Most of collections that go on Indian runways during fashion weeks never(?) make it to the streets(at least not in my documentation/if it has happened before let me know)…so it was nice to see the process being reversed during Paromita’s show and streets going up on the runway first. Maybe the runway will follow someday?
Her clothes are inspired by bartan walis, dhobis, & rickshaw walas. She likes the initial chaos of creating…prefers rustic elegance to glamorous fashion…likes to mix elements from different cultures in her designs. She photographs bicycles and her own collections..has done about 5 fashion weeks..and all this started off when she was only looking around. I also quite like the last line of her description for her SS’10 collection – “don’t miss the rooster.”
Paromita Banerjee, 27. Fashion designer.
I was born and brought up in a part of Kolkata which was surrounded by old architecture, small lanes and by-lanes, that eventually grew into my being and left a lasting impression. I was a shy kid and my parents made sure that I never missed having a sibling around. I travelled a lot around the country with my parents. I was, and still am, a voracious reader; painting was a hobby and I remember being enrolled in “art classes” which later gave way to my career.
You joined NID to study textile design. How did you end up designing clothes?
At NID, studying textile design was more of an offshoot thing that I could directly correlate to my painting classes. During the course I could not see myself doing just textiles. I felt my knowledge had to be used to create something more tangible that I could relate to- like creating garments.
My first internship and final graduation project was with Ashish Soni – whose style I absolutely love. While working there I realised my own potential for creating designs and starting my own label. Nothing seemed impossible and the fact that one must have years and oodles of job-experience is slightly exaggerated.
I think it was also my want to reach out to a wider audience and the thrill to see somebody wearing my creations and walking right past me. Now, when that happens, it’s an amazing feeling.
At Konstfack, Stockholm.
I was granted a three and half month scholarship at the Konstfack University of Art and Culture. I attended half a semester of the textile design courses offered there. Amongst many things, I learnt different methods of printing which is quite a variation from what we study in India. There was a module for studying clothing and dressing styles of the costumes of the Royal Opera Theatre, Stockholm. I was also taught machine knitting which I thoroughly enjoyed.
You’d mentioned you draw inspiration from the feel of handloom fabrics and your garments emphasize the feel of the “hand-made.” What is the process like? And once you get inspired what actually takes place in terms of turning that idea in to clothes?
The fabrics are usually hand-made or hand-woven on the looms which also make each fabric yardage unique- as the imperfections in the nature of the cloth, while being woven, are the true essence and character of it. I start my designing process with a visual reference comprising mostly of images that I have seen around me or of what I would have photographed sometime over the years. I couple this visual reference with a bit of research work, so that I am ready to start a collection. I also follow up on the various clothing styles and cultures of different geographical regions. I try and reflect this in my work.
..similar to your summer/resort 2010 collection?
Yes, I was greatly inspired by the Bengali “laal-paar” sari that has a traditional red hand-woven border with a “Temple” / triangular motif on an off-white cotton base. It is an intrinsic part of every Bengali ritual and festival. I also worked upon other hand-woven fabrics like muslin and kota, and coupled them with chintz prints. The fabrics were sourced from the hand- weaving clusters around West Bengal. I had named it “The Laal-Paar and Other Stories.”
Do you think participating in fashion weeks is necessary?
Yes, initially to get the world to notice you, it absolutely is. Whether you like it or not, a fashion week has a wider reach in this age of information and technology. Even before the lights go dim at the end of a show, the ramp pictures have already been circulated. Which designer would not want this kind of publicity? Having said that, on the flip side, if one is confident of selling designs, and if he knows his client base and market, one can do so, then a fashion week might not seem important. Although the initial road-map is clearer after a couple of seasons of participation at fashion weeks.
How many Fashion weeks have you done so far?
..four consecutive seasons at the LFW, Mumbai. I was also the sole designer representing India in Shanghai last month, at the Shanghai chapter of the World Fashion Organisation under the United Nations. There were designers representing each of the five continents.
Your first show and inspirations.
My first show at the Lakmé Fashion Week for Gen-next collection was in March 2009. We had an option of creating 8-10 looks for a fall/winter line. The selection process was intense as there were many other applicants. I had sent a single ensemble (which till date remains one of my best selling pieces) in double layered Khadi with stark leaf motifs embroidered along the hem. I teamed it with another double layered shawl drape which was also hand-woven and with a placement embroidery detail. It got selected and finally I built up on it by working out looks inspired by what I saw on the streets – style of the lady who sells utensils on the road, the checkered “lungi” that a cycle rickshaw driver wears, the dhoti drape of a dhobi. It might sound bizarre, but these are the real torch-bearers of “fashion”. They are creating “looks” out of the only pieces of clothing they own, that too, with such a strong identity. With all these looks in mind, I designed the collection and once the music (I select my music- mostly folkloric and world fusion genres) and make-up was decided, I was geared up for my very first show.
