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AI can be a force for positive change in fashion, say Abraham and Thakore

Abraham & Thakore's David Abraham and Rakesh Thakore on their new store in Delhi's Dhan Mill, the evolution of Indian fashion and the role of technology in design

The new Abraham & Thakore store in Dhan Mill, Delhi
The new Abraham & Thakore store in Dhan Mill, Delhi

Hailed as the masters of minimalism, designer duo David Abraham and Rakesh Thakore of the three-decade-old Abraham & Thakore label have embarked on a new retail chapter.

They have opened a new store in Dhan Mill, the brand’s second boutique in the Capital city. Refined and craft-led, the store has been designed by Studio Organon. The space aesthetic resonates with what the brand has always been known for—mindfully sourced textiles and upcyled embellishments. The material choices include the customised terrazzo for the floors, which features a graphic, checkerboard pattern. Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd had acquired a majority stake in Abraham & Thakore, for an undisclosed amount, early last year.

Also read: Why black and white will remain the soul of Abraham and Thakore

In an interview with Lounge, the designers talk about their journey, the new store, venturing into homeware and how technology can help fashion and design. Edited excerpts:

Abraham & Thakore have always been a synonym for quiet luxury. In the past 31 years, how much has the brand changed and what has remained the same?

Our belief in good design never flags. Our design sensibility evolves in response to the way consumers evolve and as technology teaches us new ways to live. While the core beliefs of the brand remain unchanged, they are constantly searching for new methods of expression.

David Abraham (left) and Rakesh Thakore.
David Abraham (left) and Rakesh Thakore.

Recontextualising indigenous textiles has been the brand's core philosophy. Do you think the perception about handloom products has changed over the last few decades?

We have always been inspired by the wealth of our indigenous textile heritage and the skilled ingenuity of the Indian craftsperson. This has always been reflected in our work and we continue to search for ways to keep expanding the design language with a vocabulary that is contemporary. There has been an increasing awareness of the handmade product in the past decade, which will hopefully help to keep craft traditions alive. The younger designers are doing a lot of positive work in this area. We now need to see a greater respect for the handmade, specifically in terms of value, across all consumer demographics. We need to ensure that the economic rewards for this activity are adequate.

Mindful production and upcycling have been the ethos of the brand much before they became cool. How challenging has it been to practise sustainability?

Mindful production has always been a natural outcome of our design philosophy, which was ingrained in us by our education, and later reinforced in our years of practice. This will always shape the way we work. We resist the short-term nature of fashion trends and believe that while quality and timelessness should be incorporated into the design of fashion products giving them longevity and relevance over a long period of time, the environmental footprint of the manufacturing process is as controlled as possible.

If one looks at the previous collections of A&T, there was a sense of monochromatic austerity, a whispering simplicity. However, over the years, the brand has also inculcated quirky playful touches, from unexpected prints to statement surface texturing. Was this an organic evolution?

The design language of the brand is always evolving, but in an organic way and in response to the way our lives change, and our clients evolve. We feel there is a time for austerity, and a time for playfulness. Perhaps the difficult period the world has recently been through now calls for a certain light heartedness.

What made you embark on this new retail journey at Dhanmill?

The Dhan Mill compound is developing into an exciting location for art, fashion, lifestyle, and food. We like the energy there. This made it an ideal location for us to open a store.

A&T menswear offers some really fun, plyaful designs. Are Indian men ready for experimental fashion offerings?

We’re thrilled at the response to our menswear collections. It's an indication that men here are increasingly sophisticated fashion consumers now, willing to experiment and willing to rewrite some of the conservative codes of masculine dress. These changes reflect the way society itself is in a state of flux with evolving views on gender and role playing.

You've also transitioned into homeware. What are the new expansion plans across categories?

Initially, our homeware collections were retailed successfully in many stores in London and Paris. However, as we shifted our focus to the domestic market, womenswear became the prime focus of the brand. Right now, changing consumer tastes and the rapidly evolving retail scene convinced us that it is time to launch our home collection here. We are now looking at opening new stores in more locations, and creating new lifestyle spaces where we can offer both fashion and homewares.

While at one point fashion is advocating slow living and mindful consumption and then there are AI-led tech innovations. How do you see the future of fashion and the impact of AI on it?

A lot depends on both the industry and the consumer. On the one hand, we do have conscientious and mindful intent but that is simultaneously outweighed by prolificacy, irresponsibility, and greed. How do we reconcile these two extremes? We can never stop trying. We believe that change is possible, and that AI can be a force for positive change as long as it is harnessed properly.

Also read: How Abraham and Thakore are creating glamour out of waste

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