Man of the mo­ment

> In­dia's prize-win­ning de­signer stead­ies for world stage

The Sun (Malaysia) - - STYLE -

HE SHOT onto the world stage af­ter win­ning a glit­ter­ing in­ter­na­tional fash­ion prize pre­vi­ously given to de­sign icons Yves Saint Lau­rent and Karl Lager­feld. Yet In­dia's Suket Dhir – hailed by Vogue as a po­ten­tial "global fash­ion su­per­star in the mak­ing" – is un­easy about the sud­den attention that has come with win­ning the In­ter­na­tional Wool­mark Prize for menswear this year.

"I never thought of my­self as a top de­signer, more of a glo­ri­fied tai­lor," Dhir told AFP at his small, busy de­sign stu­dio in the back­blocks of New Delhi.

Dhir is now in a race against time to de­liver his award-win­ning col­lec­tion to prom­i­nent depart­ment stores in New York, Paris, Tokyo, Seoul and Syd­ney from next month – as well as around US$75,000 (RM300,000) in prize money to build up his busi­ness, he also gets to pro­vide a cap­sule col­lec­tion for key re­tail­ers world­wide.

The 37-year-old faces chal­lenges unique to In­dia in pre­par­ing the col­lec­tion of con­tem­po­rary Western menswear with an In­dian twist.

Dhir uses tra­di­tional weavers lo­cated close to the vil­lages that they come from, along with dy­ers and block print­ers from all over the vast coun­try to make his clothes.

But the ar­ti­sans are not used to work­ing with the wool that is re­quired for the col­lec­tion and which can change shape in In­dia's blis­ter­ing heat and hu­mid mon­soons.

"This was my first ex­pe­ri­ence weav­ing with such dif­fi­cult fab­ric on such a tight dead­line. These de­signs were one-off pieces and (now) I'm re­pro­duc­ing this col­lec­tion for five or six stores," he said. "We've suc­cess­fully man­aged to do that (although) we are a lit­tle be­hind sched­ule."

The judges of the prize, awarded in Jan­uary, noted Dhir's attention to de­tail in his col­lec­tion of tai­lored jack­ets, shirts and loose pants which were in­spired by his childhood spent with his grand­fa­ther in Pun­jab state.

The lin­ings of his jack­ets are block-printed with small mo­tifs such as um­brel­las, and the but­tons on his shirts are sewn on with dif­fer­ent types of thread.

Dhir said his clothes, some of which are mixed with silk and use the tra­di­tional ikat tech­nique – hand-tied and dyed yarn – to pat­tern tex­tiles, are meant to be worn ev­ery day.

'Don't do bling' "When I think of my grand­fa­ther, I think of these beau­ti­ful jack­ets and blaz­ers that you could pass on from one gen­er­a­tion to the next," the small num­ber of In­di­ans sought af­ter in in­ter­na­tional stores.

"More than a hand­ful are stocked but only a hand­ful have been no­ticed and get con­sis­tent busi­ness," she said of In­dian de­sign­ers.

"It's a very sig­nif­i­cant prize be­cause the door has been knocked down for you. (But) You need to be able to man­age your qual­ity, your num­bers, your de­liv­er­ies," Va­sudev added.

She pointed to the in­ter­na­tional suc­cess of In­dian de­signer Rahul Mishra, who won the same prize for wom­enswear in 2014, as an ex­am­ple of what was pos­si­ble.

On the road to be­com­ing a recog­nised de­signer, Dhir worked in a call cen­tre and sold mo­bile phones and also spent sev­eral un­suc­cess­ful years in col­lege, in­fu­ri­at­ing his fam­ily.

"I was clue­less about what to do with my life," he said.

He then en­rolled at the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Fash­ion Tech­nol­ogy in Delhi be­fore start­ing his own la­bel in 2010.

Dhir said the first few years were rocky fi­nan­cially, largely be­cause he re­fused to de­sign out­fits to cater for In­dia's lav­ish an­nual wed­ding sea­son, which many de­sign­ers rely upon for in­come. – AFP Re­laxnews

SUKETDHIR menswear.

In­dian fash­ion de­signer Suket Dhir.

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