Amit Aggarwal: Taking polymer to the loom

Celebrating a decade at FDCI India Couture Week 2022, the designer introduces a new textile and flirts with the idea of his dresses becoming wall art and sculptures

August 05, 2022 03:00 pm | Updated 08:00 pm IST

Amit Aggarwal’s most challenging creation: “This outfit took the longest because I couldn’t crack it technically till a day before the show”

Amit Aggarwal’s most challenging creation: “This outfit took the longest because I couldn’t crack it technically till a day before the show”

Crafted from recycled plastics and industrial materials, Amit Aggarwal’s floor-skimming dresses and lehengas at FDCI’s India Couture Week have a future as art. That, he admits post show, was the plan all along. His 66-piece collection, Pedesis, was seeded in pre-pandemic Bali, the lush Island of the Gods known for its basketry, batik and handcrafted jewellery. The Delhi-based designer had brought back two large portraits from that holiday, his “first point of stimuli”. “They are of this African tribal boy. Perhaps because I looked at them every day for the last two years I was subconsciously drawn towards the influence of tribal culture, which came through in this collection, with the colour, body adornments, and the ambiguity of form,” he says.

Aggarwal’s bugle-bead moulded octopus on hand-cut recycled plastic

Aggarwal’s bugle-bead moulded octopus on hand-cut recycled plastic

‘Something new with a story’

Aggarwal, 42, spent the early months of the pandemic sketching, tracking parrots from his window and finding comfort in everyday chores like washing the dishes. He was “looking inwards” he’d told me back then, and also trying to understand “how excess fabrics could go into creating something new and fresh, an interesting story for clients”.

Show minus the frills
Aggarwal seated his ICW audience on stage and left the actual seating in the indoor auditorium unoccupied. “The idea of doing the show in an empty space was intentional,” he reiterates. “I wanted the seats to stay empty and did not intend to beautify the space. I have grown up visiting movie theatres that looked like this, bare, with red seats. People have come to expect a metallic background from us. But how does the subject change with changing backgrounds? That’s why I chose this abstract background.”

Well, he appears to have succeeded. This new collection, marking a decade of his eponymous couture label, has sculpted structures and techniques like rubber cording and tube pleating that we have come to expect of him. But it also debuts a brave new textile. “Technically, we have always woven polymer by hand, not on the handloom,” says the designer, referring to the excess strips of polymer, a leftover from the moulding process. “We now converted that ‘yarn’ into a weft, while the loom was laid with organic cotton for the warp. And this became a handwoven textile,” he explains. “Really beautiful, it looked like a superb, modern ikat.”

Amit Aggarwal with a karigar

Amit Aggarwal with a karigar

A glitch in time

At his Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium show last week, where the drab interiors of the auditorium were intentionally retained, Aggarwal’s models showcased tiered and fantastically cut dresses, prismatic flowing skirts, fun jumpsuits and sharp, geometric menswear in this very fabric. And they teased at his pet themes of beauty over function, of timelessness and a glitch in time. Later, expanding on his glitch in time theory, he says, “We all know that time is the biggest narrator of our story and connects you, makes moments happen. If time glitched, multiple verses would meet, and you could exist in multiple parallel universes at the same time.”

His ‘visual narration of time’ borrows its name from physics because Pedesis (or Brownian motion, the random movement of particles in a fluid following collisions with other atoms or molecules) also represents his 10-year journey, the designer says.

Tiger burning bright
“Amit gets a woman’s form beautifully. The waist is always nipped in, the bust is always highlighted. I like that about his style. I enjoyed the extravagance of the intricately created clothes that were larger than life last week. But this look (see picture) summarised everything for me: Amit’s aesthetic, the craft, the innovative techniques used and yet it is extremely wearable. It’s almost like a tiger on the prowl but in Amit Aggarwal’s style,” says celebrity stylist Anaita Shroff Adajania who has known the designer since his first collection. “Back then, he used to make these deceptively simple clothes but they always fit beautifully.”

Among his models’ adornments were armors and halos, reminiscent of gods or goddesses. “That wasn’t the direct point of connection but it was subconscious, I suppose,” Aggarwal admits. “As a child, one of my first creative moments was Ganpati puja at home, when I made the small thermocol ‘temples’ myself. What I enjoyed thoroughly was fixing the motor-powered chakra behind the deity! That said, I feel the halo also speaks about the energy you exude. The aura you carry of yourself.”

No corporate plans

Hailing from Mumbai’s Goregaon suburb, Aggarwal is one of few designers who pushed the envelope at the 15th edition of ICW 2022, an event that saw 13 big names showcase in the capital over nine days.

“My favourite look, almost like a tiger on the prowl but in Amit’s style”: Anaita Shroff

“My favourite look, almost like a tiger on the prowl but in Amit’s style”: Anaita Shroff

He talks about creating pieces that can be archived even while changing the language of polymer and confesses that he currently has no plans that involve corporate investment. “For me, the journey is young. I need to understand how polymer will react. The first piece we made hasn’t aged. The shape holds itself, it is still foldable and washable,” he says, when I ask about the longevity of his garments. “Something you own doesn’t, in the traditional gamut of fashion, always need to be about covering your body or adornment. That could be the initial purpose. A lot of my pieces, if you see them without the body form, would become beautiful sculptures for clients’ living spaces.” As he took his bow last Saturday, red Cardi B x Reebok sneakers the only shot of colour in his ensemble, it was clear that for Aggarwal the story has just begun.

The Pedesis collection will be retailed later this month at Amit Aggarwal stores in Colaba, Mumbai and The Kila, Delhi

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