before this, now the journey is limitless, that’s why he has agreed to show at LMIFW. “I am a purist of the product not the technique, as for me what matters is what I make lasts for many years. This is what sustainability means to me,” he admits.

He cites his own example where he has for the last, 11 years been wearing a goose down jacket that keeps him warm. “I still have my dad’s denims that he wore 25 years ago. The tears in pants which are popular now are not crafted, they have emerged with age,” he grins.

Fashion is surrounded by many controversies, plagiarism being on top of everyone’s mind, but for Suket, each piece that he makes has a soul. “You can copy the garment, but no one can replicate your energy,” he says. For LMIFW’19 he has used delicate mul-mul and Jamdani for menswear and brocade and silks dominate women’s wear.

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If you quiz him about the future and what he envisions, Dhir refuses to answer and admits till today he has never planned, “it is too late to start now”. Not a subscriber to magazines, Vogue, or forecasting websites, he spends “eleven minutes in a day on Instagram” and “new ideas make me happy”, he confesses. “My fear is not about making clothes, I love them; they are my companions. But the 100 things you have to do to sell them is what I detest,” he signs off.

 

The Ground Beneath Her Feet

“When you know what you’re against you have taken the first step to discovering what you’re for,” Salman Rushdie had wisely commented. Similar was the case of Vaishali Shadangule, who left home in act of rebellion against societal pressures that dictated she live an ordinary life. Today, she is anything but ordinary – as she creates pieces of wearable art and uplifts communities through her creations

Vaishali Shadangule, who is globally celebrated for her design, was only able to showcase this talent after blood, sweat and tears paved a path for her. This path in retrospect seems promising, but at the time was a risky step towards a far-fetched dream. For this small town girl from Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh, fashion was a luxury if not a fantasy, as at the time, she resisted societal forces that were pushing her towards marriage and away from pursuing higher education –one she fulfilled many years later, at Pearl Academy.

In 1997, Shadangule, an Indian girl with a middle-class background, dared to dream. Chasing independence from the burdens of societal pressures, 18-year-old Vaishali ran away from home to Bhopal without any plan. “A lot of odd jobs exposed me to a latent instinct that lay within me that I wasn’t aware of — I would always tell people what to wear, what looked good and took great pleasure in doing so,” she says.

After a suggestion from an acquaintance to explore fashion, Vaishali opened up to the possibility of design, which in itself presented a diversification of challenges. “Barely being able to make ends meet with what I could earn, I was able to attend only three days of fashion studies in a college where I learned the bare minimum of how to make a fashion figure,” she says. So, the self-taught designer applied for jobs, the first of which was teaching fashion illustration. Her talent for illustrating however,did not make up for the skill of teaching that she lacked, so after six months of teaching in Baroda, Vaishali bought a ticket to Mumbai and took a leap of faith.

After a research seminar in Mumbai, Shadangule’s dream began to materialize, as she attracted attention and inquiries for her work. As though treading on thin ice, she carefully worked her way up through jobs and hard work, to ultimately acquire a 150 square feet space in Malad, which marked the launch of her brand, Vaishali S.

For many, the launch of a brand would be the well-deserved endof a turbulent journey of trouble and toil, but for Vaishali, comfort was boring. “As a young woman, I had this dream of understanding the craft and studying it, and so I went to Pearl Academy and did exactly that,” she says. So, Vaishali, wife, businesswoman based in Mumbai, and mother of one, set out to Delhi to fulfill the dream her 18-year-old self envisioned for her. What came next was Masters in Milan in 2013 and her first show at New York fashion week in 2016 (after which she has presented four more collections), where she proudly showcased the beauty of Indian textile.

Exposure to the glitz of New York and Milan, or the glamour of Mumbai’s rich and famous played no role in Shadangule’s design ideology – for who inspiration emerged from the pallu of her mother’s Chanderi sari. “My collection in 2011 explored contemporary silhouettes made from Chanderi fabrics. I wanted to shed light upon the fact that Chanderi could be worn in a different context than just the sari,” she adds. And so, the designer played a major role in freeing Chanderi,Paithani, and handloom techniques from West Bengal and Karnataka, to name a few, from the confines of traditional silhouettes and shapes.
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With this idea, the designer explores the weave practiced in villages of Maharashtra and Karnataka, the Khun weave, and gears up to showcase it at LMIFW AW’19. Through her collection, she attempts at maximising the use of this technique on saris as well as modern silhouettes, to increase the demand of this craft, which currently is used solely for blouses – a very miniscule market.

