With Lakme Fashion Week less than a week away we caught up with some of the designers from the Gen Next Winter / Festive 2015 to see how they found the experience and find out what they’ve been doing since.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Gen Next programme, it is a unique initiative aimed at seeking out the next pool of talented fashion designers and giving them a professional platform to showcase their designs, while also giving them first-rate mentoring. Gen Next has been responsible for launching some of the biggest names in Indian fashion, such as, Rahul Mishra and Masaba Gupta.
The 20th Gen Next programme provided a platform for seven upcoming designers to showcase their collections at Lakme Fashion Week. Designers Charchit Bafna, Siddhartha Bansal, Jebin Johny, Ajay Kumar, Shivangi Sahni, Kriti Tula and Ishita Mangal were mentored throughout the process by fashion consultant and entrepreneur Sabina Chopra.
Overall, the Gen Next programme lasts for around two months. The application process contains three stages, and once being accepted onto the programme each designer is given their own page on a crowd funding platform to raise money for their collection. In addition to the financial benefits, the page also helps drum up some buzz and visibility before the Lakme Fashion Week launch. In the last two weeks before the showcase there is a plethora of fittings and press conferences. As the seven designers share the ramp they are only able to show 8 outfits, but and then each given a stall to showcase their collection in full to buyers.
Charchit Bafna previewed his Elakka Ice collection, which as the name suggests had a tropical winter theme. Bafna chose this theme because a tropical winter in India is very different from world winter fashion, due to its warmer and spicier climate, which he was able to reflect in his aesthetic. The elakka means cardamom which is a spice and therefore the name represents warmth and snow. The collection used Western cuts and silhouettes (e.g. bomber jackets and coats), while also borrowing from India by using soft hues and a colour palette unique to India. For example, luscious colours such as blue and green were used and symbols of the tropical Indian winter, such as the banana leaf was a motif which ran throughout the collection.
Something that made Charchit Bafna’s collection stand out was its gender neutrality. Apart from the fact that the styles of the clothes themselves are fairly gender neutral, the label itself is not specific about who should wear what. The reason for this is that they don’t want to be boxed in, but to remain fluid and in line with the brand sensibility.
Speaking about Gen Next, Bafna said that what made the experience so great was the fact that it was tailored to first timers, and each designer was guided by a senior mentor and were also able to interact with established people within the industry, so they are well supported throughout.
Bafna reckons that the biggest benefit of showcasing at Lakme Fashion Week through the Gen Next programme was the increased exposure it gave him and access to people within the industry. The programme opens a lot of doors for young designers because it gives them access to stakeholders, fashion e-commerce companies and fashion stylists. For Bafna, the experience led to a lot of magazine articles about the label, most notably, pieces from his collection were featured in Vogue.
Charchit Bafna started his label three years before his involvement in Gen Next and got accepted on his second time applying, which illustrates the competitiveness of the programme. His is now working on his next collection which will be made from organic materials. Bafna hopes to continue to increase his notoriety in India, as well as finding popularity in the West. He already does production for labels in the US and UK with a strong 12 person team including tailors and embroiderers from his workshop in a suburb of Delhi.
For Siddhartha Bansal the opportunity to showcase at Lakme Fashion Week through Gen Next was the experience of a lifetime. To be able to communicate his creative vision and passion on a major platform and has his clothes covered by some of the most important people in the industry and buyers he believes has opened doors for him which would have otherwise been closed.
The Siddhartha Bansal label aims to represent the rich Indian culture and traditions by creating clothes through Indian fabrics, colour combinations and intricate detailed motifs which are generally found on the streets of India, in feminine cuts. Crafted prints and embroideries is the brands unique selling point, as the variety of production techniques embody India’s rich cultural diversity and creates unique designs through a kaleidoscopic process.
Another designer who is inspired by the various street bazaars of India and their surrounding environment is Shivangi Sahni who weaves together eclectic details to create invigorating and diverse collections, each with their own unique story. Sahni places an emphasis on beautifully blended fabrics, intricate detailing and exquisite embroideries.
Sahni says that she aims to create clothes that memories are made in, with the core values of the label being fine craftsmanship, high quality materials, contemporary functionality, and timeless design. Her area of specialisation is in the sophisticated detailing of each garment, with artisan techniques and hand worked embellishments incorporating inspirations from around the globe and drawing on all things Indian in lifestyle and personality.
One designer who found the Gen Next programme to be a launch pad is Jebin Johny who launched his brand on the back of Lakme Fashion Week and has since been able to sell his clothes across various cities in India. Johny was born in Cochin, Kerala and after falling in love with fashion went to the UK to do an MA in Fashion and Textile Design. The idea and direction for his womenswear clothing label Jebsispar (an amalgamation of his familial connections; JEBin, SISters and PARents.) was born in England. Upon returning to India he applied for the Gen Next programm, which he said was truly an honour to be part of.
For the Gen Next collection, Johny used an artistic design philosophy, which he implemented through a technique similar to method acting. As a lover of dance, Johny decided to illustrate the emotions he feels while he is dancing, as well as taking inspiration from the movement and creativity evident in two types of dance drama: Kathakali of India and Kabuki of Japan. This fusion of two dancing was represented in the collections name: KathaKabuki.
The theme of depicting his feelings and emotions in physical form through his clothes continues in his upcoming collection titled ‘Alzhimom’. The name is an amalgamation of Alzheimer’s disease and his grandmother, who suffered from it. The collection is therefore a deeply personal one for Johny, which he uses as an emotional outlet and to try and depict the emotions of an Alzheimer patient as well as that of the patient’s family. The line is high end fashion / couture wear, which plays around with blacks and whites.
From speaking to four of the Gen Next designers a common theme emerged which was that the most challenging part of the whole experience was developing and conceptualising their collections and then showcasing them for the first time. The reasons vary from the personal nature of the collections to the pressure that comes with showcasing on such a major platform, as each of the designers are under a lot of scrutiny, particularly because it is known as a grooming ground for future prolific designers. Unsurprisingly the most gratifying aspect for all of them was being able to showcase their work on a big platform, to be able to see their clothes for the first time on professional models and to be mentored and receive advice and feedback from some of the premier people within the industry.
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