Design talk: Akhilesh Gupta melds traditions and tech for his award-winning piece, The Blomar
Akhilesh Gupta, a young designer from Bengaluru, who bagged the second position for his garment titled 'The Blomar', in the White Section of the recent Wellington’s World of Wearable Art Show, chats with Indulge about his designs.
The World of Wearable Art is a unique combination of the world’s largest wearable art competition and a spectacular stage show held in Wellington, New Zealand.
The show attracts cutting-edge talent from across the globe, from the garment designers to the show’s dancers, aerialists, musicians and performers and the creative team who spend 18 months bringing each bespoke World of Wearable Art Awards Show to life.
Akhilesh says he was inspired by the balanced form of the lotus for his garment, The Blomar. “The lotus has been inspirational for creative masterpieces all around the world, be it art or architecture. Because of its balanced form, no visual components overshadow the rest. The Blomar opens up like a blooming flower.”
Take us back to your childhood. Did you really run away from home to pursue art? Give us your most troubled memories, and how you overcame them?
My childhood days were filled with momentous fun of the countryside, and adventures with my school friends, exploring all the charm that nature had to provide around my town.
Growing up in a orthodox joint family household with my mother being a housewife, and dad running a sweetshop in the town, along with my uncles and cousins, I was always around my family. We, younger kids, would give a lot of trouble to our parents or that is what they say, but I had a lot of fun and fond memories of our childhood mischief and adventures.
One of those adventures was when I had run away from my home to pursue coaching for NIFT, and my family had no clue about my whereabouts for few days, after which I called and informed them that I ran away to study in a coaching centre to learn design.
My college first semester was a really hard time. I was from one small town, everything was new like from a different planet, so it was really hard for me to adjust with other batchmates, who all were from different part of India.
That time, I was so alone and helpless. Then after two months, I decided to quit my college and went back to my home town. But again after two months, my college faculty called me and motivated me to join college back.
After that, I never looked back. And I won the gold medal for Best All Round Performance. I am really thankful to my faculty for their support and motivation.
What does the name 'Blomar' refer to, is there a literary reference to its meaning? Why did you pick the lotus form for your design?
The ‘Blomar’ takes inspiration from the word ‘bloom’ of the lotus flower. Nature follows the golden ratio, which is evident in many forms that are found around in our nature, the form of lotus is a perfect example of the golden ratio, and its beauty is multiplied, when it is in its full glory of bloom.
Give us an idea of how production intensive this project was, as it took four months to complete the garment. What kind of work went into its making?
The work usually starts from the moment the idea is translated into paper, with initial sketches and doodles. The entire design process for this project, from ideation to fabrication, took around three months. And then, around two weeks with the final finishing and touchups, it took overall four months to fully manifest the garment into a functioning piece.
To add up was also the fact that I had only hours to work on the project after my regular office hours. I studied some mechanical engineering books, which helped me create the mechanical and functional transformation of my garment.
How do the ideas of being 'eccentric' and 'also practical' come together, for you? Who do you imagine would wear your prize-winning design, in real life?
Answer to the first question of being eccentric and also practical coming together is what differentiates art from design. A design is design-only when it solves any problem, be it visual your physical. A design has to be balanced between aesthetics and functionality, whereas art is an expression, and that is where the answer to your second question would be - an abstract situation created in real life where one can wear my garment.
If you could have your fantasy runway show, how would you describe it? Where would you like to show your designs, and who would you choose as dream models?
If I could have a fantasy runway show I would like it in India, and there is not much left to describe India, only one word 'extravagant'. Dream models - definitely, Bollywood stars.
Do you have any designers - Indian or international - whom you really idolise? Tell us about the designers whom you really respect and seek inspiration from.
Iris Van Herpen is a Dutch fashion designer who has been a formidable source of inspiration. Her multidisciplinary approach for her creations have always inspired me to explore various aspects of different disciplines, and the juxtaposition of those seamlessly.
How was your overall experience at the World of Wearable Art Show? What were your motivations that made you work on a design for the 'white' section?
It was a quite learning and overwhelming experience for me, and to see so many brilliant concepts and ideas all around me was really an inspiring moment. The white section was a challenge, because of the fact that one could only work with one colour, and to work with monochromes becomes tricky, if it is not balanced aesthetically, so I took the challenge looking forward to make a garment, which could justify the colour white.
How much did you rely on technology, to lend the three-dimensional aspect to your design? Do you prefer designing by hand, or with digital software?
The ideal situation which the amalgamation of traditional methods with technology to refine and make the final product better. My design process involves both traditional methods of drafting out initial designs on paper and then processing it on digital software to bring on the precision, which was a must in my project, which otherwise was not possible with only traditional methods. And laser-cutting technique is very helpful in playing with different materials and creating my garment.
Do you plan to celebrate Indian design sensibilities, in your newer creations? What elements of Indian culture would you like to preserve?
Majority of my inspiration comes from the plethora of our Indian culture and heritage. Even Blomar takes inspiration from the depiction of a lotus in our ancient traditional texts. Saying that there is no dearth of inspiration in our country, and there are still many unexplored crafts and cultures of the country, which need recognition and appreciation it deserves, I will take every possible path to help in reviving or strengthen my country’s culture.
Given your many interactions with international designers at the event, how would you envision the future of Indian designs on the global stage?
There is still a lot for the Indian design community to catch up in terms of technology that the other international designers have access to, but when it comes to skills and vision, there is great potential still to be tapped to its full.