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.

 

Triptych Theme

A farmer’s son, Badal Kumar undertakes a heroic trek from Buxar to the arch lights of the wilderness called Delhi and creates a line that must be lauded one stitch at a time.

By Asmita Aggarwal

He would walk seven kilometres everyday to reach his open air school where he sat on the cold ground and studied; there were no buses or cycles available, not even a pucca road to navigate.

Growing up in the dustbowl Buxar (Bihar), from a small village Katariya, Badal Kumar of the new label Tiso Ghari was known to carry his tool kit wherever he wandered. That’s why his mom used to often say in Bhojpuri, “Tiso Ghari (tiso means tis (30) and gharimeans phases of day or time) all the time you do only one thing,” he remembers.  These words stuck in his impressionable mind, and when Badal launched his label in 2015, with his student Bhoomi Modi, he used his mom’s admonishment as blessings for an auspicious start.

“I come from a place where there is no electricity, I studied in the light from a diya and it was my mom, who pushed me to leave the confines of a small town and try my luck at designing,” says Badal. After NIIFT (Northern Indian Institute of Fashion), Mohali he went to work with Anuj Sharma of Button Masala, then he interned with Rahul Mishra and Himanshu Shani of Celldesign (he did a project called “100% handmade” with the brand 11.11 clothing, in collaboration with Apang Manav Mandal). “Designing is similar to cooking as perfection, balance and accuracy is needed in ingredients of cooking and designing,” he admits.
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With no exposure to magazines, catwalks, TV shows, social media or any kind of impetus that would make him a designer, Badal recalls how his mother used to stitch the family clothes and he was never privileged enough to get market bought toys to play with, so he decided to make his own. “I learnt creativity from an early age whether it was toys or getting things done in a village, with few means at my disposal,” he adds.

However, God’s gift to him was painting, he often embroidered and painted and seeing the intricacy of work, his brother-in-law advised him to try his talent in designing. His sharp intellect made him a winner at mathematical precision pattern-making.

The technique that Tiso Ghari uses is “drawn thread” which is the removal of either warps or weft or both the yarns from the fabric and tying them in different styles. An extra thread is used to tie the remaining yarns in the fabric. “Various twist and turns of thread is experimented on the yarns. The yarns are also properly locked with tight tension, to maintain durability and to keep the designs in place. Variation with the space and length (i.e. either on grain or off grain) is practiced according to the design of garment,” he explains, adding the process is so complicated the silhouettes are deliberately kept minimal yet they are asymmetric with strong patterns.

“I was conducting a pattern making workshop at an institute where I met Bhoomi. At that time she was working on the drawn thread technique for her annual fashion show. She showed it to me, I was awestruck by the beauty and intricacy of this technique. We soon decided to work together. Frankly, I haven’t seen anything like this in fashion, so far even though the hemstitch exists, we do it differently,” he confesses.

Badal and Bhoomi also refrain from embellishments, embroidery or printing as they let the stitches do all the talking. “My next foray will be to do something that is home to Bihar where I grew up, Madhubani paintings and Bhagalpur silk. But I have realised that for any idea to fly it needs funding and financially I need to build muscle. I am a farmer’s son, I have zero resources; my only asset is intelligence and the capacity to ideate. Mass production will have to be ruled out, and to survive I think, I will choose simplicity over glamour,” he concludes.

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Without Compromise

Juhi Melwani is certainly not Doh Tak Keh like her mom thought her clothes would be, rather they look at fashion with some sarcasm by combining androgyny with distaste for popularity

By Asmita Aggarwal

Her mother would often admonish her for the “weird” outfit choices, and say, “Your clothes look like doh tak keh (cheap and worn out)”. This became a metaphor for Jakarta-born Juhi Melwani, who launched her label by the same name in November, last year.

Born to an exporter father, who is based in China, Juhi moved to Mumbai at the age of 10, and her first attempt was to crack chartered accountancy. “I went to class and I saw 60 people aspiring to solve the same problem, I fled and never looked back,” she laughs.

Creativity was somewhat ingrained in her psyche, which took her to Parsons’ School of Design, New York after studying at Raffles. “I stayed back for a year and worked with Oscar de la Renta as well as local boutiques, so the experience was enriching as I saw both sides of the coin,” explains the 25-year-old.

