Nida Mahmood, young and quirky, creates a recession-proof collection that’s kitschy and stylish, finds Bhumika K.

Chic tarpaulin handbags, motifs of the humble chai kettle on a kerosene stove, and crows. Howzzat for designer wear? Can’t make the association, right? That’s what Nida Mahmood is hoping to do with her “recession-proof collection,” as she likes to call it.

“It is a quirky take on the industry. And the concept worked well with the recession,” says a husky-voiced Nida Mahmood, all of 28 and towering tall. “I’m attracted to the mundane things in life... things that people tend to overlook. You can’t go through your day without your fix of chai,” she smiles, her glittering nose ring and bindi as quirky as her collection.

The Delhi-based designer was in Bangalore to showcase her winter collection, “High on Chai” at Collage. “It’s about street imagery. The dhaba chai, the crows you hear everyday, but don’t attach real importance to,” says Nida, talking of the inspiration of her kitschy line dominated by black prints on neon greens, bright yellows as well as blues and ivories. She weaves in the tarpaulin, as ubiquitous in a makeshift chai shop as is the chai itself. The collection includes crow-and-graffiti print skirts, kaftan dresses, bags and scarves, panelled saris with hand embroidery, brocade patches and origami flower blouses. “I do ‘attitude’ clothing. It may be a tunic or a sari. I do fusion, a bit of Indo-Western and a bit of men’s clothing.”

A pair of neon pants she had featured recently at a fashion week was fodder for much conversation and publicity. In that Nida achieved what she was aiming for. “There are elements in everyone’s quirky side that’s in your face. When you want to be heard, you want to use loud colours,” explains the NIFT-ian.

Her saris are fodder for much more conversation. Inspired by the colourful quilts that people living in the streets use, these panelled six-yards have a strange mix of satin, velvet, chiffon, silk, brocade, georgette and more. “These quilts have random materials. But one can create design out of disjointed arbit elements. As a designer I like to dramatise. I don’t like to ‘match’ things.” She’s also gone a step ahead and created a rage by getting her models to wear a sari-blouse over a pair of jeans. And it was such a super hit idea that she has Indians, NRIs and phirangs lining up for it for their beach-side or on-the-cliff weddings. “They want to wear Indian clothes, and also Western…they want to dance…” and her do just fits in right. “But it’s more exciting when an Indian client wants to wear this — there you know you’ve broken through.”

Nida’s breakthrough is quite something considering she’s from a family of doctors who were quite aghast when she opted for NIFT. Her parents stood by her. “It’s surprising for a Muslim family,” she confesses “but my family has always been broad-minded.” She hasn’t been subjected to the ire of any fundamentalists, like Sania Mirza? “No…I guess when you are in the world of fashion you are expected to be outrageous.”

With no godfather in the fashion industry, she’s worked her way till here, learning hands-on with top designers like Hemant Trivedi, Manish Malhotra and Aki Narula, Kavita Bhartia, Ranna Gill and Puja Nayyar, says Nida. Nida’s also an artist and is soon going to do a show of her works; she’s working on an art installation in Delhi with fellow artists. She writes newspaper columns. Isn’t it all too much? “Why the hell not?” she retorts and laughs, adding: “It’s just one life you get.”

Her next line New India Bioscope Company, to be revealed in the next fashion week the coming month, is an all-encompassing label for a range of furniture, accessories, stationery and home décor (complete with kitschy neon-coloured posters of Don!). In the process, she’s rehabilitating Delhi’s old poster artists who used to hand-paint movie posters, and now are forced to be night watchmen, paint houses or do Ramleela cut-outs. Hollywood’s calling and Nida is designing for the leading lady of a film to be directed by an Indian based in New York! And that is all she will speak of it. “It’s big for me and it’s more flattering because the director spotted my work…,” she smiles.

Her collection is available at Collage on Wood Street. Call 080 - 25566818.