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“It is unnerving to see craftspeople, who possess treasures in the form of looms and crafts, lock up their shops and leave because they are being exploited or worse, treated like the carriers of a dying craft. A village that was known for Khun weaves, where I have researched and developed my collection, had over two hundred looms less than a decade ago. Today, it has not more than 75,” says the designer, with great concern.

It is refreshing to see a designer connect emotionally to the communities that carry crafts forward. Her design intervention modernises their creations so as to create a demand, which she hopes will sustain these communities who are slowly ditching their crafts in order to make ends meet. So, while designing, she keeps the essence of the craft alive to create wearable pieces of art from handspun weaves. “The colour palette of the entire collection for LMIFW AW’19 is colourful, because that is what Khun is in its purest form,” she adds.

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Vaishali continues to explore the depths of what was once a dream, without negating the reality of the craftspeople that make it possible. “We have the responsibility to create demand, showcase their work and most importantly – to give back,” she says. The designer refuses to believe the right amount of attention is being paid to these communities who constitute a crucial part of India’s cultural fabric.

“If a person gets due credit and respect for their expertise, they wouldn’t ditch that expertise to do odd jobs. They would take pride and pass it on to younger generations. We must do what needs to be done to revive,” she urges the readers. Her latest collection is an attempt to do just that, as she showcases the versatile craft and brings weavers to Delhi for an interactive session to bridge the gap and create conversation.

With her head in the clouds and her feet on the ground, Vaishali hopes to create for the future, while simultaneously reviving wonders of the past that may have been forgotten. Her middle-class values of sensitivity, selflessness and fighting the good fight – give her an edge in an overly competitive industry.

Compiled by Diya Mathur

 

Arabian Nights

Diksha Khanna uses sharp contrasts and bold choices to bring to life ‘Hadith- A Desert Storm,’ her Autumn Winter 2019 collection, inspired by the bustling bazaars and quiet deserts of the East

Amongst the greatest of Diksha Khanna’s creations, the coveted denim sari holds a special standing. The bright blue sari holds a strong element of tradition, despite the designer’s copious use of heavily distressed denim to create it. The result is playful, yet clever. Rooted to culture, with a factor of innovation that reaches for the stars.

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This element of dichotomy lies at the heart of Diksha’s personality, brand and creations. “My brand looks at unifying elements that are on opposite ends of the spectrum,” she says. Her celebration of contrasts, and efforts to unify them through her artistic creations are reflective of the designer’s evolved aesthetic sensibilities. “The Indian market has moved beyond its tendencies to invest only in glamour and glitz. The pret space is witnessing a rapidly growing market – which is proof of evolving lifestyles and a newfound appreciation of experimental design,” she says.

Diksha, who launched her label of the same name, has had a long-standing love for textiles. Her fascination for fabrics made its debut in the stockroom of her grandfathers textile business in Almora, where Diksha and her brother used to play excitedly with the fabrics – thrilled to see each take a different shape and fall. From touching and feeling every fabric imaginable at a tender age, this love translated into bachelors in fashion design from National Institute of Fashion Technology and a Masters degreefrom School of Design and Textile at University of Leeds, United Kingdom.

What followed was a job with British designer Unmi, which gave Diksha an in depth understanding of not just design, but also discipline.  “The ways of the west taught me to be more independent. From garment construction, to the subtle nuances behind expert pattern cutting, I learnt a lot. This is also where I learnt the importance of research and development, which is crucial in conceptualising and executing a collection successfully,” she says.

A thorough attention to detail and strong research and development shone through her collection titled ‘Urban Utopia’. This line was an exquisite narrative that blended the reality of rapid urbanization with the need of natural nuances. This reflected in the brand signature ‘love buttons’, which are articulate needlepoint hand embroidered patterns of flora and fauna. These are set on structured and rigid silhouettes, in sync with the designer’s exploration of opposites.

A crucial extension of the same design philosophy was the manipulation of textiles. “The idea of taking a fabric (denim) that is typically used for its rigid form, and creating a languid and rhythmic garment with it was exciting as well. It required a lot of quality checks, and presented many challenges but the result was gratifying,” she says.

The beauty however, lies in Diksha’s modesty when she admits that every collection that is glamorized on the runway is only an evolution of a very simple thought. “The inspiration behind every collection comes from a personal place. Whether it is an excerpt from a book, or a random detail from the street of a city I recently travelled to,” she says.