Here is the irony of the moniker, Juhi works with cotton and khadi her two favourites (that offer an unfinished, raw appeal) and is an ardent believer in upcycling, recycling and no wastage, so even scarps from the studio are converted into outfits.

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Though Juhi had a wanderer’s heart and at one point also contemplated becoming a journalist when she came back to Mumbai; she along with three friends from Parsons started working on a blog (Know your darzi). This took Juhi all over the country from Jaipur, Mumbai, Delhi to Ahmedabad, where she interacted with weavers, block printers and artisans as well as embroiders chronicling the invisible voices in fashion, who never get to take a bow.

Interestingly, the reason for opting to come home was Juhi’s inability to work in a studio that was copying famous labels and mass producing, while using India as a sourcing ground. “Frankly, I was fed up and I didn’t think New York is the fashion capital anymore after that experience,” she confesses.

The urge to create and not write took over, and Juhi felt that within fashion there were so many worlds residing that a Sabayasachi Mukherjee (hi-end) to Zara (high-street) could co-exist as there were takers for both. “My aesthetic is unconventional, clothes you can wear to the jazz club, cool brunch party or even a wedding as androgyny is the mainstay,” she explains.

So menswear is translated into a woman’s wardrobe from a pin stripe suit that she borrowed from her father’s closet to jackets, the ideology is genderless. The overlayers, bold blazers and pajyma-style pants is a move away from skinny as she embraces relaxed ethos.

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Muted tones, inability to work with loud colours, excessive use of patchwork and patterning, she calls her signature fabric “mitti” or mud. This is a result of her weavers placing a fabric as a table mat and printing on it other fabrics for over a month. “The experiment saw a stray peacock or a floral bud emerging from unpredictable places due to the technique used called Daboo, from Rajasthan. Every fabric that is printed has a story and meaning behind it and narrating this untold tale is my fervent desire,” she confesses.

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There are some Margiela-esque references too, with deconstruction coming into play as the young designer converts a shirt into a skirt and counts Comme des Garcons as her avid inspiration. Juhi believes unless the industry as a whole tries new things how can we judge if they will work or not. Putting this experiment to test, she says, “I made a jacket out of courier packaging material and wondered who will have the fortitude to wear it? When I found hesitant takers, I decided to flaunt it at a major fashion event recently. I got a mixed response— appreciation, laughs, stares, and some thought I was plain crazy,” she giggles.

She admits she knew she could find people like her who would take the trek to the unknown. Fashion today, she reveals is only getting restricted to Instagram (social media) and Bollywood, what will look good on it; what will get more likes and she has opted out of this race. “I have arguments with my dad everyday as he works in China the biggest manufacturing facility of the world that sells cheap and lures us into mass consumption. That’s why I want to remain small like the Antwerp 6, not be a Saks Fifth Avenue or Selfridges. Maybe retail from artistic boutique stores in Paris or Amsterdam, that’s my ultimate dream,” she adds.

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Fittings Day 2 – A glimpse

All hands are on deck at Eros Hotel on day two of fittings, as LMIFW is just around the corner. Whether it is Samant Chauhan’s vision of the future in white, or Diksha Khanna’s homage to the Middle East, eclectic concepts emerge in full force. A glimpse into what to expect from leading designers at Lotus Makeup India Fashion Week autumn-winter 2019 showcase;

Woven Comic (Nitin Bal Chauhan)

Nitin Bal Chauhan’s collection romances with opposites. Plenty contradictions are showcased through Chauhan’s use of a black and white colour language and drooping liquid forms on structural pantsuits.

The designer uses intricate threadwork to create the illusion of hand drawings, some abstract, resembling galaxies, and others are elaborate caricatures, all of which come together on a monochrome canvas. This collection is Chauhan’s very own graphic novel, which utilizes threadwork, metallic detailing and pleats to tell a surreal tale.

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Desert Storm (Diksha Khanna)

Embodying the spirit of the mystical souks and deserts of Oman is Diksha Khanna’s collection, an amalgamation of unexpected fabric combinations and manipulations. Khanna uses crochet to patch together pieces of denim and has developed an iridescent khadi denim fabric that is used to create evening dresses, athleisure wear, and sometimes even as a dash of detail on a pair of pants.

White knit jackets with metallic coin details are paired with sheer white shirts and coral pantsuits are accessorized with a matching belt and quilted detail to create tone on tone ensembles.
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Marine Scene (Pallavi Singh)

Languid fabrics are washed with colours from the sea, and sprinkled on with details that take their inspiration from aquatic creatures.

