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Inclusivity has become another abused word like sustainability, says Rimzim Dadu

In an interview with Lounge, the designer talks about her new menswear store, debut at India Couture Week and the politics of fashion

Rimzim Dadu (in black T-shirt) during fittings for the India Couture Week collection
Rimzim Dadu (in black T-shirt) during fittings for the India Couture Week collection

Known for exploring materiality and crafting unique engineered textiles,  designer Rimzim Dadu is presently excited about two things: a new standalone menswear flagship store in New Delhi, and her grand debut at the 10-day Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI)-led India Couture Week, which starts on 25 July in Delhi.

She launched her menswear category about four years ago, with a small collection at her flagship at DLF Emporio to test the market. The overwhelming response took the designer by surprise. "It taught us that men wanted clothes that were beyond the usual and boring. Menswear as a category grew manifolds in the past few years and became a big part of our ramp shows. A few months ago, we felt that the time was right to have a dedicated space for menswear and here we are," says Dadu. 

In an interview with Lounge, the designer talks about her new store, her  collection that will be part of the India Couture Week and the politics of fashion. Edited excerpts:

The menswear category has been very niche, confined to bandi, bandhgalas and sherwanis. How do you plan to introduce new sartorial solutions to men looking for edgy, experimental dressing?

I would say that it’s a cliché that men only want bandis, sherwanis and bandhgalas. India has grown at such a rapid pace, people are more confident in owning their personalities. This is evident in the choices men are making, when it comes to weddings and also everyday wear. Our weddings have changed. Not everybody is comfortable with wearing a sherwani for their sangeet and cocktail events, or to parties like on New Year’s Eve. 

One of the crucial factors that work in menswear is tailoring, especially for tuxedos. We have an entire unit just for tuxedos. And I can tell you that men now wear metal-wire tuxedos with ease and style. I think it’s time that we stopped taking stereotypes about men’s clothing seriously.

You’ve been working with engineered textiles for years. Do you see the Indian luxury menswear market evolve?

The market for menswear has already evolved and it will continue to grow over the coming years. Men appreciate cutting-edge designs and textiles as much as women do and it’s evident from the success of our menswear line.

We will build on the success of our past collections and continue to evolve our design language for men. The idea is to cater to men with different aesthetic sensibilities; news silhouettes will definitely be part of this strategy.

Your India Couture Week offsite show again draws inspiration from nature. What inspires you to go back to nature time and again?

I have always been drawn to nature. I spent a lot of time, I still do, at our house in Nainital when I was a teenager. I like nature when it’s raw and hasn’t been manicured. I also love exploring unusual materials and their hidden potential in design. So you will very often see our collections at the intersection of the two of my core interests. Nature will be present in my collections and shows in my collections and shows in some form, and this time won’t be different. 

Once again, I am collaborating with ace architect Rajat Sodi for the show to deliver an experience that gives a message about nature without being preachy. That’s all I can reveal for now.

In terms of music, choreography and overall staging of the show, what can one expect?

I can’t reveal much at the moment, but you can expect an intersection of art, design and nature, as has been the case with our shows before. We never do anything in our runway presentations for the sake of doing it, there is always a reason, there is always a message. Sometimes it’s subtle and sometimes it’s not so subtle.

Your last showcase at KNMA saw a lot of artists walking. Do you plan to cast new models on the runway from other fields, besides Bollywood and fashion?

That’s surely the idea, we want to bring people from different walks of lives together. I do believe that magic happens when people from different fields collaborate. 

This season at Paris Couture Week, a lot of brands focused on embracing quiet luxury. What’s your take on the quiet luxury trend?

My design philosophy has always been about making my product the hero. I hope quiet luxury is not just a trend. It teaches people to look beyond just brands and labels and gets them to appreciate quality, craftsmanship and good design.

Inclusivity in fashion is more like tokenism. Do you agree? How can fashion brands become truly inclusive?

I feel inclusivity has become another abused word like sustainability. Real inclusivity is about being open to hiring people from marginalised sections, creating workspaces and opportunities that are inclusive for them. Having said that, bringing diversity on the ramp is always good to see. But then what we do after that is also equally important.

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