Interview, Chandni Sareen -

Disappearing Distinctions

Chandni! Are you a rebellious spirit?

If there’s one thing that I definitely am, it’s rebellious. But not in a counter-productive, non-conformist sort of way. Rebellious more in an approach to try and keep things fresh always.

..and being a rebellious spirit, how do you keep yourself grounded in moments that are driven unawareness?

It’s a value that comes with the right upbringing. It’s not something I’ve had to learn to do, and it’s something I will never lose. My parents have always been a source of inspiration for me and a grounded approach to life is the best trait I could imbibe. I don’t think I’d ever been rebellious for the sake of being rebellious, but only when there’s scope for breaking through the mundane and allowing myself to discover another way of looking at the same stuff again.

There can be two kinds of people, one to whom your designs are a complement to their individuality and the other who’s creating a personality through it - in an exhibiting way. Which one are you creating for?

I wouldn’t say that my designs are meant for either kind of personality, or limited to any specific personality. At the end of the day, my designs are an extension of my individuality, and it’s most rewarding to see people put together their own sense of expression through my creations. Art is meant to hold multiple interpretations, and there are always multiple, refreshing ways to approach everything.

I am sure you will agree that fashion is never finished. Yet, how you have crafted the entire design of the Ikat story is through returning to the eastern source. What inspired you to refine such rich elements to fit into the contemporary lifestyle?

Any answer to this would be incomplete without a tip of the hat once again to my parents. I have grown up with Ikat all around me, and it’s a big part of my subconscious. Using Ikat as a cornerstone to my designs was what came to me most naturally. Ikat has always been my favorite fabric. Its history and detail are absolutely beautiful. I have literally grown up with this fabric. Bedspreads, rugs, mom’s clothes and so on… I’d concur that Ikat has brought out the designer in me, rather than saying I picked Ikat because of the designer I am.

When I look at you, I see a woman who’s aware of the masculine and feminine aspects of being. In your designs too, the distinctions between man and woman are disappearing.  How do you recognize the feelings that come from both the aspects and channelize them?

I’ve always been the little girl in kitten heels and a pair of shorts or jeans, never the one in a frock.  My clothes are a mirror of what I feel, each day is a different story, in case of my designs- each garment is a different story.   It’s not about male or female for me, we’re all human at the end of the day, and what you wear is an extension of your personality. I’d like to say that I’ve taken the best of both worlds and made whats mine.  If my designs resonate with male personalities, it’s only more rewarding for me rather than to have it be more elusive to men or maybe more exclusive for women. And having said that, the only thing I change in designs for my men’s line is the fittings and not so much the patterns.

Since we talked about rebellion a moment ago, I must ask you, your work - whether it’s styling or designing, does that become an escape sometimes? Or is it always a mindful process of exploring different individuals, and perhaps, retaining their quality?

It depends on the project, and if I come across an interesting personality that is my subject (when I’m styling), I’d like to accentuate their personality with my styling. Whereas, sometimes if the shoot is not about a specific individual or personality, and if there’s more scope for an experimental, or clutter-breaking approach, that’s also something I fancy. A more recent example of this would be my involvement with the path-breaking music producer, Nucleya. Styling him for a content series as I have done most recently, was all about capturing the essence of his raw energy, and I preferred to have his persona stand out. And if I was doing a styling job with the same subject (Nucleya), hypothetically for a Men’s fashion feature, it would possibly then be about depicting my interpretation of what Nucleya means to the world.

Now let us walk through both of your processes, designing, and styling. Whether your work can sometimes be a source-off or its rooted entirely in authenticity.

Akin to the previous answer, it’s a heady mix of both (a simple inspiration-based source-off or an authentic approach) depending on the project and my interpretation of it. When I’m designing, I’m not necessarily looking at other clothing or designers for inspiration, but more to Nature and the earth in all it’s natural glory. My designs are meant to have an earthy, organic trait to them and there’s no better source of endless inspiration than mother nature herself. When I’m sourcing, sometimes it’s based on referenced looks as decided by the extended creative team, and that warrants a “source-off”, so to say. I’d like to mention I seldom take up styling jobs where the team doesn’t need my creative inputs and only need me for the more monotonous aspect of sourcing pre-decided looks.

Since you produce in India, your work has an edge due to the unique ways of treating fabric we have here. Can you tell us a little about what makes Ikat - Ikat?

Ikat is a traditional form of yarn preparation for weaving. There are various kinds of this weave. In ikat, the resist is formed by binding bundles of threads with a tight wrapping applied in the desired pattern. The threads are then dyed. The bindings may then be altered, and the thread bundles dyed again with another color to produce elaborate, multicolored patterns. When the dyeing is finished, the bindings are removed and the threads are woven into cloth. It’s the detail and effort of the craftsmen that give us such beautiful timeless fabrics. I’m merely trying to make ikat part of our day to day life in order to pay tribute to and keep this timeless art alive. I’m not only making garments but also pouches made from our scraps, bathroom slippers,  bathrobes, and books.  In recent past, I’m also very pleased to see more designers and high street stores use the fabric and make it more accessible.

When it comes to creating a visual story, you collaborate with an incredibly talented bunch, what makes for the connecting thread there? Similar creative aesthetic or the way of living one?

It’s vibes. And just that. I collaborate with individuals that I share great chemistry with. It’s the only way we’d be able to get the best out of our talents in collaboration.

Before I ask you the last question, is there a song that truly expresses the essence of your being?

Music is integral to my state of wellbeing and to set the appropriate mood for the moment, creatively and otherwise. There are numerous songs for various moments that define my existence, but if I had to pick one, it would be this beautiful, melancholic love song by Neil Young, titled ‘Harvest Moon’, reinterpreted by the American electronic act - Poolside.

Lastly, What would suggest an aspiring designer or stylist?

I don’t feel too comfortable doling out advice here to be fully honest. I am still learning how to keep refining my art and craft, and I don’t think it ever stops. It’s essential to find your voice and your identity that people can remember you by. And that is forever the goal. Life moves on, but art is timeless and will live on forever for people to enjoy and cherish.