Contemporising Indiann Textiles
In a tête-à-tête, Sayoni Bhaduri with Mandeep Nagi, design director of Shades of India, speaks about her company, design philosophy and the growth of Indian textiles.
In conversation with Mandeepep Nagi, Design Director of Shades of India
It’s been a little over 20 years since Shades of India set foot in the fashion and textile space. The brand which is the brainchild of Mandeep Nagi and David Housego has a distinct vision for Indian textiles which combines contemporary designs with the inspiring workmanship of traditional craft. Textured fabrics, the unique use of colours and innovative treatments of surfaces, are some of the many reasons the brand has made a mark for itself, both in India and abroad.
This unique vision has won Shades of India multitudes of awards including the best product awards at shows in Paris and New York. Nagi herself is a three-time winner of the Elle Decor Design Award in India for fabric. Apart from their easy-to-wear yet contemporary clothing line, Nagi and her team introduce an extensive home collection twice a year which is designed and executed in-house. In 2012, they opened the door to their first stand-alone retail store in New Delhi; it has become a go-to shopping destination for the city. Their product ranges are also available over 20 outlets in India including through Good Earth stores and the e-commerce site, Jaypore.
Shades of India has also been a medium of social change. At the Lakme Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2017, the brand had young girls from Mumbai’s red light areas as models to showcase their apparel range. Prior to that, the brand hit the limelight when they had Kamla, a 28-year-old who earned a living as a domestic help, as a model for their apparel. Always looking
to push the envelope it has been an enriching for Nagi as she shares a glimpse into her journey with Shades of India.
WHAT IS THE STORY OF INCEPTION OF SHADES OF INDIA?
Shades of India began more than two decades ago. I, fortunately, inherited my mother’s love for textiles and with this natural bent towards fabrics; I studied textiles at college, and in particular, fashion. But the real turning point for me came when I designed home collections for Shades of India. We were then taking part in Maison et Objet – the lifestyle, decoration and design show in Paris. I faced an international audience to which I had to bring a style that was contemporary but also drew on Indian crafts and techniques at the same time.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR DESIGN PHILOSOPHY?
Our design philosophy leans towards redefining Indian aesthetics and is an eclectic fusion of cultures, fabric, colours and techniques.
WHAT IS THE USP OF SHADES OF INDIA?
Shades of India emphasises on the texturing of fabrics, the coordination and contrasting of colours, and the inventive and unexpected use of surface treatment.
WHERE DO YOU SOURCE YOUR RAW MATERIALS FROM? AND WHAT ARE THE PARTICULARS YOU KEEP IN MIND FOR SUCH PURCHASES?
Shades of India sources all its fabrics from various regions in India to make authentic pieces for its national as well as international clientelé. For
THE REAL TURNING POINT FOR ME CAME WHEN I DESIGNED HOME COLLECTIONS FOR SHADES OF INDIA. WE WERE THEN TAKING PART IN MAISON ET OBJET – THE LIFESTYLE, DECORATION AND DESIGN SHOW IN PARIS.
THE DESIGNERS AND RETAILERS IN THE COUNTRY HAVE PLAYED A GREAT ROLE IN REVIVING AGE OLD TECHNIQUES FROM DIFFERENT REGIONS IN THE COUNTRY WHICH HAS BENEFITTED THE TEXTILE INDUSTRY LARGELY.
instance, we source cotton from the south, silk from Bengaluru, tussar silk from Bhagalpur, etc. We are always looking for new sources like hand weaves from Bengal or fine wool from Ladakh.
It is important that anything with the Shades of India tag to it goes through stringent quality checks and for this we have a well-organised workforce that inspects every material that passes through.
IN THE LAST TWO DECADES, HOW HAVE TRADITIONAL INDIAN TEXTILES EVOLVED? WHAT MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE TO HELP?
India was always known and sought after for its raw materials like cotton, silk, wool fibres, natural dyes and exquisite craftsmanship. Interestingly, the growth of the fashion institutes and the courses on fashion textiles, have added to the growth and evolvement of the textile industry and it has been thriving and waiting to get bigger. Also, the designers and retailers in the country have played a great role in reviving age old techniques from different regions in the country which has benefitted the textile industry largely.
Having said that, Indian textiles still need an organised market and it’s the weaving and finishing that needs to be reinforced.
PLEASE THROW LIGHT ON YOUR DISTRIBUTION STRATEGY, IN INDIA AND ABROAD
Our major markets in India are the metropolis. We want to expand into three or four more. We are also looking at strengthening our online presence. Abroad, our major market is the US where we mainly pin our hopes on ‘ Neem’ by Shades of India. But we also have substantial private label work in the US – much of it in garments.
WHERE DO YOU SEE SHADES OF INDIA IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?
We have grown at about 30 per cent a year over the last two years. However, the coming years are very difficult to predict with so much uncertainty
both here and in major markets abroad like the US and Europe. But we are very hopeful that our new brand in the US, ‘ Neem’, will do very well.
WHAT WILL BE DRIVING FACTORS FOR THE GROWTH OF SHADES OF INDIA?
The Indian fashion industry has changed a lot and it is constantly evolving. The biggest change has been the arrival of western style department stores with fast fashion clothes. But paradoxically that has also given value to apparel that draws on Indian traditions but are styled in a contemporary way. Shades of India has benefited from this enormously and believes will continue to do so. We have a large audience which tells us, “we only wear Shades of India”. Of course, that is an exaggeration. But it is true that many women— both young and at the height of their careers— value something that is unique, has a flavour of India and is beautifully detailed.