Making an Impression
Brinda Gill engages in a conversation with textile designer Naina Lamba, whose repertoire of signature and customised prints are colourful, creative and eye-catching.
Designer and Founder of Naina Lamba Textiles
“I have always loved pattern and colour. Mixing different colours and patterns is what makes me happy. You would hardly see me wearing something that isn’t printed. Printing techniques for textiles have really come a long way from block printing to digital printing. Each technique has a distinct aesthetic and charm about it. I personally love all the techniques,” says textile designer Naina Lamba.
Naina discovered the beauty of print design during the second year of her Textile Design course at National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), New Delhi. “Print Design was the module I enjoyed the most, and I ended up topping the batch. I loved deriving inspiration from things around me, developing motifs, adding colour and playing with different layouts. I started paying more attention to details and things around me. I enjoyed the subject so much that I had decided by then that I wanted a career in print design.”
SETTING UP STUDIO
The result of Naina’s interest in print design led her to pursue a master’s degree in Textile Design, specialising in Print Design, from the Winchester School of Art in the UK. Keen to launch her own brand of textile design, she returned to India after her graduation. In February 2018, she founded Naina Lamba Textiles, a Gurugram-based textile design studio specialising in creating hand illustrated digital prints for home, apparel and lifestyle accessories.
The studio produces hand illustrated customised prints to specific design briefs, working with fabric houses, fashion designers, suppliers, retailers and start-up businesses in the fashion and apparel, home décor and stationery markets. The studio also undertakes work after the design stage is complete. This means that on some commissioned projects, the studio also undertakes placement prints, say on a dress. In such a case, the client gives a CAD pattern of the dress and Naina takes care of the placements for printing.
TWO KINDS OF LICENCES
Naina mostly works on commissioned projects that come with a very specific brief regarding the themes and the colours. She also designs prints from her own creativity and licenses them. Naina provides two kinds of licensing. One is the premium licence, in which if she develops a print for a company, they have the exclusive licence to use that print and she cannot sell that print or any elements of the print to any other brand or feature it for personal use. The other is the non-exclusive licence, wherein she can sell one single print to multiple companies.
Most of Naina’s print designs are for digital printing as she finds the technique can be done on all kinds of fabric and gives her the freedom of using unlimited colours. She finds the latter aspect of digital printing a huge advantage. This is because she feels the spectrum of colours thus available for her work does justice to it in terms of details and clarity. While she has designed prints for screen printing, rotary printing and block printing, she enjoys digital the most.
MOST OF NAINA’S PRINT DESIGNS ARE FOR DIGITAL PRINTING AS SHE FINDS THE TECHNIQUE CAN BE DONE ON ALL KINDS OF FABRIC AND GIVES HER THE FREEDOM OF USING UNLIMITED COLOURS.
THE DESIGN PROCESS
The design process starts when either the client gives Naina a brief (regarding the theme they want to work on, the colour palette, and some inspiration pictures from the runway, WGSN or trend reports) or they ask her to put a mood board together, for which they would tell her the kind of aesthetic/vibe they are looking for, for their brand. Naina then researches different sources and starts with motif development. She works with different mediums–it could be inky sketches with black pens on a white background or she may use colour pencils, watercolour paints or acrylics. The medium she works with for the pattern depends on the kind of look the client wants. Sometimes the colours are filled in digitally; sometimes the sketch is hand-coloured. This once again depends on the requirement and the look of the final print. Once the sketches and initial concepts are done, they are scanned in high-resolution and digitised. A lot of editing is then required to correct the colours on Photoshop.
Once the colours are finalised, Naina puts the repeats together. “The repeats also depend on the scale the client is looking for. For garments, large-scale motifs and repeats are really in trend now. I play around with different layouts to see how the print is coming together, how the colours and motifs are being balanced in the repeat. In a pattern, you do not want the repeat to be very prominent or obvious. The entire pattern should be in a flow. This is the most important aspect of designing seamless patterns.”
When Naina is developing an entire collection, she typically designs one main print, that is, the mother print, along with coordinate prints. For example, the Faro Storks mother print has storks, palm trees and the tile pattern, while the coordinate is a simpler complementary print that goes with the mother print. She also provides colourways, that is, the mother print in different colour options. Once the pattern/collection is finalised, Naina supplies ready-to-print files in layers and in seamless repeats to the brand, using the print for digital print. For screen prints, the colours are separated and the Pantone codes are mentioned on the layers.
A BALANCED LOOK
While drawing and filling in colours, Naina keeps in mind the different details of a composition to capture the essence or spirit of the theme or concept as well as to ensure that the pattern will look good on a fabric when it is printed. “As quirky as the print is, it is very important to keep in mind the commercial aspect of it, if you want the print to sell. The process of creating a print is an intricate one, from finding inspiration to putting together the entire print so that it looks aesthetically pleasing to the eye, as that’s what sells! It requires a lot of creativity, attention to detail and most importantly, a good eye for colour and layouts–something that can really change how the final print/artwork looks. It’s very important to balance the overall look.”
Life around her and most of all travel inspires Naina’s patterns. “Most of my personal prints are inspired by my travels. My latest collection was inspired by a trip to Spain and Portugal. I derived motifs and colours from the cityscapes, streets, painted tiles and flora and fauna around the cities. My favourite pattern is the Porto cityscape pattern. I love the details of the doors, windows, streets, buildings and birds!” And thus she says that each design from her studio has a story, and every story promises to take the wearer of the print on a journey that explores the beauty, the myths, the crafts, the flora and fauna, the various streets and cities across the world that she has visited.
DEMAND FOR HAND ILLUSTRATED PRINTS
Naina has observed that the demand for prints, especially custom-made exclusive prints, is definitely growing. “People have outgrown heavily embellishments and embroidered garments. A lot of Indian wear brands are launching easy-to-wear, lighter prêt collections that are focused on prints. A few bridal wear designers have also been experimenting with print.”
In less than a year of establishing her studio, Naina has created prints for several well-known designers and garment labels such as Malini Ramani, Study by Janak, Vikram Phadnis, Twinkle Hanspal, Coconat Swimwear, Prama By Pratima Pandey and Mavrans. The appreciation and demand for her hand illustrated prints has also taken her by surprise. She says, “I enjoyed working with the swimwear brand Coconat Swimwear based in Dominican Republic. They licensed a few prints from me and I love how they used my prints. I love how quirky their style is. I would’ve never imagined a Porto-inspired cityscape pattern to be seen on swimwear.”
A DIGITAL WORLD
Like young designers making their entry into the apparel and fashion world, Naina is at ease with social media and digital marketing. She has designed her website that is visually attractive, showcases her work effectively and is easy to navigate. She has worked hard on building up her online portfolio and profile to attract clients, and finds most clients through Instagram. While she meets clients at her studio and sometimes goes for meetings to their stores/studio (if they are based locally), she communicates with overseas clients by calls and emails. Attending trade fairs to meet international buyers is on her to-do list as she looks forward to promoting her brand globally.
@Ira Berry Creations