I’ve noticed a lot of students do well in their class curriculum but don’t achieve all that much in their final design collection. What do you think goes wrong?
I think they end up trying too hard to put in all that they have learned in that one single collection. At the end of it, it is very essential to understand the kind of clothes one would want to make, the context in which one would want to place his/her collection, and finally to understand the market which he/she would initially want to cater to. Perhaps, one can disagree with me, since it is not possible to understand/ judge all this while at the beginners’ stage, but to me, a reality check right at the beginning always means you will go a long way.
Any dos and don’ts for the first timers at fashion weeks?
Don’t underestimate or overestimate the media.
Don’t try to ape anybody else’s look or idea if it does not suit your brand or identity. It would look hideous.
A fashion week would be back 6 months later, so do not be greedy and try to show all your ideas all at once. It would be a huge mess.
Try to finish garments way before time to check for finishing, etc. The last sore thumb is bad finishing at a prestigious fashion week.
Be confident and brave if you are taking risks with any particular collection or “look.” Risks are a part of our line of work.
Finally, do believe in your instincts. It always works.
Winter/Festive 2010 collection and inspirations.
Based on the references from cultural styles that I have grown to like over the years..I’ve added a stronger statement with the head-wrap along with colour blocks, which somehow had something very Japanese about them. I am hugely inspired by the costumes and attire of people in different regions and more often than not, they are the locals from the various ethnic groups all over the world. They are the ones with the strongest impression and essence on who they are or where they have originally come from. While the whole world is out to get “modernized” these are the cultural groups that have tried to stay grounded.
This was a collection with ethnic-contemporary influences. The look was based on a collection of stories from a mix of old-Gharana-style shawl drapes to Mughal-style angarkha wraps to the kimono-inspired shift dresses in Khadi. The fabrics were mostly hand woven in the form of Khadi, Matka and Tussar from Bengal, Handloom Mangalagiri cotton from Andhra Pradesh, to discharge printed silks. The embroidery motifs were borrowed from the Mughal “patka” with modifications of the leaf from the “pichvai” /temple hanging cloth.
In the first story, the silhouettes were colour-blocked black & white with a stark red accent based on a look in Khadi with the garments being a cultural mix of influences from the Kosode: the short-sleeved kimono, to the Mughal jama and angarakhas, both essentially being men’s style of clothing.
Resist dyeing was used in the indigo-white story, again in Khadi, hand-woven on shift dresses and bolero wraps.
In the third, darker hues of rust, fuchsia, greens to greys, and yellows were used + lots of layering in the form of panelled kurtas and lehenga skirts with waist-coats.
Update: I usually make the shoes with fabric scraps left-overs after each collection. So one would find all these handlooms, chintz, textures, embroidery left-overs/gone-bad pieces, transforming into shoes. Due to public demand, I intend to manufacture them for the roads as well since right now they all have printed fabric soles.
How important is it for you to have a celebrity wear one of your designs from a business point of view?
Frankly its a huge validation if a celebrity does wear one’s designs. It is equivalent to instant publicity since the “aam-janta” can relate to them (I wonder how), which might have otherwise taken months to achieve through the usual processes of brand building. But to be honest, I’m more for making clothes which appeal to my sense of aesthetics or the mood and direction that I want to take in a particular collection; I really don’t care whether any celebrity would like to endorse my clothes or not.
Do you see yourself having a “bollywood show stopper” someday?
No! Never! At this point of time, I’m absolutely against the idea because I feel it is the clothes that draw the “real” audience to the shows and not the show-stoppers. As designers we can be called upon to be fashion ‘trend-setters’ for the next season, and in no way would I want that to be diluted by the presence of a celebrity show-stopper walking the ramp during my ramp shows. I feel my clothes by themselves have the right to make their presence felt, without an added celebrity “stopping” my “show!” I am confident enough to make a collection speak for itself with the right kind of styling/look/feel, without someone else doing it for me. I still do not understand the big-deal about star -gazing. Nevertheless, the celebrities are more than welcome to attend my shows if they can relate to my work, and i would of course design for them if they like.
Do you think that our obsession with beauty and celebrities might change?
No it might not. In fact it will increase over time. We all talk about words like “inner beauty,” beauty in the eyes of the beholder and all of that, but at the end of the day we still go in for a fair-handsome groom or vice-versa! On a not so serious note, the number of fairness products that have flooded the market, leaves one wanting to be on the “fair” side of it all! We like our celebrities to be well – turned out. We gossip over the fact that we’ve seen one of them repeating the same outfits on more than one occasion, we snigger over the fact that one of them has apparently put on weight…and blah blah. Now, can we stop obsessing about these? Not all of us can; after all we all need a diversion from our mundane existences (or something like that )perhaps.
Available at: Ensemble, Zoya, Aza in Mumbai, Collage in Chennai, Taamara and Anonym in Hyderabad, Sade in Pune, Nautanky in Ahmedabad, Ensemble in Delhi. Price range from Rs 4,200 to 16,000.