Saaksha & Kinni, Rimzim Dadu and showstopper Mrunal Thakur on closing Lakmé Fashion Week 2020

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When I ask Saaksha Bhat, one half of Saaksha & Kinni, to filter their Lakmé Absolute Grand Finale 2020 collection down to three words, she says, “Bold, experimental and fun”. Rimzim Dadu, in contrast, uses, “Fresh, festive and clean,” to best describe her line. Their ideologies might seem different on paper, but if you take a moment to trace Bhat and Kinnari Kamat's trajectory along with Dadu’s, you’ll find one (or more) common thread. The designer duo and the New Delhi-based creative both started their fashion journeys with Lakmé Fashion Week’s Gen Next programme. Now, just moments ago, the designers closed the sought-after show’s first-ever digital, seasonless edition with actor Mrunal Thakur as the showstopper.

Patching the old with the new surely served as the canvas for their presentations this year, where each piece was an exhalation of intricate craftsmanship and forward-thinking innovation. Saaksha & Kinni’s signature micro-pleating technique permeated the creations with novel prints, whereas Dadu’s pieces were informed by her USP cording technique, but on newer silhouettes. For them, fashion is only going to be more versatile moving forward.

Here, the designers take us through their carefully considered collections, as they discuss about adapting during a pandemic, and their hopes for the future of fashion. Thakur, who sashayed down the Lakmé Fashion Week winter/festive 2019 runway, recounts her experience being part of a virtual show and how she sequestering in style.

From your debut show to the latest one, what have been your biggest takeaways?

Saaksha Bhat: “Lakmé Fashion Week’s Gen Next provided us with a huge platform that catapulted us into the media and buyers, not just within India but also internationally. Besides learning the business and the fashion side of things, the biggest takeaway was that you don’t just make beautiful clothes but also narrate a story, a message.”

Rimzim Dadu: “I was fresh out of college and only 21 when I started with Gen Next. It’s been 13 years since then, and there’s definitely so much I have learnt. One of the major learnings is to have a vision, to have a unique voice. It takes time to establish one, and once you do, you need to stick to it. While there will be pressure from the market, you need to find your way around it and keep up with your USP.”

What creative challenges and opportunities did you face while designing the collection amid a pandemic, and how have these shaped the final result?

Saaksha: “I have never spent so much time over a Zoom call. But Lakmé helped put on a safe environment for all of us. They took care of fittings, helped with the filming of the presentation and everything else. We did it from the comfort of our studios, factories and homes. While it has been a different experience not being able to be at the venue, it’s also incredible how it all came together.”

“The biggest question mark was how do create a collection that will resonate with people behind a screen when they can’t see it physically. How do you display the intricacies, the colours and the textures? Ironically, Kinnari and I being continents apart helped—she’s in Mumbai, and I’m cooped up in London. I could experience what the audience would experience, and in turn, share my feedback. If I couldn’t see a detail or understand the texture then the audience would not either. It was great to test things out.”

Rimzim: “It was really hard. At times I had to shut news out so that I don’t get emotionally overwhelmed and get back on track. When we reopened the studio, the first concern was everyone’s safety. We practically lived together for about two months. We would lean on each other as a family, and the idea to create something together was extremely special. So, the whole experience was bittersweet.”

Rimzim Dadu

© IMG Reliance

Tell us about your new collection for the Lakmé Absolute Grand Finale. What were you looking to achieve with the fabrics, cuts and silhouettes this season?

Saaksha: “For us, it was all about creating a bold and impactful collection. The thought was to highlight two things: women during the lockdown, and the colourful Banjara community. It’s not hard to notice that women are doing so many things during these tough times, from running the home to working and even teaching the kids. This was translated through our versatile, flowy pieces made in cotton silks, chiffons and satins.”

