Injila Rasul, Contributor
When you talk about creativity and authenticity, the game is simple, there is no other way. You are either genuine in who you are, true to your core, roots and values and you create in the image of that or you are not. Creations, whatever their form, that originate from sources other than yourself, have a distinct sheen to them, a scent almost, of being inauthentic, glossy and unreal. When you think of fashion, particularly of today’s era, pressured by seasonal pre-launches, launches, last-season pieces, trends that run for a week, fast-paced and commercial is perhaps the best way to describe it. How does an artist survive in such an environment where your worth is defined by the width and breadth of your collection, its sky-rocketing price range, increasingly more exclusive? It is important to seek out the artists and creatives that strive to stay true to their vision, their art and their own unique voice. This surely comes from someone who is self-aware enough to be able to create something that is worthwhile, relying on sources of inspiration close to his heart, adding his own new twist. Today we explore the work and words of one such artist whose frank genuineness is his greatest asset:
For his work and style he says:
Style has a much bigger voice than its perhaps recognised. At times it has allowed itself to be trivialized even scandalised to a certain extent though I think it has the power of becoming an incredibly strong voice for change. Style surpasses colour, size , body type or any prejudices for that matter. Stylish people are imaginative, they have a love and understanding of design and a desire to see things that are not there. In any culture the perception of beauty is manipulated. Who decided that to be considered beautiful one had to be slim, fair, not be bald or have scanty hair, have no blemishes or scars , be tall, have no bingo wings or stretch marks? Who came up with these notions? We did, each and every one of us is responsible for harnessing these notions and letting them become a part of our DNA. It’s time that this comes to a stop. I refuse to adhere to your rules, I refuse to look at beauty in the way you describe it. I refuse to follow your rules, I refuse to be a part of your society and I refuse to not be ‘ME’.
It’s incredibly important to recognise what elements make your work yours, what themes dominate your creative process and what issues are close to your heart. It is heartening to see that in his beautiful photoshoots, the women are markedly South Asian, and the photographs are untouched. They are raw and real and beautiful.
Of his making of Laboni he says :
I always make things for real people and not for the ramp. I feel my clothes are too raw and unpolished to be a part of the catwalk. Even my photo shoots are very amateurish and I know that. I do not retouch the face of my models just because it makes them look unnatural. There is too much beauty in reality for me to destroy it. I love this picture of me and Laboni , it’s not perfect but that is what I love about it. It’s beautiful , unadulterated and totally natural. I love Laboni do you ? I plan for months and months before a shoot, all I have is visions in my head that I try to bring to life. I am hard task master and I can be quite bossy but at the same time I do try to have a laugh.
His principles of not photo-shopping his models is what truly gives weight to his claim on authenticity. He feels strongly about beauty and its perceptions:
he definition of beauty is quite subjective as beauty does lie in the eye of the beholder. Having said that though I think one thing that is always beautiful is confidence! One simply can’t be beautiful without being confident. Beauty and confidence go hand in hand. There is a direct co-relation. I have always admired people who are comfortable in their own skin and create a unique style of their own which works for them. The fear of how their style is going to be received by others is of no consideration what so ever and that I find extremely attractive! There is nothing more seductive then seeing a woman entering a party in a gorgeous benarsi or a kanjiveram saree with a nicely tied bun, a big bindi, an oversized chand bali and a kolapuri juti in a room full of guests wearing the most exquisite ball gowns! Thats exactly the kind of woman I have in mind when I am working. I have some clients amongst you who would be the first to pick up my unusual pieces and the other would only follow suite once they have seen someone else wearing it but most of the times it’s too late by then as I make only limited pieces. I wish people were a bit more adventurous and try creating style statements by experimenting with new looks. The thing is there are no rules when it comes to styling, its a personal representation of oneself and no one can question that. Let’s try and be confident. Let’s try and be ourselves. Let’s try and be style makers. The allure of confidence cannot be ignored!
In terms of design aspects he speaks at length about his inspirations, his design principles and motivations. It is important for any artist to be cognizant of their influences, their muses and consequently, their limitations. He is honest about all of these aspects of his creative work.
