Four design students talk to us about their experience of working with Merino wool
With an aim to inspire the next generation of designers to work with wool and educate them on the know-how, the Woolmark Company conducted a unique design competition for tertiary students from some of the leading fashion institutes of the country like NIFT, Pearl Academy, and National Institute of Design. The participants were mentored by Gautam Vazirani, fashion curator, IMG Reliance. Lets chat up the winners and see what projects they came up with...
The first runner-up, Abhinav Tyagi was inspired by Cye Twombley and Agnes Martin — two Post Modern American artists who have different sensibilities, but the designer feels that when combined, their work complements each other. “I made a collection of separates using merino wool. These garments speak different languages when paired together and when used standalone as well. Merino wool is an extraordinary fibre. It is extremely versatile and fine which is why one can work with it to make designs that are adaptive to our changing environment and human needs. I was amazed to see the different ways it can be used in. Once you understand the strength of the fibre, there is no stopping it,” says Tyagi, adding that though this competition has given him a great platform to launch his career in the fashion industry, he is planing to study fashion further. He shares how Vazirani encouraged the participating students to look beyond the ordinary and always keep growing.
“The first thing that came to my mind was making something that is more than just a piece of apparel. I used a childhood story of mine as inspiration and the challenge was to present it in a very universal manner so that everyone can relate to it,” says Ravi Manil, the winner of the competition. He started off by using his knowledge of fabrics, weave structures and embroidery as his strengths, then put up his inspirations on a mood board to make initial silhouttes and then ventured on to source his materials.
“Working with Merino wool has busted a lot of myths that I grew up with. Other than it being versatile and durable, I learnt that it is also trans-seasonal which means that it can be worn in any season — summer or winter. Moreover, it is so easy to work with as there are multiple ways to integrate and use it as a part of different blends,” says Manil, adding, “I believe that in this era of fast fashion where one trend gets over in a fraction of time, consumers want to have something that’s personal but can also cherish for a long period of time. Following this very sentiment, I want to use Merino wool to convey an evergreen and inspiring story with my designs.”
He shares that Vazirani’s mentorship was a constant support as he looked for newer ways to improve his designs. “It was the first time that I was participating in a competition and the entire journey has taught me how to use my knowledge to internalise, shape and translate my ideas with confidence. I believe that this experience has kick-started my journey in this industry and will also help me through it,” he adds.
“I wanted to explore the theme of going back to your roots and what better way to do that than with such a rich culture like India’s. I designed a handwoven Merino wool saree paired with a crop top and a cardigan. The saree is a staple in our culture and I wanted to reinvent it with a modern combination of a crop top along with a cardigan,” says Nikita Chhajer, who also bagged the second runner-up position. “I got deep insights on Merino wool, its properties and functionality while working with it. The drape and feel of it was also a major part of the learning and this new learning was definitely an achievement for me. The idea of creating an Indian drape in a contemporary manner which I accomplished with my design is a ‘glo-cal’ approach. Giving something different to the global and local market is what is needed, and this can be achieved with a versatile fibre like Merino wool,” she adds.
She was thrilled to be mentored by Vazirani. “Meeting such a knowledgeable industry expert and having him as a mentor was of great benefit,” she says.
Saachi Khattar, the second runner-up, mixed influences from around the world and presented it on the runway in a youthful and expressive way. “Be it street or regional styles, I have reinterpreted them with a glo-cal focus. Using a layered approach, I took influences from African and Japanese cultures, combining it with streetstyle to highlight the cultural amalgamation present today,” he describes.
Through this competition, the designer has explored the true potential of Merino wool and found it to be flexible to work with as it can be woven in different forms, and be knitted and draped easily. “I have tried working with Merino blends like Merino linen and found that they are a great option for the younger market as the garments look fashionable but are extremely light at the same time. The fibre wicks moisture, is trans-seasonal in nature and extremely breathable which makes it perfect to use. My garments were youth-oriented as my target market itself was young men in their 20s. To ensure that my garments look effortless, I have used blends of Merino wool with various other fabrics like linen and denim,” says Khattar, adding that his mentor, Vazirani has been a part of every process, right from design selection to sourcing, and most importantly, encouraging participants to do their best.