Alpha Women

 Inca or incarnation by Amit Hansraj is for women who are mature, confident and know that clothes are extension of them not the other way round and it is this individuality that he hopes to celebrate each season.

By Asmita Aggarwal

Amit Hansraj has been in the fashion world for the last 20 years, but coming from a small town, Hamirpur, unlike the glamorous Dharamsala, in Himachal it was not an easy task to break into the fashion industry, which is till today a playing ground of the affluent.

His sojourn to Delhi and first stop was Ghaziabad, where he had little or no exposure to fashion, and worked odd jobs like backstage helper, till he got a break to work with Malini Ramani, then Ritu Beri which took him to Paris and of course Bina Ramani. “I owe my fashion education to these three, I learnt by observation,” says Amit the founder of the label Inca, which showcased at the FDCI x LFW 2024.

Soon, he began styling, and luckily got to study various aspects of fashion, and also co-founded a label with Amit Aggarwal, then moved on to work with Zubair Kirmani. “Tina Tahiliani is a visionary, and I worked at Ensemble as a curator, brought in contemporary fashion from 2017-2020. The burnout forced me to take a break and came back to Delhi from Mumbai. The pandemic happened and it turned everything on its head,” he reveals.

It was almost a sabbatical from the crazy universe of clothes, and this gave him time to ponder over what he can call his own, and the isolation made him think. He saw the terrazzo flooring with those chips, unlike the heavy-duty rich homes marble, being alone he was often staring at the floor of his rented home in Hauz Khas. Then he decided to create a line of curtains, with similar patterns, which later took shape of a capsule collection with a help of an “off duty graphic designer and skilled masterjee”. “Inca is the short form of incarnation,” he explains, the concept of God is timeless and as he is quite interested in Hindu philosophy, he thought this would be ideal.

His ideology is oversized clothing but not frumpy but cool, think “Smita Patil and Parveen Babi” he laughs, both are his favourites. His clothes are a “collection of experiences”, maybe in some ways an ode to the invisible people we see around us, as he says, “my label was made with multiple broken moments.”

Fashion must be enjoyed is his mantra, the inner working of the garments is effortlessness, and you feel good and sexy without revealing too much, “sexy is a feeling”, he believes. Everyday things and incidents inspire him and “fashion should be not be restricted to palaces, Kashida, kings and queens, but if you look at the Taj mahal no one is talking about the thousands of workers who built this monument of love! “History is not written by the common man we all know that,” he smiles.

Remembering his childhood he says, his dad was extremely progressive and well-travelled by he did not come from money, so his label is a celebration of what he saw, those who were marginalized, had no voice, he hopes to tell those stories. “I launched the sari, but it is functional, it can be worn, while you are doing all kinds of jobs—that includes dusting your book shelf,” he says, adding his choice of show stopper was keeping this philosophy in mind too.

Dia Mirza is an actress and an activist she has lived her life on her own terms, as she ages, she has not chosen to continue in a race, and taken on any and every Hindi movie that comes her way. “I find older women attractive, because experiences of life make you confident, there is a glow of knowledge, and that confidence adds charm to your personality. Dia choses to live life by what she believes I find that endearing,” he admits.

Hansraj cuts his clothes circular, the fabric manipulation gives it the freedom to take the shape of the wearer, and his evolved clientele, if they don’t see an armhole is not terrified by it, in fact they embrace this new shape. “I love monochromes, and silks, satins and pure fabrics in mustards and purples,” he concludes, as he opened his store in the Kila last year filled with his vintage artifacts/photographs that he has collected over the years. “I don’t understand the whole ‘influencer’ space I can’t resonate with them. But I feel I want to make a label that makes the wearer feel happy, and only then will she think of me again,” he signs off.

Think Chill

Remember The Jetsons, and the 90s trend Vaporwave? Kanika Goyal brings that shiny high gloss vibe to the line she has designed for the American brand Skechers.

By Asmita Aggarwal

After four years at NIFT Delhi and then Parsons New York, where she studied for two years, Kanika Goyal was ready in 2015 to launch her label. And she says with a giggle, “I am a very happy person, so clothes are a good medium to share my joy with others.”

