Whether it was Alia Bhatt’s ikkat print maxi or Sonakshi Sinha’s Odisha print bustier dress, there is something common in each of Saaksha Bhat and Kinnari Kamat’s designs — the love for Indian craftsmanship. That is exactly what the young designer duo showcased at the grand finale of the recently-concluded Lakme Fashion Week.
The label, which started in 2017, has seen a meteoric rise from their first Gen Next show to the latest one as showstopper designers. With models wearing printed outfits and loud eye makeup, this year’s show was an ode to the Indian tradition, while also celebrating the vibrant colours and versatile prints and techniques.
In a tête-à-tête, Saaksha talked about the importance of going season-fluid, their young label, ethos and much more.
What story did you want to tell through your latest collection?
We really wanted to throw a spotlight on the Banjaara tribes, the women in particular. We wanted to invoke the story of Indian craftsmanship and artisans. It is something that has received much attention because of the ongoing pandemic. More than ever, this is really the time to support their skills, labour and the talent our rich country has; like the lambani work they do, it is a skill special to India and the Banjara tribe. This is something we wanted to showcase on a global level, as it is important for us to focus on them, help and preserve them.
Was bringing traditional craft into a contemporary setting always the plan?
Right from the beginning, the idea was to highlight Indian colours and prints while putting them on global silhouettes. However, when it came to the embroidery, as time passed, we found out that it was more important to preserve. This was a concern arising not only from an aesthetic point of view, but also with the need to highlight environmental and social issues.
So, we started with focusing on prints and colours from day 1, but in terms of seeking out different clusters of tribes within India and highlighting their embroideries and showcasing them on a global level. Like in the past, we have done a lot of ikat, patolas and bandhani, but this season we have brought a twist to the bandhani in our own way.
Don’t you think your latest collection is seasonal, at a time designers across the industry are propagating the idea of producing timeless ensembles that do not really follow the fashion calendar?
I think this is something we have been talking about for a while now, going season-fluid. Lakme going season fluid this year was also a great coincidence! We feel it is really important as designers, as well as consumers, that we just don’t shop for autumn/winter or spring/summer. It is important from a designer’s perspective to design ensembles that can be mixed and matched throughout all seasons. And as a consumer, it is really important, socially, to not just pick a colour palette or a trend, but to have everlasting clothes that can be mixed and matched as well as be repeated and recycled.
Also, all unnecessary clothes end up in the landfill, thus going season fluid is important in terms of not only limiting the number of pieces per collection but also about focusing on key styles which you know can easily translate into one’s wardrobe.
As a young label, how does it feel to be the showstopper designers so early in your career?
It has been a whirlwind. This was something we never expected so early on in our career. However, the really cool takeaway was that the theme was ‘spotlight-ready’ and we do think that it shone the light on the future of Indian fashion and where it could go by keeping two really distinct styles for the grand finale — us along with Rimzim Dadu.
It is amazing how they are giving a chance to young designers by allowing them to showcase their talent. For us, it almost feels like we have come full circle. They have really promoted and pushed us to do something we never thought was possible. We are really humbled and grateful to have received this opportunity on such a massive platform. The feeling is still sinking in!
Was working for a digital fashion show easier than working for an in-person show?
Designing for a digital show is much harder as compared to an in-person show, because when you are designing clothes for the latter, people can touch, feel and see the garment up close and personal. You have certain liberties in terms of the embroidery, the fabric seams because people will get to see it in person. But, when you are designing for the former you have to make sure that chiffon looks like chiffon and moves just like that, the embroidery has to be visually larger. It also has to not only capture but hold the person’s attention because you are showing the collection through a lens. So it is even harder to create something that is exciting– something which will make people give up five minutes of their time.
How long did it take you to conceptualise the collection, and what are the things you made sure were incorporated in the same?
It took us two months. We had already started developing our prints long back because they take around four-five months at least. But in terms of design, it was a challenge because we weren’t physically together. There were a lot of zoom calls, pictures going back and forth while changes were being made. I had to rely on Kinni’s eye because she was present in Mumbai while I was stuck here in London. Overall, it went off quite smoothly and we learnt a lot during the process. Going forward, not being present physically makes you work on your design better because you take a lot into consideration. You look through the audience’s eye. So whenever Kinni used to send me a design, I used to tell her as an audience this is what I am missing in this detail.
What are your favourite pieces from collection?
Our favourite has to be the embroidered jacket worn by Mrunal that was so intricate in terms of mirror and thread work. Not only that, it wasn’t over the top. You could wear the jacket easily to work, a brunch or a dinner. It is really versatile and oversized, thus making it comfortable. I also like the versatile summer shorts and co-ord sets. I think they are really fun. Like I said since we are season-fluid, many can say, ‘hey, how could you put shorts for winter festive season?’ But that is the beauty of it — we aren’t designing for a particular season.
Do you plan to make your shows more inclusive in the future?
Absolutely! This is something we wanted to do this time. Unfortunately, when you are working with an organisation like Lakme, it is limited in terms of what models we can go for. But as a brand, when we have full creative control, and this is something we will surely take into consideration because at least 60-70 per cent of our consumers are plus-size. This is something we would want to represent, However, I would say that what we are proud of is we always take dark-skinned girls, even for our lookbooks and campaign images.
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