HE MAY have earned his stripes by manipulating fabric to create exaggerated proportions, anti-fit silhouettes and sculptural shapes, but Kolkata-based designer Kallol Datta is no stranger to working with various mediums, forms and materials. The founder of fashion label Kallol Datta 1955 has produced art prints and digital collages, penned poems, created installations — even designed bedsheets — offering us a window into his versatility as a contemporary creative force. Yet, when he was approached by Nikhil Paul of
Delhi-based lighting studio Paul Matter last year to collaborate on a series of lamps, the National Institute of Fashion Technology (Kolkata) and Central Saint Martins (London) graduate was a tad apprehensive. Not just because he hadn’t worked with metal before, but because he isn’t too fond of multitasking and was busy working with his Lakme Fashion Week line.
But Datta and Paul’s mutual admiration for each other’s work did finally help the collaboration fall into place.
“I have always liked Nikhil’s designs — very minimal and intelligently done. And he liked the sculptural quality of my garments. What both our works have in common is the beautiful acknowledgment of negative space, where a lot has been left unsaid,” says Datta.
The result is a unique collaboration between Paul’s Delhi studio and Datta’s Kolkata atelier. “I doodled, took fabric and created random shapes and then fine-tuned them. The initial form and prototyping was done with fabric and plaster of Paris. Then I went to Nikhil’s studio to expose myself to his techniques and learn about the technology involved,” says Datta.
This collaboration of form and functionality has given birth to four unique sculptural lights — a combination of ceiling, floor and surface lamps — evocatively titled “Overlay” and “Underlay”. The collaborators have played with mediums such as stainless steel, burnt brass and smoked glass. While Datta put his design genius to work in the lamps that give the effect of “3D folds of fabric arrested in metal”, Paul provided the much-needed technical expertise, idea of proportion and scale and often practical grounding lessons in elementary physics. Advanced touch sensors endeavour to make this a balancing act between fashionable form and pragmatic functionality.
For someone who tends to lean towards the dark and macabre — he has drawn inspiration from autopsies, amputation, blood and death for his fashion collections in the past — Datta’s illuminating collection espouses comparatively cleaner lines, brighter surfaces and design economy. While a distinct story or narrative may be missing from the collection, it’s hard to miss his proportion play. “I always like to play with certain proportions and see how I can further skew them. And there’s always an unconscious referencing of the human body,” says Datta. His love for shine, that manifests itself in the use of foil work in his garments, takes on a subversive quality here too. “While we’ve used stainless steel, which might not be considered a super luxurious material, we’ve also burnt it to make it look like black foil in one of the pieces,” says Datta.