From its colour scheme that ranges from the calming cerulean blue to an earthy sap green, to its wishy-washy textures and rhythmic motifs, Pallavi Singh brings to life a collection that constitutes of underwater elements. Surface textures resemble the gills of fish – created from a clever play of triangular forms and added as detail on the sleeves. A recurring element is the cinched  waist, either stitched or created with the use of a belt – to taper the silhouette.

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PC: Diya Mathur

Iridescent (Amita Gupta)

Amita Gupta puts on a shimmering showcase, in which her denim zari fabric is a recurring leitmotif. Gupta uses a fluid and free flowing fabric, to create structure in the form of intelligent silhouettes.

The intensity of pleating varies, where the bell sleeves see rigorous detail and the skirts witness more easygoing folds.

The presence of lines goes beyond just the silhouettes and into the fabric, which sees stripes – bold, thin and some with unequal variation. Layered lapels, duo toned skirts and pinstriped pantsuits are some other details skillfully executed by the designer.

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PC: Diya Mathur

A Vision in White

A concept using very little colour and a lot of detailing – Samant Chauhan’s collection is a vision in white. Blossoming on exaggerated silhouettes are floral patterns in shades of spring, balanced by the use of interspersed geometric patterns. Imaginative thinking has led Chauhan to create thinking silhouettes that are both – flowing and structured at the same time.

Square necklines  on draping shapes and sleek trench coats made from sheer fabrics are a few examples of skillful craftsmanship. While there are colourful options, the magic of this collection lies in the simple layered monotone ensembles – which when paid attention to, reveals a branch of white or black embroidery, reflective of Chauhan’s attention to detail.

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PC: Diya Mathur

The unDutchables

From the land of canals, Anne Frank, tulips, comes Hannah, who would like to see the world, with a catwalk saga

By Asmita Aggarwal

Away from the city life, Hannah came from quieter spaces, The Netherlands, and was thrown into the madness of Delhi. At 15, she was spotted and scouted by an agent in a small village in the north of Netherlands, but her parents insisted she complete school. Little did she know that she would one day be competing against the best faces for a spot at the Paris Fashion Week.

“I was in Paris for three months, and as we are all on a budget I learnt to find my way around a rather large and confusing city. Metro became my saviour and as I have been there ten times in two years, I know the place like the back of my hand,” she explains. Long days and sharing a room with several models taught Hannah, the survival guide to the big, bad world of modelling and then came the opportunity to visit India.

“When I came here three months ago, I knew nothing about this country, and the sheer size intimidated me. But work took me from Hyderabad, Bangalore, Jaipur and Kolkata and revealed a different and warmer side of people, food, culture and of course, modelling. Even though I am still getting used to the traffic, pollution and large crowds,” says the first time model at LMIFW’19.

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Raised by a single mom, after her father passed away, Hannah, has an older sister who is her soulmate. Though Hannah came to this country on the persuasion of a friend she made at the Kuwait Fashion week, Ikram, a Dutch-speaking girl, who became her mentor and guide.

Modelling she confesses is a tough business to survive in, from eating healthy to gyming it can be a task to look good everyday and to feel that pressure. “I have been kick boxing to keep fit, it is better than running or weights, as it is a whole body workout, and it gives me that adrenaline rush. It is a great vent after a hard day’s work, all your aggression gets a release,” she smiles.

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Another physical activity that Hannah enjoys is dancing where she says, emotions get a fabulous rhythm and it is a bit like free falling. “When your work schedule is erratic you need to do things that restore balance of mind and body, dancing does that for me,” she adds.

The future is chalked out in Hannah’s head and it will revolve around design, maybe even architecture. “I would like to go back to studying and get a degree in business management wherein I can be equipped to be a real estate manager,” she concludes.

 

 

Sanctum sanctorum

Serendipity got her to fashion, sustainable became her mantra, antiques her lexicon, Divya Sheth lets the past and future collide in her ensembles

By Asmita Aggarwal

With a family known to be loyal devotees constructing temples from Gujarat to Bihar, Divya Sheth never thought fashion would be her soul calling. Providence played a deciding part, when while studying food and nutrition at Lady Irwin College, Delhi she was made in-charge of the Fashion Society, a role she deftly managed for three years. A NIFT (Delhi) fashion photography graduate, Divya, who belongs to a traditional Marwari family (her grandparents came as refugees from Lahore) was always encouraged to be academically qualified. So Central Saint Martins’ followed where she studied styling and romanticised textiles. “I got married and moved to Kolkata and natural dyes which didn’t harm human skin or environment was the area I focussed my energy on researching while designing for myself and family,” she confides.

