Like their label, David Abraham and Rakesh Thakore are understated and unpretentious. Having traversed the diverse terrain of Indian textiles for over two decades without fussing over fashion shows, A&T carry forward the threads of tradition by experimenting with ethnic weaves and textures and updating them for today's fashionista. On the eve of their Chennai sojourn for the launch of The Houndstooth Collection at Evoluzione, the New Delhi-based designers speak to T. KRITHIKA REDDY about reinventing ikat, androgyny in fashion and their Zen-like sensibility.
BITING INTO HOUNDSTOOTH We were investigating the relationship between women's and menswear, in terms of silhouettes as well as textiles. In this context, we looked at classic woven fabrics usually associated with menswear such as the houndstooth, herringbone twills and the Prince of Wales checks and re-imagined them in a fresh feminine context. The houndstooth was reinterpreted in a double ikat, while the herringbone twill became a printed chiffon sari!
MALE QUOTIENT Reworking a masculine sensibility to fit the feminine wardrobe was an inspiration. Androgyny is interesting in this context as it reflects changes in society — in the way we perceive traditional gender biases.
ZEN AND THE ART OF DESIGN Yes, there's so much visual overdrive in the fashion world. But we reinvent the brand every season, while sticking to our core beliefs. Remaining true to ourselves isn't difficult because this is the only language or vocabulary we know.
PRET AND PRACTICALITY Ready-to-wear is accessible to more customers. What we wear in our daily lives is of huge importance. There is more to life than weddings and parties!
FASHION EXTRAS Accessories are an important but small part of our collections. We only design and present those accessories that are integral to a collection's design story. In other words, each season, the shoe, or the bag, for example, completes the look and reinforces the design message.
HOME ACCESSORIES We have a strong collection of home textiles that we largely export. In India, we sell our home collection at a leading store in Mumbai and we also accept customer orders in Delhi.
HAUTE HOTELS We design textiles for specific hotel projects and try to balance a sense of contemporary India with the rich craft traditions that we are inspired by and use. (A&T have designed bedding and linen for The Park Pod, Taj Varkala and robes for Taj Falaknuma)
FROM WEST TO EAST Yes, we established ourselves in the Western market before testing the retail waters in India. The pluses were that we learnt to work in rigorous and competitive markets abroad. This, in a way, enabled us to articulate our philosophy as contemporary Indian designers within an international market.
AT LAST, A FASHION SHOW Our ramp debut last year was a positive experience. We decided to do it because the domestic market is of great importance to us. Fashion shows provide us with a forum to express our ideas about the rather unique journey that fashion in India is taking today in a globalised world. The marketing scene has changed so much. In some cases, marketing and promotions help customers make informed choices in an extremely crowded space. We also buy clothing and products we suddenly spot and are attracted to without any promotional noise!
STYLE OR TRENDS Style is the crucial ingredient in fashion. It is a highly personal attribute and everyone should use fashion intelligently to define their personal style. Trends can be dangerous. They change often and may not suit many people.
TRIUMPHANT THREESOME Yes, with Kevin Nigli, there are three of us. We are three creative people leading the brand — all graduates from the best Indian design schools. We talk, create, argue and discuss our ideas together! The NID shaped our attitude to design. Design schools opened a whole new world to us and we learnt how to weave and print textiles with a hands-on approach. Traditional Indian crafts and textiles were an important exposure. Good design education teaches you to see more clearly and ask questions.
(A&T's The Houndstooth Collection is on show today at Evoluzione, Khader Nawaz Khan Road, Nungambakkam)