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Can clothes have a domino effect?

Fashion designer Ruchika Sachdeva on everyday chic, her love for kantha, and why she believes in slow fashion

Written by Ektaa Malik |
April 11, 2021 6:30:02 am
Bollywood actress Ananya Pandey poses during LAKME ABSOLUTE GRAND FINALE PRESENTS BODICE BY RUCHIKA SACHDEVA show at the FDCI (Fashion Design Council of India) x LFW (Lakme Fashion Week) 2021 at Princess Dock in Mumbai, India on 21st March 2021 Photo : FS Images / FDCI x Lakme Fashion Week 2021 / RISE Worldwide

At the FDCI Lakmé Fashion Week (LFW) held last month in Mumbai, the finale made for a refreshing change of pace. Instead of going with the tried and tested policy of “when in doubt, go bling”, it opted for the lowkey style statement that Delhi-based designer Ruchika Sachdeva’s label, Bodice, embodies.

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She showcases under the label Bodice, which completes a decade this year. Her collection for the phygital (physical-cum-digital) edition of the fashion week — “Ready, Set, Play” — was a nod to the popular board game, Dominoes. The ramp, too, was modified to look like a board game. “The domino effect is basically a ripple effect where any small action, however insignificant, sets off a chain of slightly bigger actions — the butterfly effect. During the pandemic, I felt a really strong connection with this. Nothing in life happens all of a sudden, it’s all a ripple effect. I work with pleats and lines, and there’s a lot of symmetry in it. Lines blend into each other, hence the ripple effect. When you move, the pleats and lines move with you, creating that domino effect,” says the fashion designer, who works out of her studio in Delhi’s Vasant Kunj.

Pleats, pintucks, billowing pleated sleeves and symmetry dominated Sachdeva’s youthful and peppy showcase at the fashion week. Each of the outfits were painstakingly detailed and handcrafted, evoking a richness of luxury, without ostentatious embellishments.

Bodice’s clothes will not look out of place at a conference, a beachside brunch or even a dressy day at work. “It’s the responsibility of designers like us to celebrate the everyday. Why do we wait for a sangeet or a wedding alone to look nice? Why wait only for the big things? We can celebrate and enjoy the small things. Women don’t want to look beautiful just at a shaadi anymore,” says Sachdeva, who began her career designing clothes for women in 2011 and then launched a men’s capsule in 2019. “

A model poses during LAKME ABSOLUTE GRAND FINALE PRESENTS BODICE BY RUCHIKA SACHDEVA show at the FDCI (Fashion Design Council of India) x LFW (Lakme Fashion Week) 2021 at Princess Dock in Mumbai, India on 21st March 2021 (Photo : FS Images / FDCI x Lakme Fashion Week 2021 / RISE Worldwide)

For centuries, men have gotten away wearing light, easy-going clothes, while women struggle to walk in those heavy lehengas. I am sure that this culture has evolved over time, but that’s where we, leaders of the industry and culture makers come in — designers, painters, writers, sculptors, etc. That’s how movements start, like the Modernist movement did.”
Sachdeva shot into the limelight in 2018 when she won the International Woolmark Prize, having debuted in the Indian fashion scene as a Lakme Gen Next designer in 2010. Her approach of “slow sustainable fashion”, with materials sourced from Bhuttico weavers’ collective in Himachal Pradesh, was refreshing.

Today, even as high-street fashion brands encourage a consumerist culture talk of sustainability, Sachdeva says, “Honestly, I didn’t use these terms even when I started out. And even now I don’t use them as talking points. I feel it should be in the DNA of any fashion anything, to be responsible. To be sustainable or to be slow, is nothing special. It’s the most basic human thing. But, yes, sustainable, conscious clothing and slow fashion have become buzzwords. I am glad that people have been pushed to have some clean practices for fashion. If any high street brand does even two per cent, it will make a difference,” she says.

The conversation turns to kantha, the humble running stitch, which seems to have a special place in Sachdeva’s heart and oeuvre. “Some grandmothers like to knit; in my family, we did kantha. I have some quilts which have been made from old sarees and salwar kameezes of my aunts, mother and grandmothers. It’s said that the blessings of our elders are passed down in that tradition. Also, kantha enabled the longevity of materials. We come from a culture where we don’t throw things away. This upcycling is being spoken about now, but we have practised it for generations. We make 50 units of one design, we sell it for, maybe, Rs 25,000 each. We take a month for making that one particular outfit. A woman who has paid for it, and is waiting for it for a month, will not throw it away after one season,” says the 34-year-old.

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