Fashion and Innovation

Fashion and Innovation

The second edition of The Platform, a programme to identify and mentor upcoming designers by Smartwater, a premium water brand, has three winners — Bloni by Akshat Bansal, SWGT by Shweta Gupta and Salita Nanda. 

The initiative is aimed to unearth talent and direct them towards innovation, risk taking, and forward thinking. 

The theme for the competition this season was #MadeDifferently, which invited participating designers to demonstrate cutting edge technology and innovation in fabrics, materials or surface application. Now these winners will get to showcase their work at the Lakmé Fashion Week Winter Festive 2019 that will kickstart on August 21 in Mumbai. But before that, we caught up with them to find out more about their designs.

Launched in 2015, Salita Nanda’s eponymous label is her ode to the modern Indian woman with femininity, playfulness and effortless elegance. “There is a twisted modernity and a strong emotional current that come together to make the brand. Synonymous with revolution, transformation and independence, the label offers garments designed for a woman who confidently embraces vivid prints and colour palettes while also appreciating the value of artisanal craft,” says Nanda. 

About their collection that won them a chance to present the brand on the runway at LFW, she says, “We have used richly layered digital prints that are a blend of historic pop imagery and contemporary cultural iconography to create a version of pop graffiti art hybrid prints that form the basis of the collection. The theme #madedifferently gives us the creative freedom to enjoy the process of creating a collection that is unique and innovative with the use of stencils, spray painting and improvisational hand painting. The prints are hand illustrated along with acrylic paints and hand embroidered appliqued 3D embroideries.”

The inspiration for this collection comes from anonymous England-based street artist Banksy’s protégée, Thierry Guetta’s work. “Mr Brainwash is a French-born, LA based street artist Thierry Guetta. The infamous street artist and his obsession with art, form the basis of this collection, which is a unique fusion of classic pop art imagery with the subversive playfulness of contemporary street art. Working primarily with layers of screen print and stenciled images, the compositions are emblematic of a graffiti wall inundated with 20th century iconography,” she says. 

The designer hopes to use this platform to  challenge the norms in fashion. “I hope to work with and revive more dying crafts from around the country and work with local artisans to create jobs and employment, designing collections that reinterpret aesthetic codes through a new perspective, celebrating an individualistic sense of taste and awareness,” says Nanda. 

She believes that sustainability is the future of this industry. “We focus on our transition to a circular economy by minimising resource inputs and waste by using energy efficient equipment and through an intelligent design process that ensures slowing or closing of such loopholes. Our brand develops a limited-edition capsule of accessories crafted from waste fabric by an intelligent alignment of patterns during the cutting stage to ensure maximum utilisation of resources,” she says. 

Established in 2017, the brand Bloni is all about modern ethical luxury that transcends clothing beyond creativity and blends craft with technology to evolve with time, says Akshat Bansal, founder of the label. 

Talking about coming up with an imaginative way of dealing with the theme for the programme this year, he says, “This collection deals with social media anxiety issues and emotional baggage being a major complication among millennials. Humans are now #madedifferently. The very core and construct of the collection too, is made differently, where the pieces are handcrafted meticulously using age old techniques and technologically advanced fabrics such as reflective, iridescent, recycled polyester latex and water resistant parachutes, most of which are regenerated from marine plastic waste.”

His inspiration comes from the circle of life, in some ways. “Over the years, I have observed that familiarity breeds commonalities, and this forms a cycle which becomes never-ending. Each person is a new artist on social media and has something different to say and each individual receptor wishes to be the new artist,” he says, adding, “The unusual was never mundane — but it is now sought after more than ever. A growing need to secure your identity and make a mark on this fickle world has a generation convinced that they must be different, that they must translate their regularity into eccentricity, tying them invariably to those who have set the trend.”

The designer is thrilled to be a part of an esteemed fashion event such as LFW, and can’t wait to show everyone his ideas. 

“We are introducing animation and digitally rendered fabrics. With the promotional activities and media exposure that the platform would provide, we intend for the brand to go global as well as create awareness about the acceptance of one’s identity and understanding the balance between reality and the virtual world,” he says.  

Designer Shweta Gupta’s label SWGT is all about translating her aesthetic expressions with artistic skill to indigenous techniques and abstract fabric stories. The USP of the brand lies in the crossover between craft and nature. “We focus on contemporary fuss-free silhouettes in an earthy palette while using sustainable design techniques. The collection is pattern engineered against handloom silk and cotton yarns. We do our best to have very minimal waste during our production,” says she. 

To deal with the theme of the competition, she recalls how the collection was pattern engineered on the loom in the yarns of silk and cotton with minimal waste pattern cutting practices and new innovations in the construction and moulding of hand-woven textile. “Collections by the brand are inspired by mountains — the flora and fauna found in the Indian Valleys. The moss, ferns and rocks that I saw in Tirthan and Solang Valley inspired the textures for our Autumn Winter collection. I travel a lot and while I do, I tend to take some time out and really explore my surroundings. I try to connect with nature the best I can. It is through this time during my travels that I decide on the palette, textures and silhouettes I’ll use for my upcoming collection,” she says. 

For her, sustainability is much more than just a trend, it is a design practice. “We understand that natural resources are limited and are being depleted at an unprecedented rate. Hence, we choose to sustain age-old traditional practices like working on handloom to eliminate waste. We use natural fibres, while incorporating authentic elements of design, which are decided on in-house. We are committed to creating engineered patterns with minimal waste,” she says.

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