Kanika runs two label, KGL (Kanika Goyal Label) a bit exclusive and Kilogram aimed at the mass market, now she has embarked on a new aesthetic, to be the only designer to be hired by Skechers, the California-based comfy sneaker company to design a line of apparel for India. “The show is theirs,” she corrects me, adding, “and the creative direction is mine.” Almost 16 articles and 31 looks were launched at the LFW X FDCI 2024 showcasing in Mumbai, for spring summer, taking you back to the era of the nubile Britney Spears crooning Kiss me baby one more time, of the 90s when the pop star was a sensation and could be seen on every billboard.

“It was the pre-internet era, I would say it was rather bold, for Sketchers it is more of a fun take on the 90s fashion, a Y2K appeal. Thus, you see the pop art, checkerboard patterns, logo mania and lots of colour blocking,” says Goyal, as she reveals she started with athleisure when she first launched her label almost nine years ago.

She has paid a tribute to Vaporwave aesthetic outfits, which are futuristic, think chrome, shiny robots, flying cars, and metallic shoes, as if you are The Jetsons (George, his homemaker wife Jane, and their children, Judy, and Elroy, have a robotic maid, Rosie and a talking dog, Astro). These sometimes “random” trends which are said to be back in 2024, are an offshoot of the electronic music scene, visually it is all over the place— it has elements of techno, retro and futuristic. Think VHS tapes, gaming graphics, pixelation, school logos and The Simpsons. “I call it nostalgia with an effective colour blast,” says Kanika who has added glitches, cyberpunk themes, geometric lines and peppered it with eye-catching neons.

The key to what she has done for Sketchers is mixed comfort with style, as generally the shoe is considered a boon for a certain older generation, but Kanika’s intervention is making it cool for GenZ. The apparel is relaxed, oversized, and she added parkas, bralets, dresses, cropped jackets, trench coats, T-shirts with a more youth centric approach, with separates so you mix and match.

“Fashion is cyclical and even though I love architecture, and the 70s, I feel this collection has really brought me back to the 90s which are making their presence felt everywhere—movies, to fashion,” she confides adding that these sporty ensembles can take you from day to night.

Tangerines, emeralds, aquas were merged with metallics in high gloss, to give the entire collection a high sheen look, a kind of over-the-top appeal. “You can wear it on vacations, even though it is performance wear, it has a distinct lifestyle element to it,” she confesses adding that her approach to this has been individualistic, in some ways an extension to what her brand stands for—cool graphics and a chill vibe.

An evening Soiree

Paras and Shalini of Geisha Designs offer sundowner clothing complete with cording, macrame, as nostalgia remains their anthem for this season, creating the various elements of nature, through fabric manipulations.

By Asmita Aggarwal

Olsen twins label The Row banned phones in their showcase recently at the Paris Fashion Week 2024 show and went back in time, to an era in the 80s and 90s when photographs were released a week later.

Maybe in India no one will have the courage to take this decision, but when Paras Bairoliya is quizzed on this brave move, he admits, “Social media is about brand communication and it is essential, I agree that the lens of the smartphone camera cannot capture the sights and sounds your eyes can. But it can take your collection to millions of people through technology. Content creators every hour keep the buzz on, their feed is fresh and interesting.”

Paras and Shalini even though they have been in the fashion game of chess for the last 25 years where survival is an art, believe their biggest achievement is they have remained relevant for a younger audience too. Nostalgia is their anthem and luckily, they are excited each year to experiment with new techniques and materials. “Indian craftsmanship and global flavour have been our mantra. Plus, the concept has always been soft and romantic, we are not into conversational clothing. We service diverse markets, and carry forward the same ethos in our décor business, packaging, clothes, and luxury,” says Paras.

 The scope of dressing has now expanded, there are destination weddings, thematic events, sundowners, and Geisha Designs understands the power of customization. This year at LFW X FDCI 2024, it is dressing for a sundowner, maybe not trousseau for the bride, but certainly occasion wear for the extended family complete with cocktail dresses!

