Exploring a unique technique in her `The Trapezoid Collection,’ Schulen Fernandes (for Wendell Rodricks), used the form as is and in innovative isosceles and parallelogram styles, enabling garments to take shape based on the trapezoid’s various possibilities in silhouette and style details. Keeping the drawing board a hue of pastels, her trapezoid shapes morphed into unisize, unisex and unique garments for Indian women of all sizes. A vast array of fabrics took the ramp – linen, cotton, light crepes, georgette, paper silk, jacquard and damask — in a myriad of twelve weaves that gave her collection a sense of age neutral excitement. Natural Bemberg (which is natural viscose that feels like silk), striped Chanderi, striped silk cotton, Kerala custom weave cottons, natural dyed Bengal cotton weaves, Malkha cotton and eco fabric dyed with flowers from the Siddhivinayak temple in Mumbai. No hot-shot models for this one. Lay women professionals of all sizes and age took to ramp, making the show an `everyday woman’ relatable event.
Getting Schulen Fernandes for a sit-down was hectic, given both our work and travel schedules. But Ms Fernandes did do a sit down for this one. Excerpts of our interview:
The Trapezoid Collection marks many firsts: What are these 5 most important firsts that mark your journey?
- The most important being handing over the creative mantle of the Wendell Rodricks label to me; a much younger designer and not someone from the family to take its legacy forward. That’s a first for the Indian fashion industry. Abroad, it’s common practice to appoint other creative heads once the founding designer has moved on or many a times long after he/she is no more.
- The introduction of the Standard Indian Sizing Chart for women. Especially with this big boom in the online retail business, we think it’s absolutely imperative to standardise sizes for the buyer’s benefit.
- The use of Trapezoid as the soul of the collection. This form besides being so versatile in its use for architecture, geometry, astronomy and mathematical calculations, also enjoys the privilege of being used by many civilisations like the Incas, Egyptians as well as us Indians.
- I have used twelve weaves in this collection. Most specially hand woven for us. There’s Malkha cotton, natural Bemberg, Paper Silk, Kerala and Bengal cotton weaves. We are privileged to have such a great textile heritage and I fully intend to highlight these going forward. With this collection, we have introduced beautiful muls and cotton silk naturally steam dyed with Pomegranate and Rose Petals sourced from the Siddhivinayak temple.
- I have brought to the a label a younger, more sassy silhouette. Like the X-Ray look; the sheer cropped and layered pants are certainly for someone daring to make a style statement. Distorted sleeves and necklines for the chic fashionista with subtle quirks. Beautiful diaphanous layered ensembles with embroidery, for the elegant woman who has been so brand loyal.
From concept to execution to finish to ramp, detail this journey for young aspiring designers
What trumps any collection is its ‘inspiration.’ It gives you focus and a direction to then ideate further on designs, fabrics etc. You can take an inspiration to experimental levels, if it’s as dynamic as we could with ‘Trapezoid.’ We worked with this geometric form that inspite of being so structured, is also very versatile. So we played it to our advantage, used the form for garment pattern/fabric texture construction essentially, then used soft diaphanous fabrics to soften the look and feel of the collection.
Working on a new collection is a 2-3 month process from end to end. From concept, you move on to fabrics to tie it together. Once you have those, it’s back to the drawing board and working on designs. This is where you have got to be patient, experiment with silhouettes, try out new things, throw out a few. It’s all a step-by-step process and you’re sometimes second guessing your designs a lot. I’ve always realised though, that the first draft of ideas are usually the best. With one inspiration, you ideally derive 4-5 concepts that are cohesive and then run with those to make a complete season’s collection.
Indian Bling in over-rated? Comment
Very! I think while the South of India has a slightly better understanding of using bling in a more organic manner, the North enjoys being blinded by shine and sparkle a lot more. There’s nothing wrong with bling, and thankfully over the years we have seen incredibly talented young and established Indian designers bring out beautifully embellished lines. The tide is changing. And the exposure to international brands and travel has helped Indian society understand the concept that ‘less could be more.’ But India still unfortunately enjoys sparkle and embellishment as value for money. We have an eco room in our Campal-Goa store, through which we exclusively retail organic clothing made with a conscience. Hopefully sometime soon, society will enjoy wearing these subtle clothes with bigger stories that make for a different talking point as pieces of clothing, rather than their decadent shiny embroidered peers.
What according to you is the Fashion Forward Future for Indian fashion designers and the Indian fashion industry per se?
It would have to be how we use our textile and cultural heritage to our advantage. We are privileged to have such rich and diverse art across so many states to work with. Let’s hope the textile ministry works with the local artisan and weavers to bring their skills to the fore, so that more young talent can have access to them. We have to stay true to our roots and bring it up to date to make it contemporary and relevant. More often than not, a label loses its identity when they try to appease their audience with international seasonal trends. Yes, you can certainly adopt, all while you keep your design DNA intact.
Five thoughts that raced in your mind as you took the head podium for an audience bow
(I’ll just put it down to thoughts)…Thankfully, the pre-show green room frenzy kept my nerves in check for most part. To be honest, I am a media shy person and hence by default there were the usual nervous thoughts that anyone would have while they are taking their first official bow. Hope the collection is well received, that the show goes on without a glitch etc. The worst being, hope I don’t trip and fall!
The one thing I missed most though, was my family. They couldn’t be there as they had travel plans which were made much in advance. I’m sure they would have relished that proud moment as much as I did. The last thought that I distinctly remember having just before I walked out to take a bow, was a sense of achievement and happiness. This is a start of a new exciting high in my 16-year-long career. Looking back at the start of my journey in 1999 with Wendell Rodricks, it feels like I had come a full circle and it’s a moment I will always hold close to my heart.
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