Calcutta had a brush with fashion on Wednesday afternoon. On the menu were two important members of the country’s fashion fraternity — grand dame Ritu Kumar and ‘it’ boy Atsu Sekhose. t2 caught up with them for quick chats after they announced the launch of Northeast Fashion Weekend ’10 to be held in Guwahati from August 11 to 13.
You were the only senior designer who bothered to see the shows at Delhi Couture Week…
Ritu Kumar takes the bow at Kolkata Fashion Week last year;
(below) an Atsu Sekhose fall-winter 2010 look
I guess the rest of them might have been busy. I had just got back from Spain and I had a little extra time in hand. Also, I know most of the participants for a long time — some since they were kids! I would have loved to see it and so I did. I often travel to Paris to see their Couture Week and after seeing this years shows my faith in Indian fashion has become stronger.
Any luxury brand that comes to India to sell clothes will have a very very tough time! We have such a strong traditional background. For close to 60 years we were not allowed to import something as little as a button or a zip, so we have grown indigenously with a very solid base. The Indian story is unique and I am very proud to be part of it.
From Moscow to Spain, its been a globetrotting few months…
Yes! I have enjoyed every moment of it. In Spain, I was honoured alongside another Spanish designer who is 82 years old! It feels very special to represent your country abroad.
Through all the felicitations and tributes, is there anything that Ritu Kumar still needs to do?
Sometimes they give you a lifetime achievement award and that makes you feel you should wrap up! (Laughs). But seriously, its nice to get acknowledged though living in this country, there is still so much more one can do. I hope the day never comes when I feel bereft. I want to work more with khadi and I also want to continue research for my book. I also want to go back to painting, but I have been saying that for 30 years now!
Mel B to Freida Pinto, everyone wears Label. What is your labels secret of success?
I think it is the combination of a young mind, that is my son Ambrish, and old family aesthetics. He cant see his girlfriends wearing my designs and vice versa! So Label borrows the richness of our aesthetics. What Mel B wore from Label was so different from anything little or black she would have found on that street, which had everything from Versace to Dior.
How long before we understand the value of vintage?
My next collection is totally vintage. I think people do appreciate the value of vintage in our country but they just dont know it as yet. Our women, without realising it, understand vintage. They wear what suits them. They always had a clear understanding of what works for them. And we are still not wearing a white dress to our weddings!
Ikkat is the Wests latest desi discovery. What are some other Indian elements waiting to be explored?
Well, there is organic cotton. And also shibori.
Finally, what is your top tip to preserve dadis saris?
First, roll it in fabric, never plastic. Second, if you notice cracks on your grandmas Benarasi, roll it on a rod (could be an aluminium rod) and dont fold it again.
Meet Nagaland-born Atsu SEkhose. Rising star of the fashion world. His silhouettes are so modern, they could be from any corner of the globe. His style is individualistic and cuts are clean. And he doesnt use fuchsia pink just because he is Indian! A t2 chat…
What are some of your really early fashion influences…
Growing up in Nagaland, where everyone is so well-dressed, is one of my first fashion influences. I used to look forward to Sunday church to see who was wearing what! We grew up aping musicians and rockstars like Madonna, Prince and George Michael, unlike other kids of the 1980s who have grown up on Bollywood. Then I went to NIFT in Delhi. Many people had a tough job getting accustomed to design school but since I had grown up seeing fashion all around, it was easy for me. My mother used to read Vogue! As a family we used to travel a lot so that brought along much exposure too.
Fashion graduates intern with a designer for a month and then adopt their style sensibilities. How did you manage to retain your individual style after apprenticing with Tarun Tahiliani?
I always knew I didnt want to be another Tarun Tahiliani. When you are working with another designer you have to deliver what they want, you have to think like them but not after you have started out on your own. Then you have to be true to yourself. You have to discover who you really are, and what you want to present.
Your current collection was unveiled in Milan. For such a young label like yours, thats quite something...
Thankfully, its been a smooth ride for me. When I launched my label in 2007 I was lucky to get noticed immediately. In two or three months I was all over the fashion magazines. But it is a tough job. To deliver season after season with such expectations is very tough for a young designer like me. There is also some responsibility, not only because I am from the Northeast, but basically because I am Indian. People abroad have now started taking Indian fashion so seriously. Designers like Manish Arora and Rajesh Pratap Singh have been noticed.
When I got invited to Milan, it was a dream come true. It was like representing the country. My collection was well received and I am now participating in exhibitions. There is one coming up in Paris in September.
Your recent designs dont have an obvious made-in-India stamp. Is that deliberate?
Well, the Indian market is very tough. Sometimes they want Indian, sometimes fusion. Delhi wants something, Mumbai something else. To create a collection to please everyone is not possible so I bank on my own sensibilities. I have a large private clientele, many of whom are expats. They like my garments because they are cut like Western garments but also celebrate Indian elements.
so, when I go to show abroad, what is the point of taking just a jacket? They already have Armani! I try to incorporate ethnic Indian touches to my designs not in an obvious manner but in a subtle way so that people everywhere can actually wear them. Just because I am Indian doesnt mean I have to make clothes in fuchsia pink! I dont want to be another Manish Arora. I have my individual style. And its not in-your-face made-in-India but yes, there is a big Indian element to each piece, be it the textile, colour or the craftsmanship.
Who is an Atsu woman?
She is an individual who has a mind of her own. She knows how to wear her wardrobe, how to mix and match. And she is definitely not in head-to-toe Atsu!