It therefore comes as no surprise, that after her recent trip to Oman, Diksha’s upcoming collection romanticizes the souks and spices sprawled across the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula.

Inspired by Oman, this collection titled ‘Hadith – A Desert Storm’, is an amalgamation of ancient art form and modern aesthetics. Diksha’s Autumn Winter 2019 womens wear line brings to the runwaythe magic of the East in the form of explorative surface textures, embroideries and decorative elements. Ranging from athleisure to eveningwear, the collection witnesses the reinterpretation of traditional costume to fit the modern lifestyle.

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Evoking a sense of duality is the Zari Khadi Denim fabric. With virginal cotton lying in the warp and metallic zari in the weft, the weavers bring to being a fabric that breathes life into the collection. “The fabric is an experimentation of zari inserts in a handloom khadi denim. The real heroes are the weavers who put in hundreds of hours to create what is essentially, a piece of art,” she says. A fabric like this is further juxtaposed with an unusual choice of denim patchwork, joined at its seams using the technique of crochet. Motifs are picked up directly from the aromatic spice markets of Oman, and intricately cross-stitched onto the garment.

Layered one on top of the other, are separates from this collection that come together to mimic the experience of the bustling bazaars. From motifs of garlic, star anise and dried spices, to a colour palette that encapsulates the mystical dessert, the collection, ‘Hadith- A Desert Storm’ embodies the multisensory experience of the East.

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This line, like all of Diksha’s works, finds a balance in opposites. Deep violet denim, with metallic golden coins that dangle off of it, cotton and metallic fibres woven together, denims and knits, athleisure and evening wear are a few of the contrasting elements in this collection. By blending together these contradictory elements, the designer looks at creating a collection that is meant for a strong and confident wearer, who embraces individuality. In this way, Diksha creates what is a representation of not only the independent spirit of the Arab woman, but of women around the world.

 

Harvesting Hues

Preparing to dye her fabrics in natural colours minus any chemicals, Shalini James displays her botanical prowess, while Sahil Kochhar pays homage to appliqué, sewing many moods of grandeur

By Asmita Aggarwal

The beauty about speaking to Shalini James, a Chennai-based style aficionado is her commitment to the craft and the willingness to be silent solider in the burgeoning fashion army.

Developing prints and working with Jaipur block printers has been her design aesthetic for the longest time. This year, for LMIFW’2019, she adapted a traditional technique on a modern fabric, which was earlier restricted to only cotton and silks. Made from wood pulp, Liva, it seemed synonymous with the forest theme that she has worked with, complete with foliage prints.

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“While designing I always look at the end consumer, I believe Indian-style tunics and saris can also be crafted out of the Liva fabric which we have attempted, in keeping with its suppleness,” she admits. James has been working with Bagru for the last 15 years and her ideology is centred on vegetable dyes.

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James came for the first time to India Fashion Week in 2015, and then again in 2016, the floods in Cochin kept her away last year. “Geographically I may be distanced from fashion, but not thematically,” she explains.

Liva show also saw Sahil Kochhar display his prowess in turning the Liva fabric into something magical. The collection is Western in terms of silhouette, and is for the free-spirited, experimental and modern woman. It has a large element of mix and match, in terms of fabric, colour palette, styling and the motifs that are consistent throughout the line. “Mix and match ties in my collection together. Whether it is pairing ash pink with a navy blue, a T-shirt with pleated trousers, waste fabric appliqued over LivaEco fabric, mix and match is present not only in the output, but also throughout my design process,” he says.

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The line will include tops, shirts, t-shirts, jackets, trousers and skirts. This is a collection of plenty and the jackets include a variety of options to choose from — full jackets, shorter ones and even a trench. “The garments are made to be comfortable, without compromising on the formal aspect of it. Think a shirt collar exposed from underneath a T-shirt, paired with a trench and pants.

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Sahil is also planning to do bags and hopes to be able to execute that with very little time on his hands. It will complement the collections functional, ready-to-wear approach. “We had a lot of leftover fabrics from our previous collection. These were are cut off the garment while being made, and are about half-a-metre, which is too small to make even a single piece. I’ve used these pieces on top of Liva Eco fabric to do applique, maximising its usage to over four garments,” he explains.

Typically, when left over pieces of fabric from previous collections are reused, they are patched together to create something. Sahil wanted to take a different approach, and thought, why not apply the technique (applique) that has become his brand’s identity.

