Oh so fresh!

Anjali Jhangiani
Saturday, 12 January 2019

Chatting up the batch of Gen Next designers who will make their debut at the Lakme Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2019

Apart from individuality, do you know what designers like Rahul Mishra, Nachiket Barve, Masaba Gupta, Kallol Dautta and Aneeth Arora have in common? They were all selected as a part of the Gen Next Designer Programme at Lakmé Fashion Week at the start of their careers. The programme known for introducing such brilliant talent to the fashion industry has announced its 27th batch of designers, who will make their debut at the Lakmé Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2019. We chat them up about the focus of their brand, their collection and more. 

Birdwalk — Amrapali Singh
Classically feminine, minimalist and elegantly understated — that sums up this brand. Amrapali Singh, who actually wanted to be a dancer or a painter while growing up, believes that fashion found her and not the other way around. “Fashion was always part of life but not the focus. It’s only later in life that my interest in fashion developed and I started seeing it as a viable career choice. I received my Masters in fashion from Instiuto Maragoni in Milan. Thereafter, I worked on many independent projects and landed a job at Salsa Jeans, Portugal after winning a competition. Later, I returned to India knowing that I would have the best chance of starting my own label at home. Fashion combines many of my early creative endeavours into something exciting and dynamic. But I sometimes wish I had more time to paint and dance again,” says Singh.

Her collection titled Queen of Hearts draws from the playful iconography of a simple deck of cards with its limited colour palette, sharp lines and simple graphic motifs, all of which is symbolic of leisure.
“The collection is limited to red, white and black in clean mono-prints and embroideries, both hand and machine made. We’ve used fun patches, scallops, stripes, oversized buttons and lace, and some playful pleats and gathers. We work with lush fabrics such as Giza cotton, net, cotton-silk, silk organza and plenty of silk chiffon to create lively textures. We wanted to imbue this collection with a spirit of playfulness, simplicity and comfort,” she says. 

Being selected as one of the Gen Next designers has left her feeling honoured and grateful. Singh believes that with vast industry exposure and mentorship, this platform will help the brand to quickly adapt to the changes required to move towards a state of sustained growth catering to a wider audience. 
She talks about how her sense of fashion goes through cycles, but inspiration for her truly comes out of the iconic styles from the 1920-60s because she loves nostalgia. Talking about the future of the fashion industry, Singh says, “I think the industry, along with the customer, is moving to a better place as mindsets are shifting back to anti-consumerism and environmental sustainability. My hope is that this trend continues as I feel it lets designers focus on our passions for quality versus quantity.”

Sunaina Khera — Sunaina Khera
The USP of Sunaina Khera’s eponymous brand is hand-embroidered garments. While most first-timers prefer to go with a happy-bright-and cheerful collection, she took the road less travelled. Her collection titled A Long Way Home is loosely based on the various stages of grief. “We have used a very transitional colour palette ranging from navy through greys and soft pinks to ivory. There is beautiful hand embroidered detailing on every piece of the collection,” she says, trying not to give away too much about the collection before it makes its debut on the ramps at the prestigious fashion event. 
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to interact with people through your clothes during the show following which you get to meet potential buyers and clients. Hopefully that should help the label create a stronger visibility and translate into more sales,” says Khera, an alumnus of NIFT New Delhi. 

“I have always loved fashion and wanted to own my label. I launched my label a few months after graduating. It’s my biggest commitment and my most treasured companion,” she says.

Confessing her obsession with slip dresses and sequins, she also says that she just can’t get enough of anything hand-embroidered. Talking about fashion in 2019, she says, “I think it’s the time to bind slow and conscious fashion with a touch of glamour because that’s the very heart of fashion. The feel-good factor is about to take centrestage,” she says.

Ujjwala Bhadu — Ujjwala Bhadu
Who says you’ve got to look your best only on special occasions? Ujjwala Bhadu’s brand is here to make sure you look tip-top everyday. It’s all about a fresh take on colours, knitwear and textile techniques. “Our collection is focussed on providing beautiful daily wear pieces that look effortlessly assembled,” she says.
 
The designer talks about how she has been inclined towards art and design since childhood. “I’ve painted since I can remember. Fashion was a very natural route for me as I loved dressing up. It allowed me the opportunity to create art for the moving form, which is something I love about it. Apart from that, going to Parsons in New York reaffirmed my passion for fashion,” says Bhadu.
 
Her collection is a projection of her feelings towards home while living away. “It’s happy with bright colours and textures. The colours are suncity blue and off-white combined with pastel, rosy hues with bursts of sunny yellow and juicy peach-reds. Fabrics used are moss crepes, linen, cotton, viscose, raffia. The silhouettes are designed as elevated separates that can be layered for versatility. The detailing includes appliqué, prints, and ribbon work,” describes Bhadu, who is obsessed with the fact that sneakers that symbolise comfort, are mainstream now. 

She feels nothing less than blessed to be a part of this programme and make her debut at Lakmé Fashion Week. She looks forward to the people that she will get to meet and the experience of showcasing her collection, all of which will she believes will add to her growth as a designer.

Talking about the direction in which the fashion industry is heading, she says, “I feel the industry is heading towards a more conscious approach where designers educate their clients about their design principles. I also love that there are more ready-to-wear and Western wear designers on the scene now. Fashion is also definitely addressing relevant issues of the time.”

Ek Katha — Madhumita Nath 
In 2014, Madhumita Nath travelled to Kutch to explore the possibility of starting a venture based on one of the many textile crafts of India. Having worked with SEWA (Self Employed Women’s Association) and travelled to the state as a student at NID (National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad), she was obviously inclined towards the crafts of Kutch. “The turning point was going to Khamir and getting to know about their indigenous organic cotton (kalah cotton) initiative and the beautiful fabrics that they were weaving,” she recalls, adding, “My way of seeing fashion is seeing the core, the cloth, the raw materials, how are they produced, where are they made, who made them and the implications of it all.”

After studying crafts in its social and geographical contexts, Nath perceived design as a part of a system and wanted to use it to enhance this system. “Taking up specific craft clusters for creating my cloth is but a natural outcome of this learning process,” she says. 

Her work is inspired by this short staple desi cotton, which is almost carbon neutral, along with wood block Batik printing. “I am in love with batik as a technique. The usage of natural colours in batik has its limitations since only five natural colours can be used. Basically we work with kalah cotton weave and batik wood block printing, both practised in Kutch, and what we get is a visual vocabulary of muted greens, browns, indigos and greys,” says Nath, who is big on sustainability. 

Her collection called Bliss is happy and young with bohemian vibes in soothing natural colours like muted yellows, tea, beiges and raw whites. The fabrics used are kalah cotton in herringbone, diamond and plain weaves, Nassi silk and silk organza in a combination of solid colours, stripes and batik prints in natural colours. Currently obsessed with ruffles and polka dots, Nath has worked on layering, and played with the concepts of opacity and translucency in her outfits. 

Thrilled to be a part of this batch of Gen Next designers, Nath feels that she just needs to soak in all the inputs whether it is about design, social media or retail. “I just need to be open to what is in store for me after the show. Whether it is appreciation or criticism, it needs to be taken with positivity in order to grow as a brand,” she says. 

She feels that fashion now is headed towards muted and pastel colours, basics and comfortable clothing. “The Indo-Western trend might go on with a blazer or shirt paired with an embroidered skirt. I hope to see minimal embroidery, basic solid colours with a dash of embroidery. I think 2019 is going to be eclectic — you can be yourself and yet experiment and fuse styles,” she says.

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