From small acorns…

The judges deliberate

Sanjit Rath’s winning designs

Each year ITC owned Wills Lifestyle, the multi-designer chain of stores across India, holds a competition called “Debut” for young fashion students in their final year.

Mukul Rastogi, vice president of human resources for ITC’s life style retailing division explains that the aim is to support new generations of emerging talent. The winner gains publicity, is presented with the award at Will’s sponsored Indian Fashion week in Delhi in March and is then sent to gain invaluable industry experience attending trade fairs in Paris. This years’ theme for the competition- “Sustainability”- is part of ITC’s wider remit to incorporate social responsibility into its business practices under the banner Sunehra Kal, meaning a brighter future.

This year there were over 300 entries, from fashion colleges across India. These were shortlisted down to 45 contestants and following semi-finals in Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore, the final shortlist of 14 students presented two designs each in a catwalk show at the Wills store at Select City Walk  Mall in New Delhi today.

The designs were innovative, beautiful, unusual, inspiring and diverse. It was interesting to see how differently the brief of sustainability had been interpreted by each student.

A common interpretation was refashioning through deconstruction as well as upcycling where several students had used waste material from tailors, export houses and in one case, even old scraps lying around the student’s college…

Conceptually these interpretations were underpinned by ideas around resource depletion, and water resources as well as more abstract ideas regarding nature as a symbol of cultural ideas of the natural, harmony, redemption and purity.

The judging process for the contest highlighted the need to balance the interpretation of sustainability with technical execution of design and commercial applicability. Whilst some designs were more unusual, conceptually innovative and more couture oriented, it was the simple and well executed dresses by young National Institute of Design student Sanjit Rath that won the competition. His dresses used hundreds of “Chindis”  (meaning scraps of fabric) Sanjit’s concept was well-liked by the judges. He later explained that sewn together the fabric pieces are intended to symbolise and invoke the idea of endangered forests.

Other striking designs were the structured dresses by Aneesa Chishti from NIFT in Delhi. The dress pictured here was made from an old green linen jacket, the armhole gusset of the jacket draped across to form the skirt and pocket.

Akash Malhotra, of Pearl Academy in Delhi showed elegant white dresses. He noted that concept was very simple. He used the old woolen jumpers knitted for him as a child by his mother and aunts. Unravelling the wool from the jumpers he experimented with sewing the yarn onto surplus fabric such as chanderi “…my whole idea was to make a garment so beautiful that people cant resist buying it. I don’t speak much so I wanted it speak”. Akash emphasised the classic silhouettes in a neutral colour were aimed at giving a very polished look to his eco-fashion “..the dresses are so finished its like a new life for the reused fabric”.

Pooja Rajgariha of NIFT in Delhi interpreted the brief through the concept of Zero Waste.  Noting how the number of components in a garment affects the recycling process, as well as the surplus waste produced by fabric cutting techniques, her designs use single pieces of fabric folded and draped into contemporary designs. Pooja explained that one dress was made from a square and a rectangular piece of fabric and the other from a single large square. The idea follows through to the post consumer lifecyle of the garment, where Pooja notes, the dresses could be simply taken apart and one would again have a large square of fabric from which to make an new garment.

All of these students will graduate in two months time and enter the fashion industry here. Aneesa noted that eco fashion is still in a very nascent stage in India, but she was sure  that “..if I do reach a position where people will actually hear me out I would definitely want to promote ethical fashion”.

Aneesa Chishti- refashioned dress

Pooja Rajgariha takes a bow

Aneesa Chishti's refashioned dress

Akash Malhotra's reused yarn dress

One of the judges inspects an entrant's designs

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