When three experts from different industries—singer Tanvi Shah, photographer Sundar Ramu and designer Vivek Karunakaran—got together at a recent event to discuss Chennai’s style influencers, we realised that the fashion quotient of the city has evolved remarkably over the years. The creative force is now getting out of their comfort zone and taking initiatives to the global red carpet, making patrons and industry experts across the country and the world sit up and take notice of the talent from the South. We talk to those who have been there and done that.
Neesha Amrish (39)
She made a name for herself with her bright ahimsa silk scarves and organic dresses with block prints. Meet city-based Amrish, owner of Aeshaane, which opened its flagship store in Thiruvanmiyur two years ago. Last year marked a milestone for the designer, when at her Who’s Next outing in Paris, a group from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum asked her to showcase her brand at their 2015 India Festival. “I remember my scarf was displayed in the centre. On the fourth day, I went to look at it again, but it was not on display. A lady from the museum told me they had sold most of my scarves in a week’s time and someone had wanted the one on display, too. After that orders have been pouring in,” shares Amrish, who is set to go to Paris next January, for the 2017 edition of Who’s Next. She will also be visiting New York to showcase her collection at New York Now, an international tradeshow.
Kaveri Lalchand (43)
Retailing her collection in Singapore, Turkey and Sri Lanka, this eclectic designer is all booked for the coming year. Renowned for her love for linen, Lalchand, who has been designing since 2006, owes her international debut to a chance encounter in Kolkata this year—when two customers suggested she showcase at the Paris trade show, Who’s Next. “Something clicked and I knew I was ready for it,” shares Lalchand, adding she will be returning to France next September. Talking about her experience, the designer says, “It was so encouraging to hear the feedback. I use a lot of Indian techniques like leheriya from Rajasthan and rogan-printing from Kutch, which was appreciated.” Lalchand, who keeps international sensibilities in mind when deciding colours and cuts, says we can expect her brand to be in stores in Paris, Geneva, Lisbon, Beirut and the like, besides shows in Germany, America, England and Australia.
Omar & Heeba Sait (32, 26)
Brand: Gatsby & Aliph
Omar Sait, son of entrepreneur Rafiq Sait—owner menswear brand, Gatsby Collection (1991)—is going places. Having launched his luxury menswear brand, Aliph, three years ago, he now has a creative head who has designed for the likes of Rajnikanth (Kabali)—his wife Heeba. Aliph had its international outing at the Prime Dubai Exhibition in 2014, before being selected to set up a shop at the VIP lounge of the Carlton InterContinental at The Cannes Film Festival in the same year. The couple is now confident about competing with international brands. “We have got the styling credit for a French drama, The Guru,” he informs, while Heeba tells us their latest festive collection, Kashan, is inspired by Persian architecture and features tuxedos, sherwanis, suits and kurtas.
Rehane Yavar Dhala (47)
We all know her as Rehane, one of the most popular fashion designers in the city. Just back after impressing buyers at the Amazon India Fashion Week in Delhi, the 47-year-old tells us she had her first international stint in 2010—when she showcased her collection, Anatolia, at The London Premiere Fashion Week. “International fashion shows are a great springboard. At the end of the day, it is all about quality, delivery and price,” shares Rehane. For the designer, embroidery and fabric treatment are the two elements from India that she feels the West is attracted to. Talking about her design philosophy, she says, “My brand is very fashion centric. You will never see anything dated in my collections; they are more forecast.” Rehane, who likes the designs of Anamika Khanna and Rohit Bal, is set to explore the international platform further next year, in various trade shows including Who’s Next in Paris.
By Saloni Sinha