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    Designers who fashion gilets from Kanjeevaram and bags from cork, to a blogger who has turned her love for garments into a business plan for pop-ups — Chennai latest stars  

    From working with the underprivileged and creating eco-friendly designs, to encouraging artisans from across the country, Chennai’s new fashion people believe in savvy marketing and attention to detail. Lata Madhu of Collage, who has hosted many of the country’s leading names at her multi-designer boutique, admits that some ofthe new designers in the city “are really good and experiment with everything, a bit like a kaleidoscope.” They are all tech-smart, she agrees, and they place importance on the ‘wow-factor’ with projects. “That said, even if you are quirky, you must consistently bring out something original every season. You cannot be a one-time wonder,” she cautions. Here’s what the designers have to say:

    Text: Shibi Kumaramangalam

    Saloni Shah, 24

    Fashion and personal stylist, Saloni Shah, a graduate of the LaSalle College of Arts (Singapore), has turned her passion for retail therapy into a profession. “As a stylist, my job is to shop and I get paid to be a shopping machine, so what’s not to love?” she asks. Currently working as an image consultant at the family-owned Revive Wellness Lounge and Qualia Spa, she puts her experience at the multi-designer address, Evoluzione, and online shopping platform, C-Bazaar, to good use. “More than the modelling I did when in school, I loved the shoots and what goes on behind the scenes—the conceptualisation, sourcing of garments and styling,” she says. She believes it is important to be fit, healthy and work towards your ideal image. Shah’s business plan is to offer styling services to clients to complement what is offered at the fitness lounge, with packages like ‘The Ultimate Closet Makeover’ and ‘Shop Till You Drop’. “People have this misconception that you have to be a celebrity to work with a personal stylist. That’s not true. A personal stylist can come to your rescue by keeping you in the loop with the latest trends, designers, stores and bargains,” she sums up.
    Details: revivewellness.co.in

     
    Aarti Deepak Vencatachellum, 29PICTURE OF AARTHI SHAH FOR INDULGE. EXPRESS / R.SATISH BABU

    I was always a sucker for labels and wanted my own name in this industry,” explains the founder-designer behind Chennai fashion label ADV (her initials), known for floor-length gowns and elaborate anarkalis. Vencatachellum graduated with a master’s degree in fashion design from the Istituto Marangoni in Milan (2011), after which she worked as the head merchandiser for the textile chain, Pothys. On what inspired her to pursue this line, the designer says, “I love the way fabric moves, stretches and works around the body. It gives me the challenge of making a perfectly fitting garment for each of my clients.” Vencatachellum, who loves working with everything from silk and lycra to leather and crochet, shares that her label caters to women of all ages. Meanwhile, ADV is set to debut on high fashion e-store, Pernia’s Pop Up Shop—one of the few city-based labels to make the cut. With casual, work and wedding essentials to red carpet gowns, the brand has every woman covered. “My forte is haute couture. I recently started menswear, as many of my brides wanted solutions for their grooms.” She also spends a few hours a week teaching at INIFD (Inter National Institute of Fashion Design). Details: 9962062098

    Shivani Patel, 23, & Keshsa Vasant, 24

    The young team behind the eco-friendly handbags at Chennai-based Arture believe in sustainable fashion. “Arture stands for ‘Art’ and ‘Nature’,” explains the brand’s co-founder, Shivani Patel. “We strongly believe that fashion should not come at the price of a life.” The NIFT Chennai DESIGNER SHIVANI . EXPRESS/A.RAJA CHIDAMBARAM.graduate and her partner Keshsa Vasant sought crowd-funding to help kick-start their au naturale brand that has wallets and bags fashioned from cork material. “We are a completely cruelty-free, vegan and eco-friendly brand,” says Keshsa, a marketing graduate from the University of Denver, adding, “We feel there are other alternatives to leather, and cork is one of them.” The Chennai-born ladies are aware that sustainable fashion is the way forward. Keshsa handles the marketing of this start-up, having previously worked at ad agency RK Swamy BBDO, while Shivani is the designer. “When we first explain to someone that we work with cork, we see an expression of confusion on their faces—they’re obviously imagining wine stoppers, which is what most of us associate cork with. They expect something hard and brittle. But then when we pull out a wallet, they go ‘woah’!” Fortunately, the mahogany and wine red sling bags, wallets and iPad sleeves do not bear the faintest resemblance to a bottle stopper. The duo spend their spare time researching new eco-friendly materials and reusable resources. “In the next five years we want to break the mindset that only leather is premium,” says Kesha. Arture products are available online and soon in select boutiques.  Details: arture.in

