Freshness— that’s what everyone’s looking for in the fashion industry. Lakmé Fashion Week, in association with Smartwater, a water brand from Coca-Cola India, launched a programme called The Platform for young and innovative designers from India to be as fresh as they could, while creating their collection according to a specific theme.
The theme for this competition was ‘Inspired By Clouds’ and participating designers were free to incorporate this in the form of texture, fabric, shapes or colour. After sorting through over a hundred applications, a panel comprising designer Payal Khandwala, Tina Tahiliani, director at Ensemble, Nonita Kalra, editor, Harper’s Bazaar, Sheetal Mallar, photographer and former model, Anoop Manohar, general manager - marketing at Coca-Cola India and Jaspreet Chandok, vice president and head of fashion at IMG Reliance, selected three winners — Ishanee Mukherjee and Anirudh Chawla of Poochki, Sakshi and Swasti Shah of Shanti, and Kanika Goyal. We speak to the winners about the inspiration they took from the clouds and the concept of smart-wear that is the freshest thing on the block.
The brand focuses on contemporising Indian traditional crafts. “Our prime focus is on hand block printing. Our motifs are what make us stand out,” says Ishanee Mukherjee, one half of the brand.
Anirudh Chawla, the other half, talks about the concept of smartwear. He says, “Smartwear for us would be to dress right for every occasion. We attempt to make clothes that turn heads and spark a conversation, yet let one be able to define one’s personality. We think smartwear is about putting together clothing from different contexts to create a unique look which has the potential to become the next big thing.”
The designers recall how they instantly thought of a poem titled The Black Cloud by W H Davies, when they were made aware about the theme of the programme. “The Poem talks about how the only certainty of life is uncertainty. This feeling deeply resonated with us and inspired us to create a collection with whites contrasted with hues of deep indigo and black,” says Mukherjee, as Chawla adds, “Inspired by the poem, we decided to name the collection, ‘The Black Cloud’. It is predominantly crafted in silk organza which has been treated to give a crinkled texture.”
The duo are excited to show this collection at the upcoming fashion event and believe that this in itself is a huge accomplishment for an emerging brand. “It is a great opportunity to showcase our talent at this prestigious platform. The fashion week provides us with PR opportunities and a reach to national and international buyers and stores,”says Mukherjee.
This brand focuses on various facets of minimalism. “The principle of minimalism reflects in our designs and empowers the consumer to look beyond the serious connotations of tailoring. The brand intends to deconstruct rigid perceptions of not only minimalism, but traditional tailoring that is rarely viewed without its sartorial history,”says Kanika Goyal, adding, “We do this by loosening up the seams on luxe-minimalism by adding strings that are edgier, younger, and on that account, easier to embrace. The brand segments itself as inclusiveluxury fashion where the aim is to deliver intellectual design statement luxury with a cool brand element.”
Talking about smartwear, she claims that the possibilities are endless. “Smartwear, as a genre, has the potential to take people out of the ‘fitness funk’ athleisure phase and bring them back to mainstream fashion. If smartwear is going to take off, it has to be fashionable, and do more than tell you your step count,” says Goyal, hinting that the concept of efficiency has to grow from trendy activity trackers to functional clothing.
“We believe flaws are beautiful and so is our thought of moulding emotions into silhouettes. Taking off from the theme, we imagined fresh drops of water falling through milky clouds, and came up with the idea of reflecting humour as a form of escapism. Our collection is strong and confident enough to break the monotony, just like a fresh shower,”says Goyal, adding, “When the water flows, it takes no form of its attainment, it travels in a rhythm. It’s fierce and strong, just like our thought that flows and pours into all. Thus, our collection celebrates the flaws (Kintsungi) that runs and connects the universe through irregularities.”
The fabrics used in her collection include polyester (bonded and non-bonded), cotton viscose, 100 per cent viscose, cotton silk, cotton linen, linen, poplin, rayon, bonded acrylic wool, faux fur, faux leather, cotton knit, silk organza, glass nylon, Dutch satin and PVC with detailing like heat set pleating, holographic printing, reflective pleating, screen printing, digital printing, heat transfer printing, hand embroidery and rubber printing.
“We are looking forward to express the emotions through our clothing and a platform like this is indispensable,”says she.
The competitive advantage that Shanti has over other brands, designers Sakshi and Swasti Shah say, is the fact that it comes from a manufacturing base which is more than 50 years old.
“The people at Shanti understand the nuances of textiles. Since our foundation finds its roots in Varanasi, the seat of innovation in all aspects of weaving, dyeing and printing embroidery, we are usually the first to sniff a trend or ascertain the need of the customers. The difference in our brand is not what fabric or colour scheme we are using for the season, it’s to do with the fact that textiles is in our inheritance, it’s in our blood. Therefore, all our designs are extremely conceptual and meticulous,” says Sakshi.
Talking about their collection, Swati describes, “Just like the phenomenon of cloud formation, the concept of garment making from pure handloom linen struck us in a rather sustainable way. Here, discarded material from sarees/clothes was turned into garments thereby imitating the cycle of clouds.”
To this, Sakshi adds, “The linen that we have used for our collection has been indigo dyed and dabu printed to imitate the variance and texture of clouds. Through the interplay of linen and silks, we are aiming to take you back to our legacy of handloom silks, while also catering to the demands of the winter festive season. A-line cuts and plain silhouettes with an interesting touch of seams have been used to provide structure to our garments. With a monochrome tone of soft greys, whites and blues, the seam lines in our collection have been inspired from the manner in which Indian women used to dress in the 18th century.”
The duo believe that this initiative is great for the young designers to explore their creativity in an unconventional fashion by presenting their thought-provoking, story-based collections amongst a few of well-established brands. “With a brand identity that encompasses a strong heritage and diverse culture but does so in a traditional manner, a platform like smartwear gives our brand a lateral outreach. It showcases how Shanti as a brand can conceptualise a unique collection in a non-Banarasi way, thereby creating a wider, more creative approach. The prize money associated with The Platfom also carries exciting benefits for brands to leverage resources in an optimum way,” says Sakshi.