BRILLIANCE, VISION, AND FASHION: LONDON’S KARISHMA SHAHANI
At times in our lives we are blessed with a young artist who we can look at and immediately see the genius and legendary influence they will have on our generation and beyond. Artists like Michael Jackson, Jean Michel Basqiat, and the Mulleavy duo of Rodarte have shown us this. I believe Karishma Shahani and the Karishma Shahani label and next in line to create history.
Shahani is a 2010 London College of fashion grad. I discovered Shahani last year, jaw-dropped over her graduate collection. It was everything a collection should be, whether from a recent grad or a seasoned vet. It was feminine, vibrant, full of color, texture, depth, and layers to explore. When I looked at Karishma Shahani’s lookbook and portfolio I thought I could stare at it for hours like a kalaidescope of artistic inspiration.
Here, Ms. Shahani opened up to me about her inspirations and future plans:
CamilleYvette: I’m so happy to feature you in our History Forward issue here at The Corporate Goddess. Who better to chat with than a visionary designer like yourself who stepped far beyond the boundaries of design, color, and shape to create a breath-taking graduate collection. For those not familiar with your work can you break down your inspiration(s) for us?
KS: My recent graduate collection transcends the seasonal divide associated with Fashion. Currently retailed for the Spring Summer 11 season its inspiration is India: The land of dreams and romance, of fabulous wealth and stark scarcity, of splendour and rags, of palaces and hovels, of famine and pestilence, of genie and giants, tigers and elephants, the city, the jungle, of a thousand religions and two million gods, the birthplace of human speech, the epitome of legends and traditions and most importantly my home.
The collection titled Yatra that means journey draws inspiration and elements from the multiple layers of Indias vibrant culture that continuously create colourful, vivid and eclectic experiences for the onlooker. The colours are picked from traditional paintings of Indian Gods, and recreated through natural methods of dyeing. In its essence this collection and my work are a reflection of the Indian lifestyle of re-interpretation of materials and their function at every step, always re-using and recycling, creating heirlooms that are passed down through generations each with a personality driven charm.
The designs combine a fusion of two extremes, making the collections experimental and unconventional, while being hinged on modern functionality. This is my basis of inspiration the core being an amalgamation of aesthetics with ethics.
CY: When did you know you wanted to be a fashion designer?
KS: I can never pinpoint exactly when this happened. I did want to be a pilot and then an archaeologist too. Design was an area I developed an interest in with time. I have books in which I have been trying to draw figures with clothing that go back to when I was around 11 so it was always present somewhere subconciously.
CY: You won the London College of Fashion’s Fashion Textiles award among others and you’ve received critical acclaim for the collection. Since it’s unveiling what kinds of responses have you received from the fashion community in London as well as from your home country, India?
KS: Its been overwhelming really. The collection has now been out for months and I still receive a lot of praise for it globally. London has been very receptive, in India it is now gaining popularity, I have also received a lot of coverage and customers from places like Italy, Hong Kong, Tokyo, France, Austria etc. Its the excitement that it generates that is so motivating.
CY: We’re not here to compare BUT if I had to I would compare you to the likes of legendary designers Dries Van Notten, Manish Aurora, and Alexander Mcqueen. Who are your favorite designers, legendary and new on the scene?
KS: You just named my favourites. I absolutely love Dries Van Noten and Manish Arora. They are two of my favorites, there is no comparison watsoever but I am thrilled that people associate my work with their styles. Other legendary favourites would be Christian Lacroix, Prada and Issey Miyake. New favourites are Manjit Deu and Louise Gray.
CY: Can you let us in on your design process? I know you hand dye your textiles using sustainable techniques, correct? What is it like for you from concept to creation? Who do you have in mind when designing?
KS: Yes, all the textiles are hand dyed and hand embroidered to achieve textures and colours required. I work with local crafts people to create pieces and use natural and organic fabrics to make them. My inspirations come from everyday things, anything that catches my eye, captures my imagination. I do have set images of the look and feel I want to achieve through my work, that takes me through sampling and making. I normally have a long process of developing textiles and textures as that forms a large part of my work. I also keep collecting interesting pieces, found during travel, which forms a large inspirational database alongside a lot of photography of all things beautiful.
CY: I cannot wait to see your AW 11 collection alongside eco-friendly apparel company Jhoole! Can you shed some light on this colab and give a mental sneak-peek into the collection?
KS: I collaborated with artist Amy Sol and eco-fashion brand Jhoole, that works to uplift female artisans in rural Madhya Pradesh, India, to create a range of garments for AW11 for the brand. Amy Sol’s phantasmagorical paintings depict girls in flowing dresses wandering through luscious landscapes. If these breathtaking dresses existed in real life, they could transport any girl to the fantastical realm of Sol’s paintings, full of ethereal cuddley creatures and twilight illuminated foliage. I helped channel the skills of the artisans, to create intricate, exquisitely hand-crafted garments, to bring Sol’s dresses magnificently into the real world. I have used a lot of texture and local skills like weaving and embroidery to create unexpected textures: organic velvet with truly tactile block-prints; shimmering clumps of pearls and crystal beads clinging to weightless hand-woven chiffon; fluffy embossed leaf accessories embroidered with glass dew. This Jhoole/ Sol/ Shahani collaboration will culminate with exhibitions and fashion installations in the summer of 2011 featuring the garments and 5 original paintings by Amy Sol.
The entire purpose of this collaboration was to utilise local skills that the town of Maheshwar had. Known for beautiful woven saris in silk and cotton called Maheshwari Saris, Jhoole helps nurture the growth of the women there by providing them with work and helping them become more self-sustained by upgrading their inherent skills to meet demands of todays competitive contemporary market. The entire process of the collection also included a local fashion show which included garments made by the women taking inspiration from the garments I had made, encouraging personal input by them in both the designing and production process of their own individual garments, that proved to be very successful.
CY: Where do you see the Karishma Shahani label in 10 years?
KS: I would like to see the Karishma Shahani label stand as a premium fashion label, a forerunner within the country, taking India and its immense potential to satisfy the global customer, to the world.
CY: And would you say the Karishma Shahani aesthetic is more historical or more futuristic?
KS: It lies on the fine line between the two. Historical in inspiration and futuristic in output.
CY: Now for some fun. What animal, book, song, decade, and movie would you compare your graduate collection to?
Book: No Full Stops in India by Mark Tully
Song: Gurus of Peace by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and A.R. Rahman
Decade: Today. The Clothes represent the present, a blur between the styles and aesthetics of time and decades.
Movie: Moulin Rouge
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