Asmita Marwa makes kalamkari look chic, and has plans for her brand. She wants to foray into interiors and lifestyle. Sangeetha Devi Dundoo reports…

In Paris, people wanted to know what this art form (kalamkari) was and where they could buy it.

Would you consider wearing a kalamkari ghagra to a wedding reception? Or a kalamkari shift dress to a friend’s dinner? Asmita wants to you to take a new look at kalamkari, which you dismissed as saris meant for elderly women. “I like the way the different colours from the vegetable dyes, hand painted figures of Gods and Goddesses and the motifs of animals and birds… all blend together beautifully. The 2000-year-old craft is fascinating. It takes months to create a beautiful hand-painted sari,” she says. Her new collection, Gaia – The Awakening, which she showcased at the Lakme Fashion Week, presented kalamkari in a different avatar.

Many designers have traversed the path earlier. So what makes her work stand out? “Youngsters would shy away from wearing kalamkari because they feel the colours are dull and drab. You see the motifs being used in bedspreads, curtain and also clothes. I worked with the artistes, had discussions and asked them to brighten the colours. We used more green and blue than the regular red and mustard,” she explains. The kalamkari shift dress and the kalamkari border offsetting another white dress in her studio are head turners.

She recalls being stopped on the streets of Paris and Germany during her recent travel, when she wore some of her collections. “People wanted to know what this art form was and where they could buy it.” With finesse for meticulous detailing, she loves to design for the global client using ethnic prints. “A kalamkari ghagra that I designed can be worn to a wedding reception. It is rich without any embroidery on it. Your ghagra needn’t be a piece of jewellery with embellishments. My clothes don’t have sequins, zardosis and the works. Some of my clients, who are sick and tired of heavy embellishments, want something simple and classy,” she says.

Her collection is also a step forward in designing eco-friendly clothing. She loves going back to nature and an example to that is her home in Jubilee Hills — uncluttered, spacious and encircled by greenery. “I am even considering shifting to an electric car. Gas is just becoming out of the question,” she laughs.

Her home, breathtakingly designed in milky whites from the upholstery to the furniture and artefacts, contrasted by the dash of red in the dining area, speaks of the thought that has gone into the décor. “When I married Harvesh, we were living in a single bedroom apartment. Yet, I wanted it to look good and dressed it up well. We didn’t have much furniture there. Later, we moved to a two and then a three-bedroom house. Everywhere, I managed to make the house look good. We built this house by ourselves and I designed it,” she reveals. This, in fact, was her first try at interior designing: “Designing is what I want to do, but I don’t want to limit myself to garments. I want to move into interiors, furniture, lifestyle and accessories like shoes and bags. Perhaps I would tie up with likeminded people and offer inputs; they could develop a line for me.”

Having shot to fame after designing for actors Nagarjuna, Venkatesh, Kalyan Ram, Shriya, Charmme and a host of others, Asmita is now eager to see her brand grow. Her part-prêt part-couture diffusion line is now retailed from Bangalore, Chennai, Changidarh, Delhi and Mumbai apart from Hyderabad. “For me, my work is more of a passion than business. I need to develop a business sense to make my brand grow,” she laughs. Looking back, she is happy with the journey so far. “I studied psychology and then took up fashion. I am self taught and happy about that. In school (Vidyaranya), I used to wear the prettiest frocks. Later on, I used to design for my friends. I think that was the beginning.”

Asmita speaks

What I design is what I like to wear. Apart from my own creations, I only wear those designed by Sabyasachi. In fact, he was the one who pushed me to apply to Lakme Fashion Week.

For a creative person, I think it’s important to travel. I love the art and culture centre in Paris. Recently I came back fascinated from Istanbul. All your senses are stimulated when you visit a place that’s rich in art and heritage.