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Saturday, October 16, 2021

‘Would love to dress up Rekha’: Designer Leena Singh

"Our creations are best carried off by women who portray timeless beauty and elegance, like Sharmila Tagore, Rekha and Shabana Azmi," she says

Written by Shweta Sharma | New Delhi |
September 22, 2021 12:30:17 pm
Leena Singh, Ashima-Leena, fashion designers Ashima-LeenaDesigner Leena Singh recently presented her collection, ‘Nazm-e-Mahal’ at India Couture Week. (Photo: PR Handout)

Designer Leena Singh of the label Ashima-Leena’s latest collection ‘Nazm-e-Mahal’ beautifully narrates the story of a Maharani’s life, marked with opulence and royalty, yet “drenched in simplicity”.

Showcased at the India Couture Week 2021, the collection is a combination of “delicate hand-embroidery with meticulously curated woven textiles with classic royal silhouettes worn by maharanis in the Mughal era.”

“Through our interpretation, the brand aspires to reflect a poetic flow in volume, layers, and impeccable garment construction which characterizes the unique beauty of ‘Nazm-e-Mahal’,” the fashion designer says.

In an email interaction with, Leena Singh talks about the creations, the pandemic, and who she thinks carries of their creations the best. Excerpts:

What has been your inspiration for this collection, and how different was the designing experience amid the pandemic?

We have been working with artisans and weavers from last three decades. As such, the brand has been crafting its couture collection, season after season, reflecting the heritage of India through fashion. Ashima-Leena has a rich legacy of design derived from the royalty of the palaces, which is also the ethos of our brand. Therefore the inspiration also came naturally from the same.

The experience of designing in pandemic was really not different except that the safety of our team members and workers was of utmost priority, and hence a strict protocol was followed while the collection was being designed and executed.

The pandemic has had a huge impact on the fashion industry — how has it affected you personally as well as professionally?

The pandemic came as a great teacher, but fortunately, being grounded and humble have always been rooted within me. The winds of fashion never changed me as a person and I never got lost in the glitz and glamour of the industry.

Professionally, yes, the industry has been affected very badly and our studio and store were also closed for so many months. Weddings and events got cancelled, hence it was only natural for a business like ours to be hit as the fashion industry thrives on weddings. Also, it would not be wrong to say that luxury brands got hit maximum by the pandemic.

Virtual fashion shows also became prominent in the last two years; what is your opinion of them vis-à-vis physical shows?

Although couture is best-experienced on ramp, I guess there was no other option to reach the audience and our clients. So virtual showcasing was the only way to bridge that gap.

Sustainable fashion also took center stage; what is your take on sustainability and how easy is it to achieve the same?

Sustainability was the highpoint of Ashima-Leena collection. The most interesting thing about Nazm-e-Mahal is that it is created using a collection of old antique brocade saris procured from the wardrobes of Maharanis from the palaces of Rajasthan. They were then restored by my weavers with the warp and weft in real gold and silver. The magic created by restoration techniques is truly amazing and remains the best example of sustainability.

The colours of these saris are subdued pastel in lightest turquoise, light peach and light pink; brighter ones in purple thrown in for creating that magical effect.

Many celebrities have worn your creations, but who do you think carries them off the best?

Our creations are best carried off by women who portray timeless beauty and elegance, like Sharmila Tagore, Rekha, and Shabana Azmi.

The one celebrity you really wish to design for, and why?

I would love to dress up Rekha. She would look gorgeous in our saris.

The one good and bad thing about the impact of the pandemic on the fashion industry?

The bad thing about a pandemic is that it economically affected our businesses; the good thing is that despite all the hardships, the industry still remains tall and strong.

How important are showstoppers? Have you ever felt that having a celebrity takes away the spotlight from the creations?

We, as a brand, have never felt the need to enhance our collection through showstoppers. For me, my collection has always been the spotlight and each outfit is a star in itself.

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