“Then, we focused on Banjara, not just the nomadic tribe, but the women who have held steadfast to their roots of dressing. It’s so inspiring that this ancient community is very much in existence today. They are essentially gypsies and nomads, who have survived and thrived without having a permanent place. Despite that, they have learnt and passed down beautiful crafts like mirror, coin and thread work, and vibrant bright colours. We have highlighted these embroidery techniques and turn them into prints, which is something we have never done before. But we have also retained our signature micro-pleating. You’ll find Indo-Western pieces like kediya-style jackets, skirts with detachable pockets and attached drapes, co-ords sets that mix two-three prints and more.”

Rimzim: “Over the years, I created my own textiles, which have become synonymous to my label. For the new collection, I worked with a lot of metallics and played with my signature materials like steel wire and cording. I wanted to work on a festive collection for the upcoming season, so I experimented with festive forms. This is also my first time working with patterns—I tried floral and polka dots. Because our materials are very tricky to work with, it takes months of wiring and understanding its construction for patterns to take form.”

“This is also my first time doing lehengas. We have been doing statement saris for a while, but I wanted to do something fresh by bringing my take on minimal-yet-statement lehengas. There are also short dresses and sculpted tops in the collection. The palette is dominated by silver, gold, antique gold, black, and emerald green.”

Fashion’s role is also to synthesise the times we’re living in. How did it translate in your new collection?

Saaksha: “Much before the lockdown, Kinnari and I decided to become a seasonless brand. Forget being a designer, but as a consumer, why would I want to buy pieces that are restricted to just one season? I’d rather invest in something that would come in handy all year round. Any shirt should be able effortless enough to pair with existing pieces in the wardrobe. Value for money and versatility were the cornerstones for our collection.”

Rimzim: “One thing that we have all kind of learnt is investing in pieces that resonate with us emotionally and sort of have a sense of meaning. We have kept versatility in mind, so people can wear them multiple times, in multiple ways and for multiple occasions.”

Rimzim Dadu

© IMG Reliance

There’s been so much talk over the past months about it being reset time for fashion. Do you think that will stick?

Saaksha: “I hope it does. It is easy to be in the moment and promise something, but then go back into the rut. Kinnari and I are definitely thinking about making some changes more permanent that makes us socially and economically more responsible.”

Rimzim: “My hope for the future of fashion is that creators continue to create more responsibly. And as consumers, we consume more responsibly.”

Rimzim Dadu

© IMG Reliance

How did you spend your time during lockdown?

Mrunal Thakur: “To be honest, there’s always so much running around and negativity. But I realised this is the time that we don’t get so often. So, in a way, it is a blessing in disguise. I made the most of it—I spent a lot of time with my family, I learnt cooking, and even adopted a cat.”

What struck you the most about the designers’ collections?

Mrunal: “The interesting thing about Rimzim’s outfits is the fact that she works with cording. This gives her pieces a futuristic approach. I loved the bold use of metallics for saris and lehengas. What I loved most about Saaksha & Kinni’s collection is that it’s super comfortable and flowy. I never leave my house without a jacket, so their standout pieces with the intricate work were definitely my favourites.”

After being a showstopper for a runway show at LFW 2019, how was your experience being part of a virtual format?

Mrunal: “I never thought I’d walk the grand finale and it overwhelmed at the start. But the show gave me the opportunity to wear colours and outfits that I would never see myself wearing otherwise, which was a fantastic experience. Now, I have come out of my comfort zone.”

Mrunal Thakur in Rimzim Dadu

© IMG Reliance

What is your relationship with fashion like?

Mrunal: “My relationship was… complicated. But my stylists, Pranay Jaitly and Shounaka Monkar, really pushed me towards it during the filming of Super 30. They would often tell me that you need to dress up for yourself. Now, I have indulged so much that I am romancing it. In fact, I believe fashion can be used to raise my voice.”

What does your at-home wardrobe look like?

Mrunal: “I am a huge fan of plaid pyjamas, and I have been living in them!”

Also read:

Raw Mango’s collection for Lakmé Fashion Week 2020 is inspired by Sanjay Garg's native Rajasthan

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