“The beauty is in the details. We have stuck to what we do best, which is our signature piping. Elements that undeniably add to every look are the applique, edgings on the hemline and printed linings,” he adds.

Telling the story through softer and solid colours, the moodboard in totality is subdued. Navy blue with a pale ash pink, a yellow that is a tone lighter than mustard and ivory, the idea is to keep it earthy, soft and unobtrusive.

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“To be sustainable goes beyond just what you’re wearing, it has to be imbibed in every aspect of your lifestyle. And no step towards that is a small one. There are a lot of things that we can do without, and we should work towards making that change. As a designer, sustainability means to make any change I can within my environment. From reducing the amount of plastic that comes into the office, to staying away from using polyester in my designs I do what I can to contribute in my own way,” he concludes.

 

Walk Like An Egyptian

Light yet strong, the Liva fabric gets heady renditions on Day one of the LMIFW’19, with Samant Chauhan going the Pharaoh way, and Rina Dhaka invoking the spirit of Rajasthan

By Asmita Aggarwal

Sustainability is the keyword in fashion today as designers strive to work towards a greener planet and that’s where the opening show holds mammoth significance. For Samant Chauhan, the fabric given by Liva helped him explore how to maximise its texture and fall. More than the embellishments or prints, the focus became to use Liva, in its purest form and elevate it to the highest potential.

“This collection is a stark shift from what we do usually – because for the first time, we have thought about a line that looks at being worn in a more casual context. Experimenting with knits is also a first for us,” he says. The shapes of the garments are Western with a mélange of pantsuit, trousers, dresses, skirts and shirts hoping to woo the young, modern woman, who wants to make a statement, without saying too much.

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The dresses are cinched at the waist with a belt, others are straight, some have knit detailing and the prints are inspired by Egyptian symbols. “We have created an interesting print, which from a distance, looks like a regular floral, but if you pay close attention you’ll notice that each floral form is a manipulation of motifs used in the Egyptian culture,” explains Samant.

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Fascinated by the forms and symbols used by the Egyptians, specially the army – each division of which had their own representing symbols, Samant took these and manipulated them to look like abstract forms, which mimic the appearance of a floral pattern. “I have taken the tone-on-tone approach, wherein I am using off-white as the base for all my garments. This is the natural colour of the LivaEco fabric, which I believe is most beautiful in its purest form. My design philosophy dictates that fiber is best when left untouched,” he explains.

In addition to the off-white base, Samant has used earthy toned prints that range from green to a dusty pink – all of which are contrasted with bright red, blue stripes and borders. “I have not used a single panel of polyester till now. Apart from that, we have not used a fabric that is imported either. We create from fabric that is either handspun or hand woven, which ensures the livelihood of communities. Sustainable clothing is not only for the people who wear it, but more for the people who benefit from it,” he admits.

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The four designers who are part of the LIVA show have their unique presentations. Rina Dhaka, known for her admiration for the stretch fabric, earlier made by Dupont has now shifted her lens to the desert, with Rajasthan becoming a recurring language of expression. Playing with geometric Rajasthani borders, the designer re-twisted them to give them a fresh form after colouring it and adding a graphic pattern.

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The result was a leaf, heart and flower motif with an innate sweetness that was then converted into skirts, trousers and the pant-suit. “The beauty of the Liva fabric is its softness which resembles mul-mul, minus its fragility, so it offers strength too and that’s an important aspect for a designer,” says Rina.

The inventor of the transparent churidar, Rina admits, she can’t get Rajasthan out of her head and is still contemplating whether she should add her glorious collection of Jamevars in this line. “When we think of autumn-winter, Kashmir becomes an important conversation, and I was debating how I can integrate it in my Liva line,” says Rina.

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Gully Boy

Inspired by hip-hop and its honesty of lyrics, from the heartland of Punjab Paras Chawla brings Naka, a label that combines two opposing ideologies — suiting materials for street wear

By Asmita Aggarwal

Small towns are producing some rare talent whether it is Tiso Ghari’s Badal Kumar from Buxar, or his predecessor Rahul Mishra from Malhousi, Kanpur and now Naka clothing’s Paras Chawla from Rajpura, Punjab. And the interesting part is that they all share a fire in the belly despite having no initial training or exposure to the workings of the fashion space.

“I had to drive 40 km from my hometown to Chandigarh to have a cup of coffee as Rajpura has no cafes or pizza corners where you can hang out with friends,” he remembers. Nor did Paras, come from a family that had anything to do with the style world, as his big joint family are timber traders.

