Pioneering designer Krishna Mehta believes in being faithful to the fabric more than anything else
When a fashion designer says, “fashion goes out of fashion, but style does not,” when she says she is more of a scientist than a designer, and that she is a ‘weaver,’ you will surely want to hear more.
Krishna Mehta is no ordinary designer. She may well be, ironically, the first lady of menswear.
She is the picture of chic in an asymmetrical block print Chanderi, Krishna Mehta tunic, and Pochampally Ikkat print trousers. She says she is trying out the look/garment so that she can include it in her prêt line. The garment serves as an illustration of her ‘bling-free design philosophy’, says the designer who was in the city for the just-concluded bridal edition of the Kochi International Fashion Week.
Clearly the textile is the hero here. And that is how she wants it to be and also one of the reasons why she started designing menswear.
Designing for men
It was in the late 80s that Krishna started designing for men. “Men were looking for something different at the time. It was all polyester, tailored, always because there were very few ready-to-wear garments for men,” rewinds Krishna.
A passion for the ‘core’ of the garment, the textile, is what led her to designing menswear. Menswear tended to be comparatively minimalistic, sans “loads of work that loses the fabric”, and therefore remains faithful to the textile. The first garment that she made was the kurta. Khadi, Batik, Jamdani, Bandhej, Leheriya etc. were the fabrics she initially used.
Leheriya kurtas for men, in the 80s, sounds way ahead of its times. Krishna clarifies that she “transformed the fabric’s feminine colours and made them palatable.”
The bright and vibrant colours of leheriya were toned down to masculine colours such as cream, beige, blue etc.
Listening to her talk about textiles and weaving, there is no denying that she is more of a weaver than a designer. And she sees the designer’s role as going beyond commercial considerations. Indian textiles are gaining in popularity internationally. She wants the designer to contribute responsibly to fashion, for instance by taking the world to the weaver.
“The weaver sits in a corner making the same things because he does not know what the world wants. A designer can tell what the world wants and he will do accordingly,” she says. She says she sits with ‘her’ weavers and works with them to create her fabrics.
Menswear is an aspect of her creativity, this member of the board of directors of the Lakme India Fashion Week, has made her mark designing for women too. Even as a women’s wear designer she resists the temptation of bling and excessive surface embellishment.
Her philosophy is “don’t make a garment complicated. Keep it simple.” This is a feat most designers would find tough because simplicity in fashion requires expertise in cuts and silhouettes, the lack of which loads of embroidery can hide.
To get to her ideal of the perfect fit and cut, Krishna says, she does plenty of research and experimentation ‘scientist like’. Accentuating the wearer’s personality than thrusting the Krishna Mehta label and making her feel beautiful is what she strives for through her work, she says. “There is a thought process that goes into making a garment. There is much more to making a garment that what one sees,” she explains.
She is, comparatively, a late bloomer when it comes to fashion. Her father made sure she did her Chartered Accountancy along with the fashion design course. “There were no ‘fashion design’ institutes in Mumbai those days, the early 80s that is.” Marriage and kids came, followed by her innings as designer. Stints in Europe, punctuated by visits to India’s weaving hubs, led to the shaping of her sensibility.