Shades of India shines the spotlight on real people and traditional textiles
If you’re not a Shades of India fan yet, here’s your chance. Many people I know already love the clothing lines – created on exquisitely understated sensibilities, translating into subtle, flowing garments which flatter and enhance the female form – long kurtas in natural fabrics and subtle colours; flowing culottes, ethnic-accented textured wraps and tops in jewel shades. But until I met Shades of India founder-design director, Mandeep Nagi, I didn’t realize they were as big in their core home products range – dohars, quilts, cushions, table linen and throws too.
Here, the same evolved design sensibilities have been translated, combining colour, texture and uniquely Indian fabrics into an eye-catching customable collection which Nagi is launching in Bengaluru’s Raintree this week. I dropped by for a dekko and to meet Nagi. We chatted while I wandered the store with her, looking at her displays – from gold and silver varq-layered cushions, to pieces in linen and jute, traditional Indian motifs on natural fabrics.
Nagi’s fascination with fabric started as a child. She would take out her mother’s beautiful saris, gaze at the colours, patterns and marvel at the colours. “My mother was from Gujarat, a very textile-oriented state, and her trousseau had a mix of stunning traditional bandhinis and Benarasis incredibly European-accented in styling and colour. The sophistication even at that time is difficult to imagine.”
The fascination grew into a love for fine traditional artisanship interpreted with minimalist Western sensibilities, which underline the multi award-winning tag today. Working with artisans and travelling the world for trade shows, Nagi has notched 22 years of creating multiple collections for her label, much of it exported. Her co-founder is her husband and former journalist, Britisher David Housego. Today, Rashtrapati Bhavan and luxury hotels number among her clients.
“India isn’t familiar with practical yet luxurious bedroom design, also there’s little availability thus far. While it’s lovely to dress yourself up, your room should be dressed up as well. I believe in functionality as well. It’s how you combine textures, mix and match colours and fabrics that matter. Every element must pull together to create a whole,” she says.
Nagi is unconventional when putting together the lookbooks of her collections. For her vibrant clothes collection, Cinnamon, she picked her neighbour’s maid, Kamla as the model – her regal deportment and luminous skin and hair had caught her eye. “Look at her posture,” she points to a photo in the store. “I don’t believe in supermodels. Everything comes together in my mind, and I design in-house.” Again, to model her Shirui (lily) collection of delicate, light clothes, she picked three sisters who form Manipur’s rock band, Minutes of Decay. The fresh young vibe translated into the clothes they modelled. “I wanted to bring the North-East into focus. This was a way.”
She riffles through her lookbooks, pointing out clothes modelled by a documentary maker, the head of an NGO, an artist. “All my models are real people who wear Shades of India in their daily lives.” Nothing artificial, all real.