I am always totally consumed by what I do and it’s no different when working on a shoot. Since I have never studied designing or worked in the industry half the time I have no clue, I just do what pleases me. I have a vision in my head and all I do is try to bring that to life. It’s never about perfection when I am shooting, I don’t fret about the small things like creases in the saree, scars on the body, a bit of smudged lipstick, safety pins in view etc., I mean why should I, the clothes I make are real , they are to be worn by real people and in reality nothing is perfect so why shouldn’t my shoots portray reality. In the latest shoot I have pushed the boundaries a tad bit more, I have attempted to show common women having fun , she could be a mother, a breadwinner, a home maker, an artist or she could simply be a socialite but most importantly she is happy with her being and is confident. And that is what I have aimed to showcase. There is no gimmicks it just showcases my perception of beauty. It’s how I look at women and not everyone has to like what I am showing but I do hope people will try to look at things differently and be a bit more forgiving. It has taken over 6 months of intense planning to bring this to life. It was a very tiring day but we all had so much of fun and I absolutely love the result , if I may say so!
His designs use classically Indian themes and timeless colour combinations that are both vibrant and elegant. They can sometimes borrow from patterns or styles that are not traditional, so to speak, but they are worked into the design seamlessly.
He speaks in depth about what principles lend soul to his work when he says,
I feel good design is always based on solid principles and an uncompromising vision. Self belief is important because if one ever wants to do anything new or innovative one has to bring those ideas to life against a lot of opposition, you almost have to be borderline crazy with an unquenchable radical dedication to getting your ideas to life without compromising your vision. It can be disheartening at times when people don’t share my vision but in some ways it makes me more determined to make my ideas work. I constantly seek out and share innovative ideas, viewpoints, processes and technologies so that I never stop learning; I constantly ask why to understand the purpose, cause and belief behind every decision; I immerse myself in my customer’s world so I can create thoughtful, human and elegant experiences that affect everyone. I sweat every single detail and I truly believe that I am accountable for my decisions and responsibilities to bring great ideas to life. Everything is my job , nothing is beneath me. I am here to create a future. I am respectful and confident, not delicate. I do believe that breakthroughs happen when we takes risks, trusts our instincts and speak our minds – not when we tiptoe around each other. Great design demands bold moves and that is a fact!
There are undeniably elements of a long-gone era in his work, a whiff of times of elegance and beauty that are the basis of Indian culture and heritage. There are folk tales that inspire them, stories woven through the fabric itself. He addresses them frankly talking about his ‘Chotirani and Maharani : Ek Adhuri Kahani’ key pieces:
Maharani had been married to Raja Puran Singh for 8 years when one day suddenly he walked in the palace with Chotirani as his second wife. Maharani was a bit shaken but not surprised she had known about Raja Puran Singh’s affair for a few years now but had chosen to ignore it and had never spoken about it. Maharani was unable to give the kingdom a Prince that the Raja so badly wanted, they both had tried but somethings were never meant to be. Raja loved Mharani nonetheless, but when he met Chotrani at the Royal Club for a charity gala 3 yrs ago it was love at first sight. Chotirani and the Raja started spending a lot of time together in the Raja’s outhouse at the end of the kingdom. Now since Chotirani was pregnant he decided to mover her into the main Palace as his second wife, though he made it clear to Chotirani that no one could ever take Maharani’s place as she was his first love. Maharani accepted Chotirani with utmost grace, she took Chotirani under her wing and taught her the ways of aristocratic living. To the naked eye it appeared as if Maharani was the kindest soul and very accepting of Chotirani, little did anyone know the plans Mahrani had in place for Chotirani and her unborn child. ‘ Bhagirati ‘ the sevika Maharani trusted the most was tasked to ensure Chotirani’s unborn child would never make it into this World. Mharani had awarded Bhagirati with a precious ranihaar encrusted with diamonds and Bhagirati knew she would get all the riches in the world if she executed Mahrani’s order with precision. Little did Raja Puran Sigh know what his first love was capable of!
Will Chotirani be able to save her child and herself from Maharani’s evil intention?
Another such work of art is:
‘Laboni’ : Ek Prem Katha
She has been waiting for ‘ Prashant Babu’ for 8 years. When Laboni got married to Prashant she thought they would live happily until the day she died. Little did she know that Prashant would leave her and go to London to pursue his dream job. Laboni, was not a realist, whilst everyone around her believed Prashant would never come back home, Laboni continued to wait. Every year on 20th June she would dress up in the same red saree that she wore on her wedding day; she would leave her long hair open , that’s how Prashant liked her and wear a red bindi to personify her love for Prashant. Laboni would patiently look out of the window hoping that the love of her life might just turn up this year. She has been wiating for 8 long years. Will her wait end this year?
His work is remarkable not purely because of his aesthetic sense, but his profound send of self, his appreciation for what is truly beautiful and meaningful, his story-telling, and above and beyond all; his authenticity.
What was your favourite aspect of his work? Tell us in the comments below!