Fashion for All
Samir Alam analyses the new possibilities in Indian fashion after the dilution of Section 377 by the Supreme Court of India.
Analysing the new possibilities in Indian fashion after the dilution of Section 377 by the Supreme Court of India
WHILE KISHMISH GARMENTS ARE EASY TO WEAR, THE EXPERIENCE OF WEARING THEM IS EXTENDED BY THEIR VERSATILITY.
particular garment as a fabric is generally used for designing just one garment of its type. The same design may appear in different colours of a particular fabric or in different fabrics. The fabrics are stocked at the studio at Simla House, Napean Sea Road, Mumbai, for clients to browse for customised orders as well as at the workshop at Tardeo, Mumbai, where the master tailor and the team of tailors stitch garments. The cotton fabrics are washed before designing to check for shrinkage and colour fastness.
The studio presents collections from time to time. They have dresses in standard and nonstandard sizes as well as free sizes for those who have a different body structure. Apart from the collections, they also design garments specifically for clients. About 50 per cent of their garments are made-to-order, which works well for them. The garments are retailed at the studio at Simla House as well as at Ensemble, Melange and Bungalow 8 in Mumbai, Good Earth in Mumbai and Delhi, Bombaim in Kolkata, and Cinnamon and Raintree in Bengaluru. In a specific city, different collections are sent to different stores so that within a city, customers see a different collection at each outlet.
The Kishmish label features pants, blouses, shirts, kurtas, overlays and dresses of different styles, surface textures (smocking, pleats) and sleeves (sleeveless, short, long and kaftan sleeves). Shift dresses form the greater part of the product range. Some dresses are double-layered for an interesting look, yet they can also be worn separately.
While Kishmish garments are easy to wear, the experience of wearing them is extended by their versatility. The shift dresses can be worn by themselves as a western garment or they can be teamed with a churidar for an Indian look. By adding accessories such as a scarf or jewellery, the garment changes its look from office wear to evening wear. “Our classic colours tend to be a classic variety of kora, charcoal, black, deep red, indigo and khaki with our signature red touches. For the festive season, we do a range of cheerful bright colours. In the summer, the garments are of pastel colours and in the winter of deeper, darker colours.”
THE POTLA POTLI COLLECTION
During the cutting of garments, small sections of fabric of regular and irregular shapes and sizes are invariably left over. These are collected and sorted by colours and shades at the workshop and stored in different potlis (cloth bags). One day, when the master tailor was free, Nikki and Rekha decided to go through the potlis and seeing the wonderful range of fabrics, they decided to use them. These bags thus became resources for creating borders, cuffs and plackets on garments. The next step involved creating patchwork sections with fabrics of a particular type such as stripes and of a colour family for front and back yokes. The subsequent step was creating entire garments with patchwork, thus transforming the recycling effort into upcycling.
Designing an entire garment with scrap fabrics is far more difficult to design and stitch than a garment crafted from single yardage, as the designers have to ensure that the different scraps are in sync with each other and then the garment has to be designed with care using these sections for different parts such as the collar or shoulder of a shirt. Further, the tailor has to ensure that there is no puckering where the seams are made. For comfort of wearing, the sections are stitched with the flat pleat. In some cases, only the wearer knows of an upcycled strip of cloth as it is stitched as an inner lining or placket, giving it a personal surprise element.
Informally asking a tailor to take out a strip of cloth from a particular potli interestingly led to the name of an entire collection called Potla Potli Collection! By its very nature, each garment in the collection is unique. These garments have reduced waste cloth drastically at the workshop. In the past six months, the workshop has produced only six kilos of waste cloth and the aim is zero waste production. The highlight of the Potla Potli Collection is a brocade jacket that is created with 63 patches.
THE SCRATCH STITCH
Adding an attractive element to the patchwork is the scratch stitch which had an unusual origin. Rekha’s dog would often tear its blanket and Rekha would ask a tailor to darn ( rafoo) it by working a few stitches using the sewing machine. This led to the same stitch being worked on the patchwork of a garment to give it an interesting, designer touch. In fact, so attractive is the stitch that at times, some clients–not finding the scratch stitch on a garment with patchwork–request for it!
The scratch stitch is symbolic of the ethos of Kishmish that it is acceptable and even meaningful to restore, repair, mend, care for and upcycle old clothes, and that mending clothes beautifully gives them a new lease of life and makes them last longer. In this way, by bringing together handmade and patched fabrics, handtailoring and scratch stitch to create garments that are comfort and chic, the brand silently speaks of and for sustainability with style.
It is almost a universal certainty that September 6, 2018, will go down in history as the day India finally stepped out of the oppressive shadow of an archaic law and into the colourful daylight of modern times. This was the day that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was deemed ‘irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary’ in its persecution of consensual adults engaging in homosexual sex by the Supreme Court of India. Not only was this monumental moment a triumph for the LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex, Asexual and others) community but also a revelation for more than 1.3 billion Indian citizens who gained the opportunity to understand, connect, and share in the full potential of their own freedoms and expressions.
THE CREATIVE AND TRANSGRESSIVE PERSONALITIES OF THIS UNDERCLASS OFTEN FOUND THEMSELVES ATTRACTED TO AND ACCEPTED IN THE FASHION WORLD.
THE JOURNEY TO FREEDOM
Prior to British colonial rule, Indian morality and ethics had an unchallenged acceptance and recognition of homosexual behaviour with no negative connotations. But during its enslavement, Indian society was coerced into following the British colonial modes of Victorian legal and moral thinking, leading to centuries of oppression. And while the colonial rule may have come to an end decades ago, its tarnished legacy continued to carry over into independent India. During the post-independence period, Indian law continued to remain burdened by western jurisprudence, as it followed the archaic legal precedence of discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community without any reconsideration.
Not only did this lead to decades of abuse and marginalisation of millions of Indians, it forever changed the open and inclusive nature of Indian society to one that was repugnant to its original ideals. However, as time moved on, so did the wisdom and thinking of the world. The biggest push towards equality began in the 1960s as civil movements began to acknowledge the inherent flaws in older ways of thinking. And even as sexual liberty remained under oppression in the post-colonised world, England and Wales decriminalised homosexuality for men in 1967. It would, of course, be decades more before true equality would be attained in any nation, but the trend had been established. However, for India, the journey to decriminalising Section 377 remained a long and arduous one.
During this time, the many millions of people who remained neglected, discriminated against, and abused, found only a few places where they could pursue lives of purpose and meaning. While many in India had little choice but to remain hidden, fearful of the law and social stigma, there was one place where they would find acceptance–the Indian fashion industry. As in many places around the world, the creative and transgressive personalities of this underclass often found themselves attracted to and accepted in the fashion world. Surrounded by creative outlets