Kiran Uttam Ghosh presents a retrospective in Chennai. An interview with the design ace
For 15 years Kiran Uttam Ghosh has slipped effortlessly into the wardrobes of the chic and the famous. But the lady behind the label has none of those flaky oh-dahling airs associated with happening designers. Like her clothes, she's rooted to her moorings.
At Amethyst to present “Retrospective Experiential”, the Kolkata-based designer traces her career that started with creating a “tacky piece” of textured stole in 1994. “It's not about racks of clothes. It recaps my diligent steps in design. To me, the journey is the destination. I feel blessed to pursue a passion as a career,” she says with a steady gaze.
Having bypassed trends in favour of individualistic interpretations, Kiran's designs are more evolved today. “It matters to me the way women want to dress,” she says candidly, fully acknowledging the fact that not all can look like models of preternatural physical perfection. “Wearability is not a dirty word.”
The capsule collection that features key elements from her past lines expresses Kiran's hard-headed practicality when it comes to design. “The pressure on the bottomline is huge. So even a line like Ethelectic (inspired by Big Ethel of Archies comics) that celebrates imperfections has to be wearable. You cannot afford to fly in fancy zone. I travel with my laptop constantly checking mails for updates on merchandise and dispatches.”
From the hint of the Sixties' sexiness in Flapper Girl's Oriental tryst to the more recent Kilm rugs-spurred digital prints, the show, which will cover all major metros in the country, is a mix of vintage and contemporary Kiran. “Guess what, it's pay back time. Some of the pieces are available at 1994 prices!” she declares.
To keep dowdiness from the door, Kiran has worked on cowls and drapes in deep-toned kurtas. For those who gravitate to a brighter palette, there are ensembles in pink with plenty of embellishment. “Embroidery is clearly a strong point in my work. It reflects my roots — Kolkata. The art and craft-rich environment has shaped my work. Today, it's natural that Kolkata has emerged as a hub of fashion with many designers vying for their space on the springboard to fame.”
Besides the retrospective, the designer's agenda for 2010 includes rejuvenating her pret line “Kimono” and reaching it to a wider market. “I'm looking at big numbers. Hope to take Kimono to 200 stores instead of the present 22 across the country. It will be functional with a little KUG (Kiran Uttam Ghosh couture) touch. Production is going to be a nightmare,” says Kiran, who has worked with famous English designer Jasper Conran before launching her eponymous lines.
Despite having participated in shows and retailed abroad, the urban outfitter isn't gung-ho about overseas markets. “Those who say they are having rocking sales abroad are lying. The bubble has burst. I'd rather focus on the domestic market. It's the Indian clientele that keeps coming back. There are many players in today's design market, but the buyers are getting smarter. The downward spin in the global economy ensured that mediocrity doesn't survive — which is good. Designers have to perform, place value on top of the line and better their work with every collection.”
An associate member of the Fashion Development Council of India, Kiran is clear about the direction designers must take. “It's important for creative people to get more professional and focus on sizing, finish, production and delivery schedules. Clothes are not costumes, they must be commercially viable.”
Always brimming with energy, this control freak was recently spotted by a retinue of her factory staff, sealing a broken pipe and cleaning the water in the washroom.
“I love being at the heart of things. It's passion that drives me. You can't delegate passion! To succeed you must get your hands dirty,” she chuckles.
Whether it's my signature layering, intricate jackets or painstakingly created digital prints, rip offs don't bother me. In fact, I would be upset if people don't replicate my work. Imitation is an acknowledgement of good work. Copycats keep me on my toes.
“Retrospective Experiential” at Amethyst till February 5, traces Kiran Uttam Ghosh's journey as a designer. It features a collection that incorporates key elements from her past lines.
I’ve designed uniforms for the caddies at the Royal Kolkata Golf Club. And golfers quipped that the caddies were better dressed than themselves.
Green way to go
I’m a salad person. I grow my own vegetables for the salad because I’m paranoid about tapeworm. My husband jokes, “You don’t have time to eat, and you are growing vegetables.”