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Art on your sleeve

Is that a Nida Mahmood you’re wearing? The knee-skimming dress with puppets hand-painted boldly on its bodice screams Mahmood’s kitschy style statement. Get this straight: when you own a piece of Mahmood, you own a piece of art. Yes, the fashion experience today is a lot about art. The trend might have been kick-started in India a few years ago by fashion designer Manish Arora, and followed up by Mahmood, but the good news is that a clutch of young artists-cum-designers are bringing a range of hand-painted, technicolour looks to the table.

Artists are swishing their paintbrushes to create a huge range of fashionable clothes and accessories.

So, what happens when art enters the realm of daily life? “You get T-shirts and bras blazing with artwork,” says 20-year-old artist, Siddhant Gandhi. These, however, are not just your average tees and innerwear, but come hand-painted with images of legends including Jim Morrison, The Beatles and even Indian gods including Krishna and Shiva.

“I might even combine lyrics from Pink Floyd’s songs with an image of Shiva. These are not just T-shirts, they are also statements of my belief,” says Gandhi who launched his fashion label, Toosid, in 2010. And if you have old shoes that you want to throw away, hand them over to Gandhi who will paint on them.

He retails from Layla, a boutique in Delhi’s artsy Hauz Khas Village. While the tees cost Rs 2,000, the bras range between Rs 2,000 and Rs 3,000.

Cut to a studio in Sainik Farms, Delhi, where a pair of college students in their early 20s play with paintbrushes and plain canvas shoes. Aakriti Jain and Nitya George’s funky shoe line is called (wittily enough) Foot Goes Here. George is completing a Master’s degree in sustainable development from TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute) University. Jain, meanwhile, is pursuing a post-graduate degree in psychology from Dr B.R. Ambedkar University.

“Since the brand name appears inside the shoes, we imply in a tongue-in-cheek way that if you don’t know what to do with them — just slip your feet in,” laughs George. One of their signature statements are glow-in-the-dark painted shoes. George adds that while they offer a range of designs that can be painted on the shoes or the designs can also be customised. They have already designed 250 pairs of shoes (Rs 600 to Rs 800).

Madhuri Mamgain, meanwhile, specialises in ballerina shoes. The designer — who worked at fashion label Carlton London in 2011 — launched an eponymous label of hand-painted shoes last year. She retails from her studio in Shahpur Jat in Delhi and sells online as well.

“The customisation can be done in any way you want. The shoes are just made for you,” says Mamgain who studied at the Footwear Design and Development Institute (FDDI), Noida. Mamgain designed her first pair of shoes at the age of 16 and today her range of ballerinas is priced between Rs 1,250 and Rs 4,500. Mamgain also retails hand-painted clutches (between Rs 1,050 and Rs 2,100) and hand-painted tote bags (between Rs 4,500 and Rs 10,000).

For a dash of pop art look no further than Maati, a craft-oriented label by Aniruddha and Swati Saha. The couple — in their mid-30s — brings a slice of rural India to urban India. At their store in Hauz Khas Village, you come upon a varied tableau of images from rural India painted upon soft enzyme-washed T- shirts and cutesy clutches.

“Our first T-shirt carried an image of a Baul singer that was painted by a local artist in Nabadwip. Today, we have a tie-up with 70 artists from across the country including Kerala, Orissa, Bihar and Bengal,” says Swati, a NIFT graduate. Maati’s tees are priced between Rs 700 and Rs 1,600 and clutches between Rs 1,000 and Rs 1,800.

Artist-turned-designer Payal Khandwala, 38, is a new entrant to the game. A fashion design graduate from SNDT College, Mumbai, she interned with designer Krishna Mehta in Mumbai before moving to New York in 1995 to pursue a degree in Fine Arts and Illustration at the Parsons School of Design. In New York Khandwala gained further exposure to the world of fashion as she did a stint with designer Sandy Dalal.

Says Khandwala: “It’s been a seamless transition to the world of fashion from the world of art because my lines are almost entirely inspired by my paintings. I’m used to layering colours and textures on my canvases and I have carried this forward in my fashion collections.”

Her current collection (pegged between Rs 7,000-Rs 15,000) comes in a palette of deep jewel tones, neutrals and fresh whites in rich silks, natural linens and cottons. And her inspiration: works of abstractionists Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman.

So, how about making your own statement of art and fashion all in one ensemble? As Andy Warhol, who defined pop art, said, “Art is what you can get away with.”