The biggest trend of 2024 is people have time to think about what they want, and thus there is a rise in demand for tone-on-tone, play of texturization in their line “The Elemental Symphony”. Each element whether it is air to water has a play for dynamism with structure and fluidity, as each one has its own individuality.

Their new ways of beading make the garment look lighter than it appears, as well as fabric molding which embodies a certain sheerness, a glossy surface, looks as if molded on body forms. This concept allowed the duo freedom of expression. From pleats to tucks, making it appear as if there are ripples of water on the fabric, was an interesting expedition.

In the changing landscape of fashion there are many clients who come to Geisha Designs and ask them to convert their old brocade saris into something new, so a trench coat with quilting was executed making it red carpet ready. “These experiments with cut and fabric make our journey exciting, and keeps us on our toes,” says Paras Bairoliya.

Tulles, satins, and organza have been used for drapes-like saris, worn with jackets, chiffons have come with metallic textures, and sheer with gloss. The chiffons are layered and come with laser and 3-D printing, along with various techniques and macramé added to give it a couture feel as well as cording.

Moms are a more generous and loyal audience, Paras laughs, they are also a lot fitter and wants to make shopping an experience, plus, the confidence she comes in with is exemplary. “She is seldom influenced by her friends and buys exactly what she feels will work. But the 20-year-old is another story,” he smiles. She will jump on the next trendy label, and is a tricky customer, as her want for “new” is endless.

Right to Repair

Ashita Singhal started as a curious fashion student wanting to know how to upcycle waste, and that’s how Paiwand, her label was conceptualized. Winning the Nexa Spotlight and telling us that re-woven is austerity personified; she is consciously saving the planet one less stitch at a time.

By Asmita Aggarwal

She was quintessentially far away from anything remotely fashion, as the Delhi-born and raised Ashita Singhal founder Paiwand Studio’s father’s business is of electrical wiring and her mom a homemaker, but the capital and its inhabitants did turn on their charm on the young aspiring fashion student. She graduated in fashion design from Pearl Academy of Fashion, in 2018 and her graduation project was the one which won her the Nexa Spotlight.

Learning pattern making in college, she understood the enormous waste fashion generates, which is the reality of fast fashion. Most of her projects for college submissions revolved around upcycling textile waste, thus the moniker “Paiwand”, “lagana” or “to repair”. “Blue Pottery, the title of my Pearl Academy project, was a wholesome way to recraft what was considered waste, weaving it into something spectacular. It also won me a $25,000 James Mcquire grant that helped me start my business,” says 28-year-old Ashita, who used to get the katrans from either ragpickers or export houses.

“Clothing is second skin, it must be special, so I began a concerted effort to undertake R and D on the kind of textiles we wear. The only way to upcycle was to visit local markets and procure materials and then elevate it with patchwork and hand embroidery. My in-house handloom unit is focused on innovation and we have successfully upcycled leather, flex, cotton to silk, polyester and knits,” she admits.

The beauty of working with waste is, its unpredictability, it is limited, so you have to be imaginative, and keep looking at options, developing around the concept, you find ingenious ways along the process. “There is no stagnancy in the colours or yarns, but yes, the biggest challenge is to justify costing, as consumers tell us, “it is made out of waste, so it should be cheaper,” she laughs.

‘City Blues’, the title of her 2024 line for the Lakme Fashion Week 2024 X FDCI was around the Nexa theme “Urbane” and this is where her “love-hate” relationship with Delhi came into play. Ashita loathes the mass consumerism and herd mentality, but admires how the Capital gives her the space to express herself, looking at the multiplicity of life, through like-minded individuals. “I wanted to showcase the contrasts —we are inspired by streetwear, but I have intermixed it with understated luxury,” she exclaims. There are blazers, jackets, dresses, and conceptual pieces which push the design envelope.

“Jod” is her showpiece, woven on handloom, it is two pieces connected without a single stitch, showcasing the binding through contrasts. This line has effectively utilized knit waste, block printed scrap, whatever she could find and flex which is easy to get in local bazaars. “At the Nexa jury the members couldn’t believe that our pieces which had a couture feel were crafted out of scrap, they were both esthetically and visually appealing,” she confides.

