March 19, 2024 FDCI

Ready for a swim?

Saaksha Bhat and Kinnari Kamat launch a swimwear edition, complete with their signature micro pleating, and elevate it with quilting and ikat. But the Gujarati genes hold strong with their unadulterated love for mirror work!

By Asmita Aggarwal

Saaksha Bhat and her sister-in-law Kinnari Kamat, understand embroideries like no one else, after all they have been creating swatches for some of the best fashion houses from Elie Saab to Balmain to Gucci. And if you go by Bollywood popularity, Karisma Kapoor, Kalki Koechlin and Aditi Rao Hydari have loved their ode to craft. Kinnari Kamat, you could describe as craft lover, and Saaksha Parekh, a lawyer by profession, born and brought up in a family of actors and filmmakers knew the uphill task they would be submitted to in fashion, but that didn’t deter their trajectory, only emboldened it!

They dressed the Without Me hitmaker, Halsey in an infinity blouse and two-toned skirt, as well as Sharon Stone for the Drew Barrymore show; Saaksha exclaims, “I think India’s beautiful prints, colours and most importantly hand craft which has intrigued the West. We have such a rich tapestry of artisans, and their work is so uniquely intricate which has put India firmly on the fashion map,” she says and admits India-inspired prints, and micro-pleating have been the brand’s mainstay over the years.

Kamat’s family is in the textile business, she studied fashion design from NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology) while Bhat, studied law at the University of Manchester (UK) and had a buzzing practice but they both confess their love for everything Indian—Ikats and lehriya prints layered with mirror work, tassels, thread work and appliqué, which they execute almost effortlessly.

Bhat, who grew up in a South Indian family in Manchester and Kamat a Gujarati is from Liliya (in Amreli, Gujarat) thus the love for Bandhani, lehriya and aari work is evident. This season for LFW X FDCI 2024, they are introducing swimwear “which is extremely exciting for us. We have done quilting techniques on top of the swimsuits to add richness and drama. We have added a lot of sheer chiffons and silks as layers to the resort wear making it fun and young. A key technique of the brand —– hand micro pleating takes centerstage with many garments utilizing this hand craft,” says Kamat.

Layered dresses, sheer skirts, and oversized blazers is the key to their look for 2024, the idea was to play around with masculinity and combine it with femininity. The play and balance with both you see an inspired form of the ikat in many garments that are unexpected – on swimwear and on skirts. “We have used mirror work again in modern ways – lining the sleeves of capes, scattered on miniskirts and filling bomber jackets,” says Kinni.

For them doing womenswear and menswear is not very different, they are not as opposites as they once were. “The modern man and modern woman have many similar qualities – they want to dress as chic-ly as possible without compromising on comfort. Oversized jackets have spilled into womenswear from menswear, and there is so much overlap when it comes to printed co ord sets, embroidered shirts and the use of silks and chiffons,” says Saaksha.

The outdoors was a big concept in their collection and introducing swimwear into the resort collection and emphasizing the need of getting outside in luxurious comfortable ensembles was their lighthouse. “I would say prints are our forte. It’s a difficult area to constantly innovate, as prints can be very polarising. They are usually loved or hated and seldom are people on the fence about them. It’s important to keep finding sources of inspiration and what better country than India to deep dive into archives and history books,” says Kinni.

The women they design for have become bolder, more experimental in their choices and will not compromise on quality or comfort. Emotionally they are stronger than ever, resilient and know exactly what they want. They appreciate hand craft, locally sourced fabrics and ensembles that can be mixed and matched within their own wardrobes. “It was important for us to make sure we design and sell separates that can be reworked,” says Kinni.

“Staying relevant is an ongoing learning experience. It is important to keep one eye on the ball (your own creativity) but also a pulse on the ever-changing needs and wants of the modern woman. To survive you must be open to change, be humble and want to learn on an everyday basis. We still have not explored AI in the workplace. But of course, it will play a prominent part in years to come. AI will be able to design, conceptualize and execute. The digitalization of fashion is a reality not a question mark,” concludes Saaksha.

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Fashion Design Council of India