After finishing school, Paras moved to Delhi and began searching for courses to equip himself; he narrowed down at Pearl Academy, Noida where he studied design. His first attempt was to launch a line Street 401, inspired by the pin code of his home, also a hip-hop reference, but then changed it to Naka, or in desi language a “road or street”.

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The 23-year-old says, “I only wanted to do menswear, I didn’t want to make suits as those are already available in all shapes and forms. My interest is street wear and that too the adventurous variety,” he adds. He combines fabrics and the odd ones catch his eye; he has taken suiting material and created street wear. His first line titled “Spineless” was about self-nurturing and spirituality; how finding yourself is an endless process, as you discover new things about your personality every day. “The infinite possibilities fascinated me and I created half-and-half jackets and baggy silhouettes, what you would probably see men in Tokyo or Europe wear,” he adds.

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For LMIFW A-W 2019, Paras has gone back in time to pay homage to the 30s era when men wore long line coats, large lapels and bell bottoms. His take on it turns the concept on its head with patchwork, loose cuts in cargo fabrics (high GSM) with unpredictable pocket placements and detailing on cuffs and pant bottoms.

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With the success of Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy, the hip-hop culture in the country is emerging as a strong movement and is a definitive ode to being free-spirited. There are a legion of devotees of Divine (Vivian Fernandes) and Naezy, skateboarders, graffiti artists and dancers who Paras hopes to dress in his anthropologist-inspired jackets in khaki. Dull orange, olive green and navy blue are the primary hues adapted to give it an underground vibe. “It was my brother, studying in New York, who introduced me to hip-hop music, it soon became my leitmotif and I associated with it. As a child I never wanted to go to school and study, I would bunk and go and watch a film or just hang out with friends, till fashion happened,” he confesses.

In a world that is seeing the maximum upheaval in menswear thanks to Alessandro Michele (Gucci) where he is putting men in frocks, turbans, lace, transparency and crochet, as well as pink and red, Paras believes the future is strong for this genre. “Surface texturing will take over embellishments and even the ones who are initially hesitant, now are willing to cross the proverbial Rubicon. That’s heartening,” he concludes.

 

Paths to the absolute

Abstract musings meet innovative falls and constructed cuts in Disha’s label, Done and Dusted

By Asmita Aggarwal

Being a businessman’s daughter Disha Sharma grew up in a joint family where she always had a mixed reaction to every move anyone took. She got used to sharing joys, sorrows, astonishment, adulation and criticism from an early age with a litany of aunts and uncles and an army of cousins. That’s why Done & Dusted her label is a conundrum of reflections, just as the name suggests, according to her interpretation when she does something she executes it with enormous perfection.

When that’s over she moves on to take up another challenge and this time for LMIFW Autumn-winter 2019, she has been greatly influenced by abstract expressionism, a post-war II development that had proponents like Jackson Pollock. “The trick is to play with cut and fall in a gentle manner, as if it is spontaneous,” she explains. Checks and stripes meet at arbitrary places to create a grid of an ensemble, which for Disha is away from the expected norms.

Understanding and observing that young people today want to dress ingeniously everyday and wants clothes with a unique edge, it is now becoming more about personality enhancers than just what you get on high-street. “Social media has the biggest impact, look at how many followers Kareena Kapoor has. Most young girls aspire to dress just like their icons,” she admits.

Titled “Escapade”, Disha is still not sure if she will go ahead with this as the name of her line, it mirrors her journey of self-reflection, which ended with her going into her little world and choosing peace over perfection. “There was a time, a few months ago when I was forced to look within as the answers are frankly all there,” she says.

Faux leather remains Disha’s preferred choice and her silhouettes are a melange of forms, structure, lines and shapes. “Leather is used to heighten the appeal of a garment, it is placed strategically in elbows, collars or the yolk, even though finishing then becomes a challenge on the dresses, jackets and trousers. The colour story is dominated by khaki, olive, muddy browns, beige, tans and of course black, which is omnipresent,” she says.

Coming from a family of Italian marble traders, Disha knows she gets emotional, physical and financial support but R & D is going to be a solo trip. “Delhi everyone likes to dress well, and in fact they are willing to get the most exclusive ensemble to achieve this feat. As a designer for me this is a challenging space to work in as my customer is ready to adapt. I am very grateful to FDCI to give me this opportunity where I get to show my story,” she concludes.

 

Fashion Design Council of India