Colombo’s fashion front man Ajai Vir Singh comes to Chennai with Stringhopper, a line co-designed by Prasad Bidappa
The name sounds unusual for a fashion label. But “Stringhopper” is very much like the South Indian-Sri Lankan culinary speciality — quirky and interesting. Launched by Ajai Vir Singh, the man behind the Colombo Fashion Week, and Prasad Bidappa, Bangalore’s guru of cool, the label hops into the Chennai circuit with a line of shirts that effortlessly integrates style and comfort.
If you thought men’s clothes were about drip-dry blandness, think again. Ajai, who is upbeat about the launch at Collage, Greams Road, on Wednesday, says Stringhopper “blends the best of Italian classic and South East Asian sensibilities.”
Looking at the sartorial needs of the corporate traveller, the design duo has conjured up a collection of shirts and slim fit trousers that lay emphasis on smart cuts and precise tailoring. “The Stringhopper man travels miles and more miles. But he’s not a punk or a rock star! He’s a corporate guy who indulges his free spirit in the evenings.”
While cotton seems to be the duo’s favourite fabric, they’ve treated it to arrive at varied finishes. The colour meter doesn’t run awry. There’s a controlled use of surfer blue, grey and green that remind you of sun-kissed tropical beaches. “Soon, we’ll also be doing an all-white line,” he says in a telephonic chat from Colombo. “Fashion is meant to be worn. So though you’ll see a touch of madness in the garments, they are wearable.”
Talk about his creative partnership with Prasad, and Ajai gushes, “He’s a good old friend. I have a lot of respect for his creative perspective. Stringhopper is a fine proof of the synergy. It’s very tropical in sensibility, yet global in appeal.”
Switching to reminiscent mode, Ajai says, “The apparel industry was very strong in Sri Lanka, with a lot of export to Western countries. This was a major influence on design. Designers were confused when it came to evolving an aesthetic. Gradually, we have been able to overcome that and re-focus on our tropical sensibility. So even at the Colombo Fashion Week, the spotlight is on Spring-Summer/Resort. We want our creations to reflect our environment.”
Deeply committed to put Sri Lanka on the global fashion map, Ajai launched the Fashion Week in Colombo in 2003. “We’ve seen trying times — strife and tsunami. But we were determined to come back with the annual pageant. Today, the momentum has picked up and there’s a mood of buoyancy. So there’s greater synergy taking place at the upcoming Fashion Week. Besides shows by Indian designers that have now become an integral part of the itinerary, we’ll have fashionistas from Malaysia and the Philippines showing their work. We want designers and the trade from South East Asian countries to benefit from the shows in Sri Lanka.”
Always interested in fashion, Ajai says he grew up “appreciating the beauty of batik around him.” So fashion was the natural route to take when he had to take a call on his career. “I want to show people what sharp cuts can do to their personality,” he chuckles.