Indulge 16th Anniversary Special: Couture’s key players
Four leading designers from Chennai who appear on these pages represent a broad range of aesthetics and sartorial sensibilities. Yet, what unifies them is their unique vision. Indulge finds out more..
Fashion is a reflection of culture and heritage — a fluid, potent mashup of influences drawn from the local and the global, the past and the present. It is an individual expression through style and creativity. Four leading designers from Chennai who appear on these pages represent a broad range of aesthetics and sartorial sensibilities. Yet, what unifies them is their creative spark and unique vision. Whether it is challenging convention or reinterpreting classics for the modern age, they are always ahead of their times. The designers talk to Indulge about keeping their art young; personal style; most loved collection; and future plans.
Keeping their art young!
Rehane: I don’t have to try too hard. We are the kind of people who are always trying to create something new even if we borrow from old things. So, it is something that is in our genetics. Designers of all kinds are rooted in the past but heavily focused on the future. Creative people are always ahead of the times.
Chaitanya Rao: We are always one season ahead. We have to be on our toes; as trendsetters we have to think ahead, into the future, to come up with new designs. As creative people, we are always one step ahead.
Vivek Karunakaran: It is my team, it is through them that I see how the world is thinking. They open a window to a whole new world. Travel always helps. It is the most efficient way to see what is going around and unravel and adapt yourself to this new world. It significantly impacts how you think. It is challenging to come up with something new every day. As clients will want something new, it is challenging to live up to their expectations. You have to be better than your last collection. You are only good as your last collection. It is challenging and exciting at the same time. And there is never a dull moment.
Sidney Sladen: I keep myself updated with the latest styles and trends that are happening all across the globe. I do study a lot on fashion and take courses online on different things. So, I guess that works pretty well in keeping my art young. I’ve always believed that education and information are your best allies.
R: Elegance and edginess. My personal style is not tried and tested. And all these things are glued together with an undercurrent of sensuality. Personal style is not to show off or look good for only special occasions. Look fantastic every single day — whether you are picking up groceries or running errands. I always put things together mindfully. And, of course, regular exercise helps. See that you are slim and in good shape. Be the best version of yourself, that’s my philosophy. You have to try and everyday you have to strive towards it. There will be all sorts of problems coming your way but you have to be your best physically, mentally, and emotionally. And it is reflected in the way you dress.
CR: It is a lot of monotones — black and white. It is because I play with a lot of colours for my own labels as well as while designing costumes for films and styling for TV commercials. My own style is classic and minimal, so that I don’t have to think much. I will add some styling in the designs. Currently, I’m into more organic fabrics and jackets, mostly organic cotton since that is best for Chennai weather.
VK: My personal style is very VK. I like to redefine my style quotient, put things together, and push the envelope. There is a certain amount of quirkiness mixed with classic style. My collections for women are gorgeous and edgy, while my men’s collections are classy and quirky. These are the key words that define what I do. That is a reflection of my personal aesthetic too. There is an emphasis on minimal not in your face. By staying within the boundary, I try to push the envelope.
SS: (Laughs) It’s actually two extremes — one side is extremely casual with shorts, T-shirts and sneakers, and the other is extremely well dressed in formals and semi formals — very rarely in between.
Most loved collection
R: I’ve loved all my collections. But the latest one, La Primavera, has a piece of my heart.
CR: The Lakme show I did in 2008 is my most memorable show. The yellow dress from the show, made with pure georgette and silk that was featured in Vogue Paris along with some of the iconic design houses is very dear to me.
VK: The collection I showcased at the Lakme Fashion Week 2007 is my most loved and memorable show.
SS: Breakway launched in 2019 is one of my favourite. It had a lot of personal emotions attached to it and the collection was a major success as well.
CR: The proudest moment is putting Chennai on the national map. And also when some of the films for
which I designed costumes become a hit that makes me very happy. For instance, for Ghajini, I designed Asin’s costumes. In fact, we gave her a makeover. She was mostly seen in traditional clothes so we gave her a modern look, which was well appreciated. And most recently, I designed for Trisha for her latest release, The Road. Films are a lot of work but it gives me satisfaction.
VK: The most proud aspect is the fact that we survived Covid! From nothing, we fought hard and resurrected the brand.
SS: When my mom got an award for being the woman behind my success. Sometimes I feel people who stand by you and who have been the most supportive are hardly given
When not working…
R: When I’m not working you will see me travelling. I stay very far away from where I work, so daily commute takes up a lot of time. I make all my calls while travelling. I also go for daily walks — from 6.30 am to 7.30 am, and do my exercises and prayer.
CR: I love to read mostly fashion related content. At the moment, I’m reading a book about Alexander McQueen that I picked up from the airport. I love to swim as well.
VK: If I’m not working, I will be unwell and asleep. Jokes apart, I like to spend time with my family. I miss those moments.
SS: Sitting with friends and watching movies or just chilling.
R: I want to open a boutique in Bengaluru.
CR: I’m currently busy with my Diwali festival collection.
VR: I’m looking at a very exciting year. We are going to put the brand on some of the leading luxury online platforms, and in a few more new cities. There are also plans to take the brand outside India on international platforms.
SS: God has a lot in store. Will keep you updated as things take shape.