When you think Kallol Datta’s clothes, the first thing you think is shapes. Never one to conform to the established norms of fashion, Kallol has always played around with his shapes and silhouettes, and his garments can never be slotted into any set design genres. You get a peek into the designer’s thought process that culminates in the off-beat shapes at Random Access, an ongoing show at Experimenter gallery, till August 31.
“I want to focus on my practice as a clothes-maker and the only craft that I primarily employ is pattern-cutting. If you see the entire show, it has almost become like a codex for pattern-cutting. There are hints… some of them are obvious, some obscure, that’s why the show is named Random Access. There is no sequential way of going around the show, even if you view just one piece, you can make some sense of it,” Kallol told t2 when we caught up with him while he was setting it up, a couple of days before opening.
Nine garments have been displayed on cylindrical bamboo structures with globes for heads. What strikes you about the garments — all in black, with hints of grey and silver — is of course the shapes. “The dress forms that we use to display clothes, I didn’t want to use any of that… I have used these cylindrical forms with globes as heads… so what happens is, there’s no back, no front, so side, no shoulders, no armholes… kichhui nei…. We usually use those things as parameters when we make clothes, now since there are no shoulders or anything, I had to completely rethink how I would cut the fabric. Because I always use the shoulder as the point of balance in my clothes, but over here I don’t have that any more,” explained Kallol.
You look around and find one garment shaped like a sleeping bag. There’s another one where like “conjoined twins” there’s a beginning of a kurta fused into a dress, with a sleeve hanging where it isn’t supposed to be. There’s a 12 Circles dress where the fabric has been cut into 12 circles and then put together. “The first piece I made was the Askew Overlay; when I made it I thought there’s something wrong with it, but then I thought no, I have always been taught that the jacket has to sit on the shoulder, but since this doesn’t have any shoulder, maybe this is right for this form. So questioning what we perceive to be desired proportions, desired sizes like 8 or 10… so skewing that also...,” said Kallol.
There’s a lot of play with unusual materials, the aim being an “exercise in combining different fabrics”. “We all use cotton or silk, but how to make them behave differently is what I have tried to do,” said the designer.
Kallol had used the garbage bag material in his last collection too, and here, you see it used extensively. There’s also a layer of plastic film on the garbage bag material in some garments to give a shiny silver look. “I use the garbage bag material to break preconceived notions about fabrics. It is a wearable material and I myself wear garments made of it, I sell these garments. I don’t want to fall into the traps or the notions like silk can only be worn for occasions, cotton can be a daily wear… I don’t follow those, to me it’s kind of democratic.”
On the walls there are displays of different materials, explaining how the fabrics behave differently when they are cut and stitched differently. The patterns that the designer sketched on paper while conceiving the garments have been framed and put up on the walls too, for further insight into the mind of the maker. Micro figures of the silhouettes cast in brass are showcased on tables, which include signature Kallol silhouettes like the crab and the Askew kurta.
“The garments have no fixed back or front, no shoulder or sleeves… yet all these are wearable by humans,” said Kallol. Though when the collection goes out to the stores in March 2018, there will be adaptations for the human body. “Now they’re made with the cylinder form in mind, but this is definitely the starting point of the collection.”
Smita Roy Chowdhury
Pictures: Pabitra Das
Random Access is on at Experimenter, 2/1 Hindustan Road (behind Kanishka’s) till August 31
Kallol’s work we have followed closely over the past five or six years… how he branches into various other pursuits which are sub-genres of fashion design but his root being within fashion. What we found very interesting is that there is a very strong thinking as a sculptor while making clothes. We spoke about this show two years ago and it has been in the making for a long time. We wanted to show the work as the work it is and not qualified by ‘do I wear it or do I not’… we wanted to show it for the sculpturality of it. What has now taken shape over this long process is something we are very happy with. We did not feel compelled to show him as an artist but as a practitioner of fashion. This is also our first design-focused show, and we are planning to do more
— Priyanka Raja of Experimenter
What really fascinated us was how he constructs his garments. The structure of what he makes is not just dependent on how it would look on a person but also on what he thinks about the material. Also how he looks at different materials, like the garbage bag material…. How he uses the different forms to transform the aspects of the human body. We have tried to zoom in on various aspects of his work… how he folds the fabric, or how he cuts them into squares… it’s important to show the practice as a practice. Casting of the final forms in brass is a very interesting idea. The show gives a different insight into his mind
— Prateek Raja of Experimenter