If you want your daily dose of fashion, inspiration and solutions to life’s problems, you should probably make a trip to Kunal Kaushik’s studio. A renowned designer, an ardent painter, humanitarian and philanthropist, Kunal believes in simplicity and is proud of our rich Indian culture and heritage. He is also an agony aunt (trust us, you can blabber away to your heart’s glory and he will give you sound advice!) and does not leave any opportunity to lend out a helping hand to others.
He is one of the most coveted fashion designers in northeast India and founder of the label “Ethnicity”. Most of his work is represented globally in Europe, Dubai, Thailand, and the United States. He is known for his beautiful amalgamation of fusion wear and Indo-western ensembles. His designs are very contemporary and different. He beautifully blends Indian subtlety with contemporary notes. His design aesthetics are gracefully woven into beautiful garments with intricate embroidery and use of traditional fabrics like muga, paat , eri etc. He recently showcased his collection called ‘Looms of Assam’ in Paris at the Tiffany’s Fashion Week and won the ‘Best Designer Of The Year’ Award.
We caught up with the designer for an exclusive interview.
Here are the excerpts:
1. When you first started in fashion, who was your major inspiration?
The rich and beautiful fabrics of India. Since I am a painter, colours have always fascinated me and our fabrics are very colourful. That kind of inspired me to pursue a career in designing and eventually became my dream. So my dream was a major source of inspiration.
2. You recently showcased a collection in Paris. Could you tell us a little bit about the idea and inspiration behind the collection?
The traditional fabrics of India has been a major source of inspiration for me. You see every person, in any profession, we are all human beings. I believe every human being has got some social responsibility, which we cannot deny, or neglect. But life nowadays is very fast and competitive. We hardly get time for ourselves so we hardly think of other people or the society. But I realized that as an artist and a designer, I have some responsibility towards promoting Indian culture, especially, my home state Assam. And when we talk about the culture of Assam, we see that woven Assam Silk is an integral part of our culture. Woven silk fabrics have a long history in Assam. We definitely wear beautiful clothes but has anyone ever thought about the weavers and artisans who have made it possible and kept the tradition alive? They do not even get due recognition and respect for their hard work. My collection ‘Looms of Assam’ is a tribute to rural artisans and weavers from Assam, who take immense pain to create such lovely outfits. Also, after travelling to many places, I have realized that people are very much interested in Indian culture and heritage. And people in India are highly influenced by western cuts and silhouettes. And since Indo-western is my forte, I decided to mix and match both of these ideologies together and create something new and different. I wanted to show the world that our fabrics are wonderful and the best. And that is why I named my collection, ‘Looms of Assam’.
3. How often do you come up with a new collection?
I come up with 3/4 collections every year. However, sometimes it goes up to 6/7 collections, depending on the shows and the clients’ need.
4. What type of ensemble/outfits do you specialize in?
Indo-western, fusion wear.
5. What, according to you, are the major challenges that the Indian fashion industry faces today?
The major challenge, which I believe, with due respect to everyone, is the fear of losing our own identity and culture. We are more inclined toward what other people are doing, instead of focusing on what we have. We try to follow the West blindly. Some of our collections do not reflect our Indian culture, spirit and craftsmanship. And if we keep continuing, we will lose our identity.
6. Paint us a picture of a day in the life of Kunal Kaushik.
I am a workaholic. My day starts early morning with my work and ends with work. I am a very simple and down to earth person and I like to put others first. Before thinking about yourself you have to think about others. People from all sections of the society come to me to share their problems. Some people discuss business, others cry, some make merry. Everyday I get to meet new people and discover new emotions. I like to speak with them and help them in any way I can.
7. What are your future plans?
My hands are quite full. I have been invited to the Cannes film Festival for the Red Carpet event on the 23rd of May to showcase my collection. I have a show on the 1st of July in Paris again, then in Monaco on the 3rd of July. My signature collection will also be launched shortly.
9. Any advice for young, aspiring designers?
If you are dedicated and persistently keep on pursuing your dreams, nothing is impossible. So many young designers from India write to me that they want to pursue a career in fashion but they cannot financially sustain themselves because the courses are expensive, and so they think it is not possible for them. But I believe that if a person is creative and dedicated to pursue his dreams, nothing is impossible. Money will automatically flow in and doors will open. But you have to be very sincere and honest. Believe in yourself and start believing in your dreams. Only then dreams do come true.
“LOOMS OF ASSAM”
(Image Courtesy: Kunal Kaushik)