Offering a lifetime guarantee to repair outfits when consumers buy from her, she believes, interiors and hotels, allows her a chance to diversify, as her dream collaboration must be with Eileen Fisher, the American conservationist and designer.

The price range is Rs 10,000 upwards, to Rs 40,000 and Paiwand also offers customization. “We also use jamdani, traditional weaving techniques, zari, as well as double circularity where we recycle our waste which we call- ‘re re woven’ or woven twice. “The future for us as a brand is establishing a signature brand identity and maybe acquiring a distinct global presence,” she signs off.

Hoops of Hope

Nitya Arora of the accessories brand Valliyan celebrates its 15th anniversary by paying tribute to bugs and beetles, quiet warriors, in a new sci-fi avatar, who help balance our fragile eco-system through her brass and copper gold plated jewellery.

By Asmita Aggarwal

The brand got its name from her grandmother’s blessings, as the hoops (balliyan) she was presented with came with a promise of a lucrative future—thus the moniker Valliyan, twenty years ago also a tribute to her robust Punjabi heritage. Though it has been a bumpy ride as the market in 2008, was immature and lacked any concept of fashion jewellery—it was either silver or precious, nothing in between.

Her journey began with fashion pop ups, where questions like how to wear fashion jewellery, what is it made of, came up, also why should costumey earrings be so expensive?  “It was a potentially  growing segment and the market had to be created, it didn’t exist back then,” explains Nitya Arora the founder of Valliyan, who was in some ways ahead of the curve in both ideas and design, though since the time she began the market had been flooded with new players.

 In many ways Nitya knew the way to grab an audience was online, thus unlike designers who started their website during the Pandemic when they were forced into e-commerce, Valliyan had theirs up and running since 2013. “Only through our online retail we could go viral with our ear cuffs, midi rings and evil eye bracelets as well as your initial (name) embedded jewellery,” she explains, as her first store in Kala Ghoda, Mumbai ten years ago was started when the fashion destination was get to win the huge popularity it enjoys today.

At a time when social media was non-existent, Nitya knew films had a huge power, she had after all interned with Kunal Rawal. She took a leap of faith and designed jewellery for Sonam Kapoor starrer, a fashion forward film, Aisha. Trained at the Parsons School of Design, US, she knew jewellery would be her calling even though she studied fashion design as she made what she wanted to wear and could not find in the Indian market. Valliyan is crafted out of copper and brass, then gold plated, some of her pieces are made from cane, wood, acrylic and even bamboo.

Fascinated by furniture weavers, she sat down with them to learn the techniques and then trained under artist Ashiesh Shah, when she was barely 15, the desire to learn and grow was omnipresent. “I did many different things while growing up and was the first brand to sell exclusively at Bombay Electric. Women through Instagram have a lot more exposure now they know how to dress, accessorise and the content online has boosted their confidence. The Pandemic also changed our relationships with ourselves and people dressed nattily to be online, they want to spend money to look good and are not waiting for occasions,” she adds.

The beauty of fashion jewellery is its accessibility and pricing, unlike things you put in the locker and forget, this can offer multiple options, that’s why her LFW line is titled “Valliyan 5.0”. “There was a time when I did a show every year, and it always excited me even though LFW did not have a space for accessory designers. My latest line is a mix of handmade with technology coming together beautifully. Focus is on bugs and beetles and how they are little robots working in the background invisibly in our lives. They balance our ecosystem and have never been given credit for their work,” says Nitya. In addition, for LFW X FDCI 2024 there are butterflies, dragonflies, with a space age, sci-fi feel, presented in a theatrical manner, she admits.

Coming from a business family, she was often questioned about her need to work, and was hugely protected while growing up, but from Marine Drive to work with Kunal Rawal in Marol, Nitya took that painful drive everyday. “It was crazy work hours but the learning with Kunal was stupendous. When I launched my label I self-taught myself—merchandising, production, finances, design to retail and wholesale, and today we are celebrating 15 years of the brand’s inception,” she smiles adding that she is proud of herself, being able to survive in this cut throat world where brands struggle to live everyday.

