Using fame and creative genius to address social issues is something that fashion designers are turning to fiercely. From creating a line for cancer patients to working towards women's welfare, today's haute couturiers are wearing their hearts on their sleeve. Sheetal Anand turns the limelight on five Indian designers who are designing for a cause.
1. Reviving the art of film posters: Nida Mahmood
'Art meets Fashion. Style meets Street.' is the essence of Delhi-based fashion designer Nida Mahmood's poster art collection. Launched with aplomb at the WIFW, Nida's collection has designer-wear printed with Hindi film poster designs. "Designs from Indian films and street imagery are not just mindlessly lifted. They are created graphically in-house and then painted by the artists," says Mahmood.
Her conviction led to a trust named, 'The New India Bioscope Company' that includes poster artists from Delhi and around. "My endeavour is to bring the art of film poster artists back into circulation through my collection as their livelihood was challenged 10 years ago due to computer-generated billboards. Therefore, major chunk of the sales proceeds goes towards maintaining their livelihood. We are also trying to set up space to teach newer artists the art of original poster art," adds Mahmood.
2. Combating Cancer: Shaina NC
'Caring with style' is the guiding mantra of fashion designer Shaina NC. Recently, she put together a fashion show at LFW that raised money for the Cancer Patients Aid Association.
Apart from celebs, people from all walks of life including lawyers, doctors and engineers walked the ramp. Shaina says, "I want to design for real people not just models or anorexics. Therefore, the USP of this collection was easy accessibility and being user-friendly." Of course, the most gratifying factor was the difference it made to the cancer patients it was dedicated to.
3. Being responsible: Manish Malhotra
Celebrated designer Manish Malhotra has been actively working on different causes. "As a designer my label celebrates 6 years of being primarily Indian contemporary evening wear. But now, this year the label has taken upon itself to promote Indian traditional crafts such as chikankari and Kashmiri," says Malhotra who is trying hard to turn near-extinct Kashmiri embroidery into a fashion statement.
In addition, he has also created a collection that supports cancer patients. "It gives me immense pleasure to be more responsible and be part of a worthy cause which not only raises funds for children afflicted with cancer but also celebrates fashion."
4. Promoting environment friendly fashion: Anita Dongre
'Grassroots' by Anita Dongre is India's first designer eco-friendly clothing line. A contemporary stylish collection, recently showcased at WIFW, it dispelled myths that eco-friendly clothing is dull and boring.
"I am excited to be the first Indian designer to use organic fair trade cotton sourced from Shop for Change," says Dongre. Inked with pure vegetable dyes and avoiding the use of chemicals, Grassroots' mission is protecting the environment. "Stylish clothing is then fashioned out of this and decorated with chikankari, kalamkari and ikkat embroidery by the women of Mijwan, a tiny village in UP. This in turn helps provide livelihood to artists by reviving lost traditional Indian crafts," adds Dongre.
5. Empowering women: Archana Kochhar
Archana Kochhar is involved in the welfare of women and the girl child. Archana works with the NGO Beti, a social movement against female foeticide and Nanhi Kali, which is dedicated to ensuring primary education for underprivileged girl children. In fact, she has done a number of charitable shows to create awareness on gender equality.
The most recent being an exclusive collection for Beti, that had 50 women celebrities strutting the runway supporting the cause. Not just this, Archana also is trying to empower illiterate women from slum areas by training them to craft exquisite home ware products out of waste from her design studio.