    Ekta Nahar 24 , Sandeep Ravi 25 

    A NIFT Chennai alumnus, Sandeep Ravi has worked in the visual merchandising department of Tommy Hilfiger, but monotony got the best of IMG_7927 (2)him. He finally decided to make his own design ideas a reality and in 2012, launched Studio 9696, along with two classmates, one of them being Kavitha Kothari (far left). The third partner was recently replaced by Ekta Nahar, a junior at NIFT. The fashion studio does styling for brands and individuals (Kamal Haasan and Taapsee Pannu), and also has a line of women’s wear, with a following for bridal couture, denim sari blouses and evening gowns. They have worked on costumes for two movies, Yash Raj production’s Aaha Kalyanam (2014), and James Vasanthan’s Vaanavil Vaazhkai (2015). Besides movie stars, they are popular with  television celebrities. To the many young fashion entrepreneurs out there, Ravi says, “Start out slow, with low investments. When you gain some experience, put in more money.” Details: 8939020391

    Pritha Kishor, 29SHOTS OF DESIGNER PRITHA FOR INDULGE-EXPRESS/P.RAVIKUMAR

    The creative force behind design label Asat, Pritha Kishor’s love for colour is evident when you step into her Nungambakkam studio. “From white to teal, to peach to bright red, I don’t really have a favourite colour. It depends on what mood I’m in,” she laughs. Introducing her bespoke label, she explains that Asat, in Urdu, can be roughly translated to “an object that is powerful”. Kishor shares that since its inception in 2011, their creations have been about the client’s nature and whimsy. There are sleeveless, buttoned-down jackets and gilets made from Kanjeevaram and other unusual fabrics. The NIFT alumnus identifies artisans from across the country. The label has also garnered a following for its unique prints featured in menswear and children’s clothes (geometric motifs, fish, rabbits and even the four-leaf clover). There are shirts for men in every shade of blue you can imagine. Her printed silk dhoti pants and kaftan tops bring attention to the luxurious fabrics used for women’s wear. “We work with flowy, treated fabrics such as soft silk, organza and georgette. Our garments transcend time and trend,” concludes the designer. Details: facebook.com/asatdesignstudio/info

     

    Vishwa Dave, 30Vishwa Dave - Portrait Shoot June 14th 2015

    Vishwa Dave’s recent pop-up event at The Collective, The Embellvish Festive Trunk Show, was a huge success, with Chennaites scooping up the capes on sale. The fashion blogger and entrepreneur brought down creations of Hyderabad-based Jayanti Reddy, Mumbai’s Babita Malkani and others to town, and ensured that it was affordable fashion (the collection started at `4,000). “To make aspirational fashion (found online and on magazines) accessible to people” is a skill, she agrees. Having done brand styling for Phoenix MarketCity’s Spring Summer 2015 and Autumn Winter 2015 promos for the mall, Dave is also busy with a styling project for an Indian footwear company. Details are under wraps for now. Not focusing on personal styling projects any more, the 30-year-old economics graduate, who was always inclined towards fashion and retail, says that she is going to be busy with her brand projects. But given the success of her pop-up store, you may expect a few more in the city soon.  Details: 9884716685

     

    Harsha Vardhini, 24

    Co-founder of the design label Pahar, Harsha Vardhini says that at the ripe young age of 24, she is now an accomplished multi-tasker. “I work in all aspects of the business—from designing to PR—so I have learnt to think from diverse perspectives. It’s been a fantastic learning DESIGNER HARSHA. EXPRESS/A.RAJA CHIDAMBARAMexperience.” Vardhini launched Pahar with her cousin Parkavi Ramaswamy in Chennai, last December. “Pahar is not just a fashion label,” says the London College of Fashion graduate. “Our clothes are designed with the intention of showcasing the opulent heritage fabrics of our country to a versatile global audience.” Having interned with Ralph Lauren and Juicy Couture in college, and then worked with the Shilpi team in the city, the designer brings a strong foundation in traditional fabrics and artisanal crafts to her label. “Essentially, we do modern Indo-western clothes with chic silhouettes and rich Indian textiles. There is an emphasis on the quality of our handcrafted silks and cottons, and on the workmanship of fine craftsmen.” A self-professed people’s person, she confesses that her greatest influence in life comes from the various people she meets. “I learn through people, conversations, actions, et al, and this influences my design.” We adore Pahar’s new hand-painted maxi dresses, brocade jumpsuits and Grecian-inspired evening gowns in silk. Details: ewalifestyle.com

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