Wear Calm

Urvashi Kaur had all the makings of a hit show—a bevy of intellectuals from Ratna Pathak Shah to Rasika Duggal as well as relaxed clothing armed with natty wraps, coppery saris, easy tie ups that announced the arrival of a comfortable spring, as she completed 15 years in the business of fashion!  

By Asmita Aggarwal

Maybe the biggest support system for Urvashi Kaur has been her artist mom, who is always seen silently sitting or watching the show. But this time, the ex-army chief General J J Singh’s wife Anupama was on the ramp, dressed by her daughter, in a long carefree bandhani dress, with vibrant shades of magenta to match her vivacious personality, as she smiled and clapped for her on the runway at the LFW X FDCI 2024 showcasing.

Kaur decided to be back with a bang, and celebrate her 15th year in the style business with everyone who maybe stood by her on this tenacious journey of ups and downs. As her septum ring took centerstage along with the barefoot musician, who enthralled us with his flute to ghungroos, and of course dreadlocks, Kaur was telling us all that relaxed is the new cool.

And the new cool is also Ratna Pathak Shah, the actress who choses intellect over box office slavery much like her other showstoppers from Manto actress Rasika Duggal to Masaan star Shweta Tewari and even the lovely Tilottama Shone, they all wore her free-spirited checks and tiered dresses that caressed the runway.

In all terms, the show was inclusive tall, short, oversized, bearded, bald, bespectacled, turbaned, Kaur didn’t leave anyone out of this myriad mix, as her dhotis graced women and men both creating a unisex wardrobe, frankly the future of fashion. The play of exaggerated collars, double collars, wrap pants, tie ups, asymmetrical dresses, risqué bustiers as well as metallic everything from pants to coats and cover ups, her love for copper and gold was evident this season.

Sari and pants, in neon, layered dresses, play of hems, models reading books, content creators, stylists like Gautam Kalra making their way on the runway along with a turbaned model carrying a Lulu Guinness-esque Lip bag, who famously exclaimed, “My red lips are my signature, my trademark,” sparked the lip clutch craze.

The play of stripes was extraordinary by Kaur, and Ratna Pathak doing the twirl for us was fun too, so was Shweta’s brocade ink blue coat, however, the message was chill—be yourself, embrace your flaws, dress in subtle shine. The fabric bags, along with comedian Mallika Dua were artsy and so was Kaur in her grey dhoti with a buttoned down shirt as she did a little jig for us to tell us, “I am happy to see what I achieved—I made women super comfortable”!

Valaya on wheels

From Chevrons to inclusivity, J J Valaya tells us individualistic women are the most fun to interact with and that his bridge line JJV Kapurthala is only helping you dress quicker and smarter.

Asmita Aggarwal

The shifting leaf Chevron which is the staple of JJ Valaya’s fashion house, was created about twelve yearsback though it never began as something he would take down the years, but it ended up becoming highly covetable, a signature of sorts, so now it is a perennial and every season J J does a new line based on this and perhaps, he admits one can expect to see many avatars to this most loved pattern in the seasons to come! Just like what a Missoni does with the zig zag pattern or LV with its signature logo, or Versace with the Medusa!

 “I don’t think doing a bridge to luxury or diffusion lines can really put an end to couture, in fact it  helps the growth and evolution of a fashion house. I have been a couturier at heart always and have excelled in wedding clothes, but there was always a huge segment of loyalists who were dying to bite into the ethos of the brand. Either they are getting married, or they are already married or they have years to get married,” says J J at the launch of JJ V Kapurthala at the LFW x FDCI 2024 showcasing in Mumbai.

So, he decided we wanted to create a line that was more accessible which could be worn by many people and could look at making sure that the line would lend itself to a larger audience across the country and that is exactly what has happened with JJV.

