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Indian jungles re-fashioned with Bengali Sholapith craft

In high summer, Edward Abbey‘s excerpt from Postcards from Ed: Dispatches and Salvos from an American Iconoclast “The weather here is windy, balmy, sometimes wet. Desert springtime, with flowers popping up all over the place, trees leafing out, streams gushing down from the mountains. Great time of year for hiking, camping, exploring, sleeping under the new moon and the old stars ” reminded the fashion aficionado in me of a subtle play with opaque and translucent fabrics. Herein, Sahil Kochhar‘s Chanderi and Organza in pristine ivory, champagne rose and cashmere blue have scalloped hems. Ethereally ornamented with silk floss embroidery they are neatly finished with a serrated edging; making way for an apparition to come alive.

His previous two seasons easily managed to transport one from the Bugyals of Uttarakhand to the exotic Jungles of India with a signature technique Shola pith craft from West Bengal  – 3D applique work.

Graduated from National Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi in 2006 he won the Most Creative Collection Award and the Best Academic Performance for the program, too. Thereafter at Rohit Bal‘s he assisted in designing for about 6 years. Eventually in 2013  he launched his own namesake label. Two years later, in 2015, was encouraged on receiving the Grazia Young Fashion AwardElle Graduate Award and nominated by Stardust Awards for the Best Costume Design category. This winning spree continued when the talent moved a notch higher in 2016, nominated from India for the regional round of the International Woolmark Prize 2016.

Acknowledged by the Indian fashion industry beginning this year, he was announced the winner of the AZA Fashion’s Next 2018 Business Program at the Amazon Fashion Week. It offers him the much needed mentorship in retail business for a year with immense exposure at a nascent stage of his career. Rewinding his last six years we’ve seen different appliques, fabrics, designs and thread embroideries being re-fashioned. So, I thought it best to ask Sahil few pertinent questions.

 

Regenerated tweed, both light and warm

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There are reasons for me to pick up the threads with this post – main ones being recycled fibres and the fashion industry being the second largest polluter in the world. It makes me happy to speak about PASHMA – an Indian label through its cashmere range is taking sustainability to another level. I had the opportunity to meet up with its CEO – Mr. Ravindra Kumar at their Gurugram unit where he spoke about their decision of undoing previous collections’ and spinning the Cashmere. “We decided to ‘Regenerate’ our fabric leftovers collected over one decades or more. It has a coarser count and we weave these yarns into HerringboneTwill, Diamond Weave etc., which sell well. Magically, this specific yarn when knitted with different knit structures, needle craft and printed with contemporary prints look like a part of the knit itself ” he explained.

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An Indian collage artist at the upcoming Art Basel

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One surely needs a magnifying glass to admire such panoramic works which showcase the Indian milieu in every nano or micrometer of the paper collage. Struck by the minuscule reflexes depicting the movements of a throng in Sailesh Sanghvi’s artwork I connected with him, only to know better that his artwork ‘Eternal City-Haridwar’ has made it to the semi-finals of the Artbox.Project Basel 1.0 which chooses a handful of artists from different countries; and he is representing India. Excitedly he shared with me the news of it being showcased at the EuroAirport during the Art Basel fair; an exciting international art affair happening at Basel, Switzerland for a four-day art week from 14th-18th June’17, this year.

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Nikheel Aphale’s calligraphic works

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Having studied art I too had tried learning calligraphy at some point. It is letter art related to writing. Many contemporary artists have used it for graphic design and fine art to express themselves with letters which may or may not be legible. While Typography is the art of setting type; it is typically commercial and expected to be made in multiples.

Aware of Arabic, Chinese, Georgian, Indian, Islamic, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Persian, Tibetan and western calligraphy, Nikheel Aphale – a young Indian calligrapher chose the Devanagri script. (Last year I had seen his diaries in which he creatively scribbled on each page.)

So just before his next exhibition at Serendipity…Colour me Autumn I decided to meet him and know more about his creativity.

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Ethics+Aesthetics=Sustainable fashion

Choti Bag and Medium Clutch

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Choti Bag and Chindi Clutch

 

Joli was initially a collaborative effort of two close friends who were also designers – Jonas and Lili. It began from the apartment they shared in New Delhi. After drawing sketches and sourcing fabric for months, the duo decided to give up their full time jobs to set it up in 2010.

An urban line of unisex utilitarian accessories celebrated the soul of modern India. For over 3 yrs. their lines ranged from printed tote bags made of canvas, to weekend bags of fine leather, market bags of lungi fabrics, men’s shirts, colorful key rings, and more….all under the guiding ethos of their logo “Proudly made in India”.

In 2013, Jonas left to further his career while Lili took complete charge of Joli. (The name is a combination of both Jonas and Lili, which also means ‘pretty’ in french)  Since then, the accessory label has seen a sea-change. With a changed identity into something feminine, the label now also focuses on incorporating Indian crafts and recyclable materials.

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Shaping her thoughts with clay

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Seeking to unravel the alternate firing techniques with ceramic artist Shweta Mansingka, on one of the hottest days of the year, was like experiencing its high temperatures from the word go. I happily drove to a farmhouse in the outskirts of New Delhi in my dinky. Stuck in an election rally, reached my destination two hours later. Yet pleased to have made it, easily sunk into my seat once she began narrating her story of how clay found her at the age of 18.

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Old becomes In, with jewellery

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Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction or fantasy wherein technology and aesthetics are inspired by 19th-century – industrial steam-powered machinery; as those were the romantic times when art and craft movement, discoveries and new technology, were all vying for attention at the same time, in Europe. And so in the mid-20th century, the Steampunk movement  began modding the two through a wide variety of artistic styles.

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Swati Kalsi’s avant-garde Sujani

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Had met Swati Kalsi, an immensely talented fashion and textile designer at the Nayaab exhibition late last year. And my first question to her was…. what’s the difference between Sujani and Kantha? Sujani, she explained is a mix of running, chain and filler or Bharua stitches while Kantha is predominantly running. Common to both Bihar and Bengal (neighbouring states of india), these traditional crafts are aesthetically layered and sewn together out of old, worn pieces of cloth.

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Romancing the Kashmiri shawl

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Preferring hot beverages like coffee, Hot Toddy and kehwa, curled up in bed throughout my new year break I was engrossed reading a coffee table book The Romance of the Cashmere Shawl by Monique Levi-Strauss lent by Shameem Abdulla (a dealer of beautiful and authentic shawls, upholstery, carpets, walnut wood furniture and papier-mâché from Kashmir in Delhi).

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