Mandira Wirk on her collection at the event, on her trajectory as a designer

In just over a decade, Mandira Wirk has created a niche for herself as a talented designer. Known for her gowns and couture, Wirk’s clothes speak of elegance, romance and feminine grace. She is now all set to launch her collection at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week Autumn-Winter’14. Titled Ombre, the line takes inspiration from Wirk’s own life and personality, a combination of beauty and practicality. Edited excerpts from an interview:

A little about the collection you are showcasing at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week Autumn-Winter’14…

Usually as a designer, and also as someone who loves travelling, my inspirations came from different places. But this collection has been inspired by my own style of design and sensibility. It’s called Ombre, which in French means reflection. This collection is the reflection of my thought process, persona, personality, and aesthetics. I have tried to visualise what I would want to wear for the fall winter 2014, and how I would like to accessorise and put the look together.

Did this process involve taking a look at your previous collections, and your growth as an individual and a professional?

Yes, that’s true. While my philosophy, whether it’s my Indian or Western work, has always been very feminine, elegant, romantic and very understated, there have been previous shows where I have done a few garments, a few looks, which I have felt would cater to my buyers or clients. This time I have kept no one in mind, except my own aesthetics. I’ve asked myself, would Mandira wear this? Would she like this?

How did the idea translate on paper? Could you give us a little preview of what’s to come on the ramp?

For me, as a designer, fabrics play a really important role. Fall winter can be a little tricky. We live in Delhi and since we have winter here, it’s important to have fabric that is appropriate for that time of the year, along with the right colours and rendering. I started the thought process for this collection six months back and ordered the fabrics then, keeping all those things in mind. There were pure woollen blends, velvets, organza. I chose colours like ochre, sunset orange, charcoal grays, blacks, hints of purple and melange stripes. I also love accessories, and while my garments are simple and straight, they are constructed and make a versatile collection. There are skirts you can wear with different tops, layered double layered jackets, or capes. I have teamed them with colour block stilettos, thigh boots, bags, belts, stockings and gloves. It’s a complete look, one that I’d like to wear out.

Your audience then, and your buyers, will be ones who can relate to this particular sense of aesthetics.

Of course. I’m sure people who are going to like or order this collection will have my design aesthetics and relate to it. How I got this thought process was quite interesting. I used to wear most of my own clothes on evenings out, and a lot of my good friends used to ask me why I didn’t have those clothes in my store, where they could pick them up. The thing is, right now, gowns and couture are my main forte, where you can do orders and customised designs. I wasn’t doing much western in my own store. With western, it’s usually off the rack, where you pick up things in your size that you can wear that very day. It’s a big investment, and so I wasn’t very sure about taking it on, but over time, I got amazing feedback from friends, and decided to take it on.

Any plans of expanding the scope of your work, maybe design for men, or venture into another market?

I do design for Saif Ali Khan. I’ve done most of his ad campaigns but right now, it’s limited to just him. See, it’s a different market and infrastructure. I’ve done fairly well in my gowns and couture and now there is this new line in western which I’m also launching in Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week Autumn-Winter’14. Once I’ve been around a little longer, with a more stable foothold in the industry, there are many plans in the pipeline that’ll emerge, a men’s line being a definite one. Men are comparatively very easy to work with, with no fuss, no issues, no tantrums. They are easy to deal with, but it’s a specialised job. I’ve been trained to do women’s wear, and am not confident yet to design men’s wear. I will though, hopefully very, very soon.

A little about the business of fashion, and the obstacles that come with it?

After college, I worked with Rina Dhaka, but it was for a very short time, unfortunately. After that, due to an unforeseen problem, I had to leave. Trust me, it’s been a journey. After that, I’ve had to learn everything myself. I didn’t have a choice but to work on my own. I had a stalker and while dealing with that, I couldn’t work under any designer. I had to be independent; had to learn the business of fashion on my own. It’s like any other business; I’m still learning, still making mistakes. When I started, I didn’t know finance, didn’t know what a petty cashbook was. If you are doing work with another designer, you learn the business, the basics of running a factory. You achieve faster. But for me, it was tough. I’m still learning, even after 13 years. I’ve had times when I didn’t know how I was going to pay my employees. There were instances when people threatened to shut my factories, but each time, I think it was my sheer determination that got me through, along with a family that has always been very supportive.