“Haute couture rules and rules supreme, and never has couture to do with the amount of embroidery the garment has. There are so many other facets that go into a well-constructed garment in terms of quality of materials, quality of workmanship, the enduring signature of timelessness,” believes JJ. All these things come together along with perhaps the most excellent levels of craftsmanship which kind of define couture in the world and indeed in India as well.

Tying up with a jewellery brand Aulerth, is a natural extension for fashion lines and in these be it jewellery, carpets, or Valaya home, he always involves professionals, as he realizes that his skill is in creating and detailing. “The technical side of any business and that too a diverse business if you look at the jewellery business and interior business it requires a completely different mindset to see how it technically works with people who are masters of the craft,” he says.

His biggest achievement till date is remaining relevant as a fashion brand and for that the most important prerequisite is to be excited about what one does. Almost 33 years down the line, he is pleased to say, and happy to acknowledge that his levels of excitement and enthusiasm to sort of keep creating something new and beautiful remains perhaps at an all-time high. “I would imagine that keeping a brand going and launching newer things every season have been more fun; putting something brilliant together,” says JJ.

His personal style is rather basic and he lives his life in short kurtas and Nehru jackets and breeches or jeans and he rarely wears embroidery even though it is one of the mainstays of the House of Valaya. “I play a lot with prints and textures, yes obviously my work stems from a belief and personal ethos, but a chef when they make all the brilliant food that others enjoy, they most often end up eating basic at home,” he confesses.

There is no doubt that as a designer one must go with time, AI and Metaverse there is no escaping it, though one really has to wait and see what happens in the future with these tools. “Considering that I started my career at a time when only 22 fashion graduates came out of one design school in the country, there were no newspapers or magazines covering fashion, there were no TV channels, no internet, no fashion weeks, from there to now I have seen a huge change. And I am looking forward to what happens in the future as well,” he exclaims.

 Sure, AI will play a role, but he does not think there will ever be a complete switch, rather it will make way for a beautiful balance between technology and craft and that is something that will keep fashion going, in full gusto.

Rather than AI changing the world, he feels women have! Every designer is dealing with an evolved woman today and there are no barriers of any kind, no disparity, it has been shunted out. “Inclusivity is the buzzword. There is no shame in body types or skin tones or just about anything is fully accepted. That is beautiful in a way, as everyone is happy and content in their own skin. They are not afraid to flaunt it and therefore, if we look at the evolution that has happened from then to now, we are dealing with stronger and more confident women. They are very sure of what they want and absolutely in awe of who they are, so that is a great state to be in,” he says.

His target audience is anyone between a 23 to a 50-year-old, and he is catering to a diverse section of women and men, and not shouting from the rooftops that Valaya is only for the young. “It is fair to say that over the past three decades and more we have dealt with the most stylish women and from all age groups. We have never differentiated between women who have a panache for fine dressing and that remains the case even now,” he says.

Though what he noticed in terms of dressing the 20s and dressing to 40s, is that lots of barriers have broken down, and now everybody wants to look and feel the part. “What a 25-year-old wears can be worn by a 40-year-old too, that is perhaps that is the seismic change he has seen. Often moms and daughters when they walk in together people say “are you sisters”? A stylish woman is a stylish woman, somebody who has her own say, her own individualistic sense of elegance all that comes together. “We are there to make sure that we are able to give something stunning to a stunning person, that’s where it begins and ends,” he concludes.

Anish Malpani CDC winner tells us his journey from being a finance honcho in the US to recycling chip wrappers into chic eyewear, as he hopes to build a waste-free world where you wear his “Without” sunnies sans any guilt.

Asmita Aggarwal

Both his parents are doctors and till the age of 9, Anish Malpani lived in Aurangabad, before the family moved to Dubai and that’s where he stayed till he was 18 years old. Under graduation took him to the US, years later he left his “boring” finance job to come back to India. He admits he had everything—good money, no debts, youngest director of a US firm, but he did not want to make the rich richer. “I felt really down and wanted to address real social and environmental issues, and my goal was to solve them,” says Anish, who won the Circular Design Challenge 2023 and shiwcased his line at the LFW X FDCI 2024.

