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Meet India's Gen Next designers

From raising awareness about waste to exploring traditional art, the winners of the 2023 GenNext programme by Lakme Fashion Week x FDCI talk about their work and inspiration

A creation by Sonam Khetan
A creation by Sonam Khetan

In October, Delhi will host the 36th edition of Lakmé Fashion Week (LFW) in partnership with the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI). And like with every season, winners of the “Inter National Institute of Fashion Design (INIFD) presents GenNext” will present their collections at the fashion week.

This year, LFW has selected three winners as part of the GenNext programme, which is all about discovering the next generation of India's fashion designers.

We spoke with the winners about their design philosophy and what their forthcoming collection is going to look like.

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

Sonam Khetan, 34

Label: Sonam Khetan

An alumnus of National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Istituto Marangoni and Central Saint Martins, Sonam Khetan offers edgy ready-to-wear for women that transcends seasons and is made by hand in her Delhi studio. Delhi-based Khetan, who calls Bengaluru home, considers ancient cultures and craftsmanship, as well as contemporary art, as her inspirations.

“My brand is not just about design and fashion, it’s about understanding and appreciating the great body of work that people across the world have produced over time. It’s also about being mindful of the beauty of the natural world and manifesting it through fashion to remind us about the deep interconnectedness between humans and nature,” says Khetan.

Her collection at the LFW show features visual representations of the sounds of the Earth, the sounds of extinct birds, and mantras, along with how scientists, artists and Buddhists interpret sound. She's used fabrics like linen, hemp, Khadi cotton and silk, and organic cotton. “This collection will have a special emphasis on surface manipulations, patchwork, hand embroideries, and ‘flexible wearability’,” says Khetan.

Prasoon Sharma, 30

Label - Triune


By Prasoon Sharma.
By Prasoon Sharma.

Designer Prasoon Sharma says his clothes are all “the essence of being genuine, valuing your own truth, and not purchasing someone else's version of reality.”

At the LFW, Sharma, who studied at INIFD, will present a collection, called Bivouac. “Bivouac is a portal to nature. A natural realm, which is perfect as is, without any interruption of human activity. Here, imperfections are transformed into artistry, and its magnificent essence is boldly celebrated,” says Jaipur-based Sharma, who hails from Dholpur, Rajasthan. The collection incorporates patterns inspired by verdant forests, “a tapestry woven with earthy greens, natural browns, lively bursts of colour, and captivating animal motifs and prints”. The collection employs craft techniques such as hand-braiding and hand-nesting done using dori work. “We have also used a technique for denim, where we have draped cotton dories around the denim, hand-dyed them and got them stonewashed to give it the natural look it deserved,” says Sharma. He has also used screen and digital printing for precise motifs and complex images, and patchwork for more eclecticism and drama.

Arnav Malhotra, 28

Label: No Grey Area


By Arnav Malhotra
By Arnav Malhotra

Through his label No Grey Area, Chennai designer Arnav Malhotra explores the mysticism of ancient India. “I have always been intrigued by the ever-evolving idea of contemporary casualwear and its traditional manifestations in the Indian culture, that's why my label encompasses heritage and modernity,” says Malhotra.

His LFW collection is called Inconvenience Today For A Better Tomorrow—a phrase used across construction sites of the Chennai Metro.

Talking about his collection, Malhotra said: “The philosophy of inconvenience, of solving fabric waste issues at the design stage, influenced our SS24 design process with a particular focus on zero-waste pattern making. The collection features silhouettes and fabrics inspired by the saree; once worn by all genders.”

He has also used the motif of the decorative Kolam art, interpreted through blockprints, embroideries and jacquards. The colour palette, on the other hand, is inspired by bright colours used in old Chennai houses (he has also used oversized Madras checks).

Archaeological depictions of the Nauvari saree are one of the main inspirations for his new womenswear category, he says. The collection is "about reflection and reminiscence. A wistful homesickness to a home you cannot return to, but there is no grief in the yearning, only a thankfulness beyond words for having once experienced it.”

Also read: What India's GenNext designers want fashion to look like

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