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Sustainability has become an abused word, says Rimzim Dadu

The designer talks about collaborating with actor Vijay Varma for new collection, the inspiration behind it and more

Actor Vijay Varma in Rimzim Dadu

By Manish Mishra

LAST PUBLISHED 29.03.2023  |  09:00 AM IST

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Designer Rimzim Dadu worked with actor Vijay Varma for the first time in early 2022, impressed by his simplistic approach to everything, from art and fashion to life in general. 

"But beneath that simplistic attitude lies an artist who is not afraid to experiment and can’t be bound by definitions. I very much follow a similar ethos, so working with him became very easy. He understood my work and our mutual appreciation for each other led him to walk for our 15th anniversary show at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Arts (KNMA) in August," she says. Dadu's latest campaign, Art In Motion, is an extension of this partnership. 

In an interview, the designer talks about the new campaign, constantly exploring fluidity and what inspires her work. Edited excerpts:

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You focus a lot on gender-fluid style. Did you sense a growing demand among customers?

Fluidity has been at the core of our designing ethos from the start. Our designs and unique surfaces are so fluid and malleable that they easily straddle the worlds of both menswear and womenswear. The surface that forms our iconic steel-wire sari also gets used in our tuxedos for men. That is the reason why making Vijay wear our saree with a tuxedo shirt came so naturally. To be honest, I didn’t even think of it as a gender-fluid statement,  it was more of an artistic expression. But given the fact that the look has gone viral and added to the conversation, I am happy to contribute to it.

I do believe that gender-fluid pieces of clothing have existed for a very long time in our culture, it’s not something new, we just forgot about it. But it’s always a good idea to revisit our history with a new and more contemporary lens.

In terms of surface ornamentation, textile innovations and texturing, how’s your design process evolved with this collection?

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My team likes to call my studio “the lab" as we are constantly experimenting with newer materials, breaking them apart, reassembling them to see changes in their basic form. So that evolution with texturing is an ongoing process, and some successful experiments make it to collections. For this collection, we took inspiration from the traditional crafts of interlacing and interlocking and tested them with our unique materials like our signature cords. The results were encouraging.

Could you share details of the garment in this collection which took the maximum number of hours to create?

The black and white interlock wave co-ord set took us two months to make due to the very fine embroidery. It has no base fabric, the embroidery and craftsmanship truly take centre-stage in this piece and it’s also one of my favourites.

The collection is called, ‘Art In Motion’. How do you interpret art in fashion? 

I have always strived, mostly subconsciously, to blur the lines between art and fashion. I believe they are two sides of the same coin but we need more cross-section collaborations to push the boundaries of innovation further.

I firmly advocate more collaboration between designers, museums and other creative fields to realise the full potential of our rich history in textiles, art and crafts.

So, it was a natural choice for me to partner with the KNMA to celebrate the 15th anniversary of my brand with a retrospective show and an exhibit. It was satisfying to see my work against the backdrop of works from some of the best artists from India like Anupam Sud.

The desire to constantly strive to blur the boundaries between design, art, and fashion has also become an integral part of my shows. In 2016, I made workstations and made my karigars take the centre-stage on the ramp to mimic my studio. The next year, I collaborated with renowned architect Rajat Sodhi, who is also a friend, to design a show, The Maze, which was an immersive presentation. Since then, I have been creating huge artworks that serve as the backdrop for my clothes during my shows.

You've struck a balance between fashioning experimental silhouettes and creating engineered textiles - what’s the next step for the brand Rimzim Dadu?

I believe experimentation and innovation will continue to be the bedrock of our design philosophy - regardless of the product. I am happy that a brand like ours has not only existed for 15 years but has also become a mainstay in couture conversations. Today brides and grooms, who are tired of the usual, look at brands like ours for newer perspectives. This has happened because of the balance you talked about, the pressure to give into the market trends and demands was always there but I am glad we resisted. Meanwhile, we have been quietly working on a new line of home decor and lights for a while now. But we are still at least a year away from formally launching.

How have you incorporated sustainable ethos into your design process?

I honestly believe that sustainability has become quite an abused word. I think it’s not just about using some fabric that’s made from recycled plastic or championing it just on the ramp. It’s more about following it in practice, making changes at work that reduce our carbon footprints. For example, we have been trying to come up with a complete plastic-free solution for our packaging and encouraging my team to reduce waste in our studio. And then there are other ways, like we don’t follow fashion trends, as we believe in making pieces that last for years and remain fresh each time you weat them.

Any dream muse you'd love to dress and who epitomises the values of your brands?

It’s Timothée Chalamet and Tilda Swinton. They both constantly push the envelope in their craft and in their dressing.

What does couture mean to you?

Couture for me goes beyond bridal clothes as it’s often perceived in India. For me, exquisite craftsmanship that makes people get up and take notice epitomises couture. It’s all about testing your limits as a designer, testing the limits of the material and the techniques you use.

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