When Anish came to India he wanted to learn, as he had stayed in New York most of his life, and spent time in Nairobi and Guatemala to understand recycling problems. “I wanted to research the impact of waste management, after all there are 1.5 million rag pickers in our country and not even half of the waste we produce is recycled as we don’t realise, the material has value,” says Anish, who adds that you can create high quality products by recycling.

He decided to foray into eyewear by recycling chip wrappers, to make it both fashionable and cool above all sustainable, but he confesses “fashion” happened unintentionally. “We are using the market to maximise the impact and to empower waste pickers,” he says. The challenge with recycling this kind of plastic is that it is multilayered, with a combination of various types of materials in it which makes it hard to recycle as it is not uniform (aluminium to paper et al). And only one per cent of this wrapper waste is recycled globally. “You have many different types of plastic and the most recycled is bottles, almost 90 per cent,” explains Anish.

The chip wrappers are a bigger problem, and he operates on a small scale from Pune, right now. Many laughed and mocked him when he started, saying things like “You won’t be able to make this a business and why are you doing this? But he stuck to his gut feeling that and continued this uphill task winning a spot even on Shark Tank India.

He chose to recycle wrappers after checking almost 400 products, and came down to 70 parameters, after thorough searches, eyewear scored high and he wanted to show the mechanical qualities of the material when recycling. “I wanted to replace virgin plastic, and Ashaya or “purpose”, the company hopes to achieve that,” he adds. Though the eyewear is sold under the label “Without” meaning without fear, anxiety, and guilt of using plastic and destroying the environment. “Our eyewear is 100 percent recycled and I feel proud I could achieve this, build a world without waste,” he adds, saying the eyewear is priced between Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,500.

All the designing is done in-house by young students and even though no one studied chemical engineering, yet they manage to recycle the wrappers and create products that are appreciated more outside India, even though domestically there is a segment which is conscious about what and where their products are coming from. “We have made a conceptual brand and it is new-age. The focus will now be also on jewellery and maybe footwear in the future,” he concludes.

Simple Weaves

Gaurav Jai Gupta takes you on a journey to watch a Wes Anderson film through his ingenious weaving techniques, blazing ochres and endearing ‘kinji’ saris in ‘Moonrise’.

 Asmita Aggarwal

When you must fight for everything you get, you take nothing for granted, and sometimes that story of struggle becomes a lighthouse for others. The fashion industry is an isolated space, where some are unable to hustle, but when you choose to create on your own terms without diluting your brand ethos succumbing to market demands or financial constraints you are a winner of sorts.

“I am not a gimmicky designer where I am telling stories through Insta videos to capture the fancy of GenZ. My story telling is restricted to my shows, and in art the story lies in the abstraction,” says Gaurav Jai Gupta founder Akaaro. His work is layered, and he believes as he is not an activist and neither into hectic advertising, the brand sticks to what it knows best—-dressing intense, powerful women with a mind of their own. “If you look at art, the products tell the story and you connect with it instantly,” he explains.

Textiles, quality, and tailoring has been Akaaro’s mainstay not settling for mediocrity to serenade a fleeting audience, his training in textiles and weaving has helped him hold his own. “Textiles are my DNA and I do not know anything else, what I did in college is what I have continued till today and in some ways, couture is continuity isn’t it?” he asks.

His LFW 2024 line is about innovation in textile, with heavier cottons, to muslin, hoping to craft ensembles which are both functional and urbane. His classic “kinji” or stretch one of the brand’s archival fabrics which he has been working with for the last 15 years, with pleating is perfect for this season’s exaggerated sleeves, volume, detailing and big shoulders.

The conversation has been how to market handlooms in a modern way to a younger more unpredictable audience, so there are denim finishes on handlooms, chambray used as denim, khadi as denim, with detailed stitch lines and oversized clothing. “This time I would say there is a bit more ‘fashion’ in my clothing,” he smiles. To add to this mix is ruching and metallics, puffer jackets, skirts, tops with a global vibe where luxury meets craft.