After participating in Sutra, an exhibition in Kolkata, she gained the confidence to launch her first line in 2014 and also an entry in the Vogue Fashion Fund, where she made it to the top 15.  This motivated Divya to work with Ajrak and Kalamkari and as art was her soulmate, she took inspiration from Mary Cassatt’s Lady at the Tea Table, a 19th century classic painting. “We worked with Kalamkari artists who were only making mythological paintings and asked them to create hand-painted botanical flowers using their craft. This we converted into a holiday line complete with trench coats. I felt design intervention is an important part of growth as well as preservation,” she explains.

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Innovation is the fulcrum of the label and her next move being an antique collector was to work with gotta, an art that had been twisted to make it faster and less meaningful in modern times.  She brought back the age-old laborious process and intermingled this with Rajasthani Katputli silhouettes as an homage to slow fashion.

With her husband’s business spanning three centres Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata (steel and stock market), she would take short breaks and visit museums to understand temple architecture, or do R & D for bell designs, find sculptors for the idols, or create garments for gods who will reside in ornate abodes. Her inspirations also come from divinity like the Nathdwara temple in Udaipur where Pichwais were crafted and she put in her combined know-how of art, textile and photography. “We are a sustainable label and our fabric of pride is khadi, sourced from Musheerabad. I can’t do trendy clothes, as most of the time, I use hand-painted fabrics where paintings are translated — it can’t be cut in crazy patterns. It has never been my aim to be fashionable, rather classic is my vision, ensembles that withstand the test of time,” she confirms.

For two-and-a-half years Divya has been collecting Chintz, a fabric that was also loved and nurtured by the British. So she traced the trail when it was made on the banks of rivers the main centre being Machilipatnam, Andhra Pradesh. Chintzcame from the Hindi word ‘chint’ or ‘chitta’ meaning spotted and the blocks were made 200 years ago by artisans. She worked with the National award-winning grandchildren of these skilled workmen who were used by the British to trade in this fabric in Europe (they altered the original ethos and added floral motifs). “I made a line that replicates the Imperial era with similar silhouettes worn by rajas, nawabs in hand-painted chintz titled ‘Textile Narrative’,”she explains.

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The future for Divya will be looking at sustainable spaces and even the bridal arena (where she could do garments dyed in turmeric). “I’m working on my studio which has 150-year-old antiques, and this will give me the foothold to then foray into wellness and decor. This is only an extension to the epicentre, as I look at clothes as food for the skin,” she signs off.

 

There is a nice ‘ring’ to it

Sushma Shah handcrafts jewellery from waste and manages to lure even the most unconventional buyer to try her experimental pieces!

By Asmita Aggarwal

Sometimes we aspire to do the exact opposite of what we see around us, maybe it is because we already know what it entails, the perils and the advantages. That’s why Sushma Shah who’s family and cousins own half of Zaveri bazaar, Mumbai chose to move away from traditional diamond and gold jewellery and started designing baubles, you could create out of even industrial waste.

She liked the ring of the word “Rejuvenate” and went ahead with it as her brand’s moniker, “it embodies the spirit of rekindling and reviving”. Sushma, who grew up in Mumbai believes what we think of as waste can be refashioned and given a new personality. She became a story teller and the characters in her book ranged from recycled wood, industrial pipes, old coins, scraps, in a label, she launched six years ago.

“Fashion jewellery has a huge scope of creativity, which conventional jewellery lacks, there is only so much you can play with there, I wanted a wider focus. And when my mom, who has grown up buying diamond sets worth Rs 20 lakhs (minimum), saw my collection and wanted to wear it, I knew I had succeeded,” she explains.

However, the process of acceptance has been slow as many viewers still question, who will wear such bold, big pieces? “Earlier women were conservative, now I have observed accessorising is the new way of dressing up and clients want experimental products (a coin worn as a nose pin and clocks in the ears,” she explains.

