Designer Anand Kabra says that while he is genetically predisposed to colour, the influences from the city of nawabs play a big role in his collections.
Rebellion is the thread that strings his life, his attitude, his clothes, and his creations for women — together. No wonder then that Anand Kabra is a designer many swear by. With a prolific influence of the city of nawabs and nizams, weaves and bangles, colour and food engulfing him, Kabra rarely gets it wrong — even when he does a Japan-inspired subtle collection, and definitely not when he uses Hyderabadi zardosi.
“I like to, quietly, in my own way, rebel,” he smiles boyishly from behind his owl-like black-frame glasses. His personal style statement says it all — he's in grey Moroccon-style pants, a white tee and black waistcoat, flaunting some 30 steel bangles on his arm.
“For me androgyny is a huge thing. The merging of the sexes is important. And one element of India has to be there on me — all my pants are inspired by the drape of the dhoti.” One can take a lesson from him in how to drape the khada dupatta — the distinctive Hyderabadi style of wearing a sari over a salwar-kameez.
And boy, can he pleat a pallu fast! I met him during the dress trials for Bengaluru Habba's fashion show where he showed his Spring/Summer 2011 collection. You should see the way he's organised; all his creations, labelled, numbered and packed.
The soft-spoken and hyper young man almost became a doctor. “I was a normal distinction student in school, like a good Marwari boy,” he laughs. “At that time, and I'm not going to tell you when…because I don't want you to know my age — trust me, I'm quite old — fashion design for men was not a big idea. At that time, 18-year-olds were a sheltered lot. I mean, my dad was a doctor…”
And so the good son followed suit and got enrolled into medical college as expected. He thought he would take up his love for fashion design as a hobby. “They say the first year at medical college is the toughest and I went through the cutting up of the corpses alright.”
But then he realised that if he were to become a doctor, he would be surrounded by misery and sorrow all his life. “But I wanted beautiful things around me…and so the decision happened.”
He quit the course, and a friend guided him through the rigours of getting into NIFT Delhi. But he was told only accessory design was the available course for the present, and Anand Kabra didn't want it. It was then that his parents understood he was serious and interested; they offered to help him out with the best of courses. Off he went to the London College of Fashion.
He admits he's “genetically predisposed to colour”, giggling and adding that “that's where my Marwari genes kick in. But otherwise my influence is all of Hyderabad. I design by absorbing things around me. I don't sit down and say ‘Ok now I'm going to design something.' I've made a note of your bindi now and I will incorporate it somewhere in some dress,” he says in one breath.
His influences from this melting pot of culture are many — the Nizams, Telugu culture, art, craft, weaves and textiles, occasions and clothes. Kabra's Spring/Summer collection for the year is inspired by the mandi and the kothewaali, so the collection has seductive nets here, a peeping back cut in a choli, enticing kundan jewels tying it all together with naughty strings.
Kabra's creativity comes out best when he does a sari. “India is probably one of the few places in the world where the traditional costume is part of everyday wear. It's the only garment in the world which is truly prêt — one size fits all. As a designer you make this your principle and you go on and on. The biggest complaint is that the younger generation find it cumbersome to wear a sari.” So he uses the kali style or pre-draped stitch to make it easy. “Where I draw the line is against zipping it up!”
After he fought his way through all the years and all the fashion seasons, his parents now accept him completely. His mom gets a sari designed by him for her birthday every year.
Being “fashion conscious”, simply means to express one's individuality, says Kabra. “I'd happy to see anyone interpret my clothes their way, when they wear it. And youth today are bang on!”