Each season, the Lakmé Fashion Week, in collaboration with Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI), hosts the GenNext programme to select the next generation of fashion designers of India.
The winners of the 34th edition, who presented their collections as part of the ongoing FDCI x Lakmé Fashion Week, included Aseem Kapoor and Pooja Haldar (of the label Aseem Kapoor), Ateev Anand (Re-), Somya Goyal (Somya Goyal), Arshna Raj (Stoique) and Ankur Verma (TIL). They presented their creations at the event as well.
Lounge asked the winners two questions: what inspired their work and what's their vision for Indian fashion. The designers share their inspirations and highlights of their collections:
Ateev Anand was a part of the trio behind the now-shut footwear label, A.K.A. Bespoke. He quit footwear making because he felt that running product lines was counterproductive to the environment.
“I had not found a healthy way to make shoes and there is a need to look at alternate materials and change the way in which leather is manufactured. I wanted to do something sensible with design for the future and I realised that I don’t need to make new things but work with what is there. Re-, a label that works with recycled textiles, came as an organic response to these explorations and life. Finding more sustainable means of making clothes is still an exploration, if there is a better way to do it, it is my responsibility to do it,” says Anand.
The designer says he wants to push the envelope on how conscious we can get with clothing manufacturing. In his collection, all fabrics are handwoven and naturally dyed, and he's introduced will be introducing recycled silk ceremonial garments this time. Anand, who considers everyday life as his inspiration, aims to elevate recycled textiles for ceremonial pieces. “All garments use meticulous crafts. We have many hand-sewn garments which took over 250 hours to make, there are knitwear blouses made with recycled yarn that are size inclusive and solve the problem of ill-fitting blouses. These individual pieces have value on their own, there is value in repeat wear. I am excited and curious to know if people will wear a natural dyed recycled cotton ghagra to a wedding.”
Somya Goyal says she never consciously sought to get a sustainable tag. Rather it was her reaction to life that pushed her to explore techniques that use upcycling. Goyal works with many techniques and materials that are upcycled and recycled, such as PVC cords, which are her signature and her favourite technique to use. “I had a huge number of bags just lying around the house and I thought why not try to make something out of them? I started making cords… I am obsessed with cords,” says the 28-year-old designer. Goyal has also upcycled PVC cords to make texture and quality materials that she says will last longer. “This time we have also done handloom with PVC.
Her collection is called New Light. "It’s about more than what you are. These two years were a time of introspection for us all, and now that we are ready to move out of that space, we seek colours that elevate our mood,” she says.
For a label that’s barely six months old, being a part of GenNext is a “childhood dream come true” for Indore's Arshna Raj. As for her collection for the show, called Rising, it’s her response to feeling alienated in her hometown when back home during the pandemic, and how she eventually made her own space that could be called home.
“Like me, so many of us went out of our homes for exposure, aspiration, and thinking that life will be different. When I came home because of covid, I sensed a big gap between what I had left and now. I was a stranger in my own city and I had a desire to find my own space. But that doesn’t have to be a place, that feeling comes from within yourself. The collection takes inspiration from very personal feelings and emotions and is about rising to a level where you are at peace,” says Raj.
For her collection, she has used a lot of cotton, viscose lycra, and khadi sourced from south India. She has also used block printing and hand dyeing, to create relaxed, oversized, size-neutral clothing. Her silhouettes are inspired by Japanese art and culture. “As a kid, I used to watch a lot of anime. It subconsciously translates how you see the world and clothing. I have always had a soft corner for Japanese clothing because of early childhood movies and cartoons. My clothes are more conversations about things I believe in. I want to show the connection between psychology, human behaviour and clothing.”
Presenting a collection titled Khwaab— the universe within us, Ankur Verma’s clothes are a surrealist dream. The clothes feature digitised handpainted artworks by Verma, juxtaposed with hand embroidery. “The paintings are inspired by body textures, wrinkles, moles, and freckles, and are an interpretation of a surrealist dream. Is it the universe or the inside of our body? It’s modern contemporary clothing using digital techniques, to make it more globally acceptable," he says. Keeping versatility in mind, each outfit can be worn and styled in different ways. "The overlaying gilets can be worn over a sari, T-shirt, pants, kurta or a dress. We are in 2022, and people want versatility with their pieces. Style is to keep sustainability in mind, and in repeating things,” he says. Verma has used many romantic earthy shades for the collection such as olives, maroons, mustards and blush pinks, to keep a festive uplifting vibe.
Aseem Kapoor and Pooja Haldar
“The story goes back to my mother’s inherited heirloom, a rare woven ambi tapestry, which we later stretched on a wooden frame and hung on the wall. It was long forgotten in the corner of our home, and as it aged, I saw it rotting and tearing apart. With each passing day, the small holes between the foreground and lining kept getting bigger, and the wrong side was fully exposed, leaving the motifs deconstructed. It made me question its state while being in delicious ambiguity, of beauty or ruin. That always inspired me,” says designer Aseem Kapoor of the eponymous label, which he runs with co-founder Pooja Haldar.
Kapoor says their collection, called Ambi, is “tattered nostalgia of a vintage kanni jamevaar, spliced with Byzantium jewels and aged metal yarns”. It includes digitized prints of hand-painted motifs printed on natural crepes and mushroom twills enhanced with print appliqués and is spliced with zardozi marori work in zari and gemstones beadwork. The silhouettes spell comfort and don’t harp on trends.