What remains Sushma’s biggest strength in her design process where every product is hand-crafted and there is a narrative that accompanies it. The “Rustic” line saw her give a new lease of life to burnt industrial pipes, which were washed and cleaned and now adorn necks of fashionable women. “It was my way of protesting against pollution that factories cause resulting in global warming. I pick topics that I see around and disturb me and my jewellery does all the talking covertly,” she admits.

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Rejuvenate offers pieces that begin from Rs 500 and go up to Rs 3,000 and Sushma’s favourite are the chunky ones that look larger-than-life. There is a lot more about Sushma that impresses you— from her poems, writing a blog and living in the US for almost five years and longing to come back to her country. “My husband did his MBA from Ohio, and I worked there during our time in the US, at the Empire State Building, but I felt it was a cold nation, it lacked the warmth of India, so we moved back,” she says.

Jewellery has moved out of lockers and Sushma believes working women don’t aspire to wear the same 10 carat solitaires to work every day, “it’s boring” rather they want pieces that rev up their everyday ensembles. Whether it is a sari, dress or pant-suit, Sushma makes versatile products from body chains to anklets, brooches, armlet and as they are versatile you can wear the same thing in two different ways.

“The practicality of the piece is most important to me. Jewellery is now an adornment, we will buy the real stuff as an investment, we are Indians, but we also want to have a little fun with interesting knick-knacks, that’s where I step in,” she smiles.

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A lover of what Amrapali creates, Sushma a self-taught designer, goes by her instinct while designing and also the malleability of the raw materials she uses. “I like to play with motifs and in my ‘Heritage’ line, the elephant became the fulcrum. The future I foresee for my brand is to go international and start exporting,” she concludes.

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Norwegian Wood

Priyanka Baid is shining the light on wood as an alternative to metal, as she handcrafts whimsical clutches armed with eclectic energy

By Asmita Aggarwal

Three daughters and a businessman father, who wanted an heir to run the family business in Kolkata made it hard for Priyanka Baid to choose, as destiny already had it all chalked out for her. But as they say, in life it is not the cards you are given, but how you play with them that matters and Baid did just that.

Wood and glamour can’t be said in the same line without some amount of eye rolling when you think about luxury, so Baid, a Pearl Academy, post-graduate in design made the twain meet, almost simplistically in her label Duet luxury (with a partner but now she is spearheading it alone). Launched in 2013, most women have understood, the most effective way to rev up an outfit, (as now the trend is minimalism), is accessorising. This has given birth to labels like Outhouse and Miso, with their avant-garde offerings. Understanding this need, Priyanka, who knew, metal had become a tool used by most style aficionados in their design processes, substituted it with wood and combined it with leather to create a product that was light and had the prowess, of being the ideal accessory on the red carpet. “Wood is a part of the family business narrative, and after I joined my father’s company that was into luxury packaging, I wanted to diversify and do something that satiated my creative being. I choose bags,” she admits.

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Baid who is a B.Com (Hons) student from Kolkata, interned with Abhishek Dutta and Nitin Bal Chauhan as practical experience taught her the nuances of shape manipulation. “I never wanted to do clothes; accessories and their unpredictability always lured me. I came up with the concept of box bags, made of wood, but without the weight of the material,” she admits.

The choice of wood ranges from mango, mahogany to cider and the strength of the wood matters the most, as Duet Luxury does structured bags. “Our buyers were worried if wood would give them space, to keep their cellphones and car keys, and we achieved that and lots more through trial and error and R & D (the outer shell of the bag is where the trick is). And today I can safely claim that my clutches are lighter than metallic ones,” she grins.

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Six years ago when Baid began, it was a theme that no one had thought about or even attempted to work with, but she quickly realised the key is design versatility. She  participated in Pitti Super (part of the famous Pitti Umo men’s show), and the response was appreciable. “I went in without a proper look book or strategy just an imposing product. Then Pure London, another trade show in the UK got us many loyal international buyers,” she admits.

Duet Luxury bags are priced between Rs 6,000 to Rs 15,000 and now new additions include hand embellishments, bead work and zari that is intermingled with leather for sturdiness. “We work with geometric and architectural shapes and I have been heavily inspired by periods like Art Deco, and art movements like Cubism or the industrial look,” she explains. “Young people today are bold and adventurous and they use fashion as a medium for self-expression and activism. As a designer there is no better time to be in the industry than now, when the wheels are turning and new territories are being explored,’ she concludes.

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Fashion Design Council of India