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'It's expensive to make a plus size garment'

Gursy Singh and Amrita Khanna of label Lovebirds on carving their niche in an overpopulated organic space and wrestling with sustainability challenges

Founders Gursy Singh and Amrita Khanna  (Company handout)

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There was a time in Indian premium retail when most brands were serving sequins and bodycon shapes. Enters Lovebirds armed with an anti-fit, indie and organic aesthetic. Think geometrical motifs, easy, tailored shapes and dots. Often drawing from nature and architecture, their easy-breezy, streamlined dresses, co-ords and separates speak to today's city girl, who wants comfort without compromising on style. Extrapolating organic cotton, wool, and handwoven denim and toying with techniques like hand done screen and block printing with natural dyes, every outing is a new take on wearable chic. 

For Summer 22, Gursy Singh and Amrita Khanna make a foray into the knitwear category besides launching jewellery and bags. 

From Lovebirds latest show.
From Lovebirds latest show. (Company handout)

In an interview with Lounge, the designers talk about their vision for the brand and wrestling with sustainability challenges. Edited excerpts:

How do you interpret Lovebirds' current identity in the space of contemporary womenswear?

Amrita: It really took us time. We are one of the few brands who started contemporary and minimal clothing for a modern, strong and professional woman. The look we proposed was very distinctive as the market was flooded with overdone Indian garments. Now we have a strong following. We've been creating pieces which can be worn anywhere in the world. Ageless, sizeless and effortless clothing, which defines your personality.

The anti-fit, indie space is populated with an array of eco-warrior brands, which all have a similar handwriting. How do you ensure that Lovebirds holds its singular appeal in this maze?

Gursy: It's a relevant discussion. With a lot of new brands coming up, everyone looks similar, but it's about owning up to your space and creating a strong language for yourself. It doesn't bother us as we are  evolving. We always keep a check on us ensuring that collections should be distinct and reflect our language. We've tried our best not to overlap with anyone else's language. We are crisper, modern, global, graphic and arty. We're strong with our prints. It's a metropolitan brand rooted in urban spaces. While other brands in this bracket could possibly be seen in a rural space.

How does plus-size inclusivity work at the same costing?

Amrita: We have always been a brand for inclusivity when it comes to sizing. Whenever we would go for shows in different cities, plus size women would gather around us and shop. I know the costing differs; it's more expensive to make a plus size garment. But these are the women who've encouraged us. We are happy to make it for them and take the brunt.

A lot of celebrities around their pregnancy call us requesting maternity pieces (laughs). We've encouraged it.

Do you think sustainability has become more of a PR narrative for the fashion industry?

Gursy: The sustainability drive has been a blessing in disguise, but at the same time is often used as a marketing gimmick. It works for a lot of brands as even a customer is looking for it at this point. Sustainability is not a destination, but a journey. It's an endeavour in each and every step of the creative and production processes. But there are points… it gets very difficult. 

Our new packaging is changed and is cellulose-based, but there are always challenges as sometimes you have to use the plastic. But we're trying to make our space plastic-free.

Did covid-induced lockdowns impact your creative process?

Amrita: We spent a lot of time at home, which made us think more and work harder. It made us go out of our way to push our boundaries and to create and understand more. Family time made us even more creative. Earlier most of our creative stimulus came from architecture, travel, spaces or an art movement, but over the last few collections, we've looked inwards. The pandemic brought us closer to home and we found inspiration in our hometown, Chandigarh, which inspired our last collection. Summer 22 is about nostalgia and we've brought back our signature dots. Earlier we'd experiment with pale, muted colours, now we want to uplift the mood with vibrant hues. We want to stand for happiness, joy, companionship and togetherness.

This was your first physical show post-covid. How relevant are the physical shows in an era of social media?

Gursy: One of the reasons we didn't do a digital show is because we are a presentation-centric, old school brand. We believe that a presentation leaves a large ripple in people's mind, it's more personal, it travels more than a digital show. A presentation is more impactful. The way you feel when you actually soak in the sound of a musician playing live in front of you is far more intense than a digital experience.

Moreover, we've never been a trend-based brand. Timelessness and classicism have been our core ethos and we're a product-driven design house.

What fabrics and embroideries excite you?

Gursy: We have introduced lightweight cotton knitwear with our prints, which come in the form of dots and our geometric shapes. We're excited about that. Besides, there is handwoven silk and a lot of crisp cotton, we've always been known for. Textures come with woven linen, which we source from craftsmen in Bengal and handloom denims from Gujarat. We also plan to unveil our jewellery line and bags.

There's a whole trend of mix and match globally, athleisure tailoring, streetwear with luxe. How does that influence your imagery and overall styling in ‘Summer 22’?

Amrita: The stretchable printed knits and gloves lend a sporty touch this time. The cross body bags with leather straps are styled on formal dresses. We're not a sporty, athleisure brand, but we have a slight connotation of sportiness. The way we pair tops and bottoms makes it sporty, but I won't still call ourselves “athleisure”. We're more day and evening-centric, all in all a trend-neutral brand.

You've also made a foray into the global markets…

Gursy: Last year in April, we opened our flagship store in Delhi, which elicited a positive response, and we're opening a store in Mumbai at the end of this month. Internationally, we have agents in the US and Europe and we're seeing a lot of good stores. We have started working in Australia and have requests coming from the Japanese market as well.

Who's the Lovebirds woman?

Amrita: She's urban, independent and modern. She's ageless and cosmopolitan. She's well travelled and has seen different cultures. She could be a self-employed, eclectic woman who follows art and maybe a music band. She's got taste, understands quality and tailoring. She's cool and effortless.

You also branched out into menswear. How's the response been?

Gursy: That's a tough area at the moment. We get engrossed in collection after collection, but we do want to focus on menswear. It's not an area we can immediately venture into. We've just done two menswear collections so far and we realised this category needs more time.

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