Ushering in eco-chic

Nature Nurture

Ushering in eco-chic

Padmaja Krishnan is known for her eco-friendly range of contemporary clothing that enjoys a global appeal, writes Bhakti Bapat Mathew, after a tête-à-tête with the avant garde designer.

The world of fashion is perceived by many to be all gloss and little soul. But the new wave of eco-chic clothing seeks to do away with this perception. Meet Padmaja Krishnan, a NIFT Delhi graduate and an emerging young Indian designer who has been recognised all over the world for her unique, environment-friendly range of contemporary clothing.

Padmaja has showcased her work at the London Design Festival & Fashion Week, and at major international fashion hubs like Chicago, Lisbon, Japan and Hong Kong, among others. Her line of eco-friendly attire has been noted for its avant-garde and quirky qualities. Her collection, called ‘Slow and Useless’, consists of clothes created with discarded bits of khadi, kosa saris, kaantha scraps and the like, and has been modelled by acclaimed actress Mita Vashisht.

Looking at the collection, which is arty and earthy, one can’t help but feel that Mita Vashisht is an excellent choice. So, why her, we ask. Says the designer, “Mita is intelligent, intense, unpretentious, bold, and very stylish. She enjoys wearing the clothes I design and that’s visible when one sees her in them. I saw a strong connect between her persona and the spirit of this collection and thought she would be the perfect model for it. Like you said, she has really beautifully complemented the clothes and has brought in a whole different aura to the collection.”

‘Slow and Useless’ is an interesting choice for a name. “The collection represents clothes created slowly and painstakingly. It re-looks at all that’s discarded, uses techniques that are slow and not fully controllable, uses repeats that are bigger than the field of vision and cheats the unsuspecting eye. It also seeks to break the tedium of mass manufacturing. I used wild silks, khadi linens, malkha cottons, kosa saris and kaantha scraps to create a subversive line of clothing that is elegant in its appeal. Hence the name,” explains Padmaja.

So, what or who has been the inspiration for the collection? “Gandhiji once said that waste is a resource in the wrong place. I really believe that and also think beauty often lies hidden in what often appears as ordinary or worthless. One can create unique and inimitable textile textures by using scraps and extras.

Also, I grew up watching my mother make exquisite textiles by recycling the extra bits at home. Observing her work through my childhood has been a huge inspiration. In addition, I think my time at NIFT was inspiring, wonderful and enriching in many ways. The institute also gave me the foundation of visualising, constructing and finishing a garment.”

Having been brought up in Kolkata, studying in Delhi, and now residing in Mumbai, which city influences her work more? “I love Mumbai for its joie de vivre. My NIFT experience in Delhi was great too. But, I owe my aesthetics and sensibilities almost entirely to Kolkata, since I was born and brought up there,” says Padmaja.

Does she think her clothes have a universal appeal? Or, are they best suited only for Indians? “My clothes are objects of beauty and joy. I don’t create or categorise them by seasons, markets or regions. I think there is a niche market in every part of the world that appreciates hand-crafted clothes. They make you look good, give your skin great comfort, and have a global style with a strong local flavour. Besides, they are very wearable, always. I think people can wear them in Kolkata as much as in Tokyo or Paris,” she muses.

“My range of tunics, kurtas, skirts and other clothes have been exhibited and sold in India, UK and Japan. The response has been exciting in India as well as abroad since the clothes are designed to be contemporary with a global appeal,” she adds.

“I sell through my home-studio in Mumbai and through exclusive exhibitions in various cities in India and abroad,” she adds.

What’s your favourite fabric, we ask the designer. “My favourite to wear and design is hand-spun and hand-woven khadi linen. It looks great, feels great, and doesn’t harm the environment. I work with weavers, artisans and craftswomen to create my collections in an authentic way,” says the designer.

Does she feel enough is being done to save Indian weaves and textiles? “There is a lot being done over the past few decades to save Indian weaves and textiles,” replies Padmaja. She continues, “Yet, having said that, I also think the diversity and richness of our expertise in indigenous textiles is immense. And we all could still be doing a lot more for the improvement of the textiles sector, which is the second largest employment sector, after agriculture, in India.

As professionals, we still carry a huge responsibility to protect the textile wealth and textile communities of our country from extinction, exploitation and over-industrialisation,” she concludes.

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