“ Fashion is the culmination of our personal experiences ”: Designer Sruti Dalmia
On her website, Sruti Dalmia calls the creation of clothes an “insatiable addiction”. An emerging designer born in Calcutta, her eponymous brand has made great strides in sustainable, slow fashion, and gained the recognition she deserves for showcasing traditional crafts from northeast India and neighboring Myanmar. It is the confluence of cultures that gave him the opportunity to exhibit his creations on a global stage.
Earlier this year, she was selected to present the premiere of her ‘Gemini Series’ collection – The Unsung Melody – at the digital edition of London Fashion Week in February. Currently busy working for the upcoming London Fashion Week in June 2021, the designer took the time to chat with indianexpress.com.
She shared, among other things, her experience, the importance of sustainability in fashion, how geography plays a role in her collections, what fashion means for women and which Bollywood actor she would like to collaborate with.
When did you first discover your interest in designing?
I have a masters in business management from UK, but my first love remained in design, and in my free time I passionately experimented with creative tailoring and art.
It was in 2017 that my vision was born, with [the birth of] my first child. During my maternity break, I found myself free to work on my passion for which I saved. I launched Sruti Dalmia – a niche brand of women’s clothing in 2018.
Where are you now and what are you working on right now?
I am currently in Delhi and working on a collection for the next London Fashion Week in June 2021.
This year, you have already been able to present your slow fashion collection at London Fashion Week in February. How was the experience?
This year marks our international debut and we were delighted with the selection of our young brand. Recognition and the opportunity to present at LFW is very important to us.
Starting out as a contemporary womenswear brand and ‘direct to consumer’ business, and focusing on a region that in many ways is not internationally exposed, often presents us with a series of challenges that must be managed with very limited resources. As a designer, entrepreneur and mom, obstacles only encouraged me to cross them. Our selection at LFW was a huge stepping stone.
What is the reason the collection was named “The Unsung Melody”?
For the first chapter of the Gemini collection, our brand unveiled the incredible craftsmanship of two regions that make up my side of the world. It is a song of a treasure which has still not been received by the world and which has not been celebrated. It is the little-known melody.
The ‘Unsung Melody’ features a widely researched and home produced line of women’s clothing that uses traditional crafts and crafts from northeast India and Myanmar – an area that despite its value historic, remains largely invisible and cut off from today’s fashion industry on a national level. and a global front.
Can you explain what “slow mode” means? How important is it for sustainability?
Speaking of the context of fashion, slow fashion and sustainability is an amalgamation of multiple efforts from diverse groups of people with the aim of consciously maintaining and improving the four pillars of the ecosystem:
1. Take care of the place and the environment: Strong practices that take care of their environment. Product lines developed using correct innovation and environmentally conscious science – for every living thing. Upcycling and recycling fabrics to create fresh clothes leading to a much less polluted planet.
2 persons: People, who are the backbone of the system, receive proper training and education, obtain fair employment and income opportunities, a model of long-term financial support through ethically marketed products that are easy to produce in a favorable business environment.
3. Supply and trade model: Quality rather than quantity, transparent business process, profit oriented but ethical.
4. Ethical marketing and the evolution of the model of consumer behavior: Market the products with the intention of adding value and not “greed”. Encourage reuse and “ reuse ” [of] clothes. Create clothes that are sustainable and not based on “fads”. Encourage consumers to buy consciously. Brand loyalty and sustainability must go hand in hand.
Since you were born in Calcutta, has the city inspired you and your collections in any way?
Kolkata is in my soul, and as an ode to timelessly elegant pieces, my collection takes its inspiration from my childhood in Kolkata where saris and beautiful weaves from North East India were carefully passed down and worn for decades by the women of the house. Reinterpreted over time, but still the hero of the set, they played the role of the ultimate statement silhouette, and now my muse. I tried to present my personal interpretations inspired by the white par excellence ‘taantsaris worn by my mother and grandmother.
I think one life is not enough to capture the true essence of Kolkata, but I will try to showcase its many “faces” in my next collections.
You talk about traditional crafts from northeast India and Myanmar. Why are these places important to you?
Born in the northeast, in Kolkata, and having traveled the world only to settle an hour’s drive away in Myanmar, I cannot ignore the infallible resemblance, and at the same time, the glaring differences in home weaving, life, and culture which is a crucial essence of my creative world. The collections combine the creation of Indian weavings and handlooms with ancient Burmese craftsmanship to display the best of techniques from northeast India and Burma – something that has been vastly underestimated and is rarely seen. or never seen before in the global fashion context.
How do you integrate fabric upcycling and recycling into your work?
Even as an emerging brand, our emphasis on slow fashion is still at the heart of our concerns. We deploy a carefully developed (in-house) ecosystem that starts from the very start of production until the last part has been manufactured.
As part of the collection, we use upcycled and recycled fabrics sourced directly from fabric recycling centers in India. In addition, we recycle all silk waste into fresh yarns in our weaving center to produce new garments which will then be added to our collections. Each cloakroom is responsibly created with minimal waste.
How did you combine tradition with contemporary fashion?
As part of my personal experience, I realized the lack of unique formal wear and modern silhouette options for the ‘new age’ Indian woman. Yes, standard black suits were available, but for me, fashion is the highlight of our personal experiences. Clothing that speaks of our heritage and history, but at the same time, has global appeal and is wearable for women of diverse backgrounds. And as a result, I built a vision to create a young, forward-looking, but rooted brand.
My silhouettes are made with a combination of Indian and international raw materials. The brand is a reflection of my personal experience of my life spent in four countries – India, England, Singapore and Burma. As an Indian woman, I feel that my clothes make the connection between “what we were” and “what we want to be”.
During the pandemic, what types of challenges did you have to face?
For a young brand like ours, that meant we just had to survive to get started. We faced several challenges and there was difficulty working remotely with our staff and weavers. We intend to act slowly and steadily to overcome the current global crisis.
Tell us about your weavers – most of them women?
At least 90% of our weavers are women. When I started working with Indian and Burmese weavers, I felt it was the biggest platform for me to learn from them and vice versa. It is important to treat your weavers like partners and to help them understand what the end product will look like so that we achieve a common goal.
I am multilingual and fluent in Bengali and Burmese and have in turn provided training on environmentally friendly sustainable development practices directly to weavers such as how to source raw materials, eco-friendly dyeing, printing and packaging, etc. directly with skilled weavers and artisans to produce exclusive fabric combinations with a strong focus on promoting intercultural integration, ethical sourcing and workforce development.
Do you feel like dressing up and working with a celebrity?
I would love to dress Anushka Sharma. It’s definitely my all time favorite, and I absolutely admire and adore it. I hope to meet her one day.
Finally, what’s your message to the modern woman trying to challenge societal norms and make a statement through her fashion?
Indian women have come a long way. Let’s take a moment to reflect on previous generations. For many of us, things have turned for the better. But for many, this is not the case. With strong attempts, many of us are trying to change the way society perceives women and our abilities. Fashion plays a central role in how we can change certain perceptions.
Luxury fashion in India mainly revolves around the wedding industry. But in my opinion, it should have its own identity and exist independently. We want our women to be independent thinkers, our clothes should reflect the same. We need a paradigm shift in our thinking. If we are to challenge societal norms through contemporary fashion, we must promote the achievements of women in other areas, in our campaigns, in addition to marriage and marriages.
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