Gaurav has used threadwork, surface texturing only when he needs to, but till today he is known for his metallic saris, where even now there is a waiting, along with his outerwear—tailored trench coats and nifty capes. The pandemic had taken its toll on designers, many were forced to shut down or downsize, rethink their brand identity, and despite not being a bridal label Akaaro was able to sustain the storm. “I look at fashion as a maker, what is my potential, there is a need to always elevate creative processes. Unfortunately, India does not recognize pure talent, it has a Capitalist way of looking at success, totally dependent on your balance sheets,” he admits adding that dressing Bollywood stars or red carpet has never been his end game. “Frankly, we are confused as a society, and have let ‘stars’ decide our future,” he adds.

What makes him happy today is the evolution of women in this space, their astute understanding of textiles, their experimental attitude, buying power, exposure, and clarity of thought. As Gaurav is a master of bespoke tailoring, he has been working on his version of a bridal line of saris, keeping his brand language in mind—a bit of kinji palla saris, stretch which is built in the weave. These are different from his linen, metallic blends, that have a loyal fan following.

LFW X FDCI 2024 story resembles a Wes Anderson palette that he had taken to a New York trade show recently. The yarn that was wasted, the warp was reused to create checks —-ochre, muddy reds, blues, pinks, and ivory, along with colour blocking, that’s why the LFW collection 2024 is titled “Moonrise”.

It was fascinating how yarn wastage can be converted into a full collection and the theme of capturing the moon through its 16 stages has its own perceptions. “Ignition point of any line is curiosity and as my brand’s tagline has always been ‘look within, seek within’,” he confesses.

Working at his own pace, and not succumbing to the pressures of feeding the social media “monster”, he feels technology has to be used sparingly, and the fundamental question for those with massive followers is how can 3 crore people like everything you do? The ball is up in the air on this one.

One size fits all

Chola by Sohaya Misra is back after five years to tell us clothes must be alive, have movement and adjustable, defying conventional norms of dressing according to your size and body type.

                                                                   Asmita Aggarwal

Little did she know that the name she kept for herself as a toddler, ‘Chola’ would one day become the moniker of her fashion label, after all stylist-turned-fashion designer Sohaya Misra, a psychology major credits her love for free-flowing garments as a starting point of this six-year-old journey into the world of fashion.

The alacrity of Sohaya’s clothing is that it is ageless, genderless and retail spaces which sell as small, medium, extra large, Chola offers you ingenious strings and buttons to adjust it the way you feel comfortable in every outfit you buy from her.

“I don’t embellish and neither do I embroider, it is not my vocabulary,” says Sohaya, but she does believe her clothes as a version of art and that’s why she was excited to collaborate a few years ago with her cousin, an artist Renuka Jalan.

Moving to Goa five years ago and a conscious decision to slow down, raising her son on the sandy beaches, Sohaya, is a woman who believes in collaborations. As her clothes are super easy and allow freedom of movement without any constriction, she dressed dancers working with Peeya Rai Chowdhary of Omaggio Performing company.

The desire to make clothing without boundaries, came from the fact that Sohaya felt not being a conventional body type in India comes with hassles to find the right fit where you can adjust if you put on or lose weight. “Clothes don’t have to be boxy, that’s why I love the Japanese designers. They break rules through minimalism and black. The anti-fits, the love for austerity is what I learnt from them, as I am a self-taught designer who never went to a fashion school,” she explains.

Sohaya is adamant in sourcing locally, with a small five-member team, she only makes as much as it can be consumed. “I feel many times women shop with a set mindset—silk and formal, but now all that is slowly changing. Women are conscious and intelligent. The embroidery fascination has ended, they want to wear and rewear their clothes,” she adds, saying that she tries to add elements that won’t bore the buyers after a few wears.

Unlike others, who first sketch then buy fabrics, she works backwards, so this year she is back with a bright, coloured denim plus patchwork (made from recycled deadstock) as well as linen. Add layering, print-on-print, handwoven ikat to craft structured jackets as well as frills and you get Sohaya Misra’s carefree offering.

Fashion Design Council of India