Opening a virtual jewel box: on Roma Narsinghani’s digital jewellery collection at Helsinki Fashion Week

A snapshot from the collection   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Digital fashion weeks have become a reality, be it in London, Paris or Shanghai. But it is the upcoming showcase in Helsinki, starting July 27, that many are tracking. Considered a fringe fashion week with its focus on sustainability over the last three years, it seems to be in for much more recognition this month. There are partnerships between 3D architects and designers, and Helsinki Fashion Week (HFW) founder, Evelyn Mora, has explained in interviews that ‘designers in residence’ content and cyber networking possibilities are a part of the mix. To better understand this journey from tangible to digital, we asked participant Roma Narsinghani to step in.

Roma Narsinghani

Roma Narsinghani   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Popular for her vintage hair buns, gold-plated bindis and ear caps, Mumbai-based Narsinghani, 35, creates wearable art out of reclaimed brass. Artistes like Madame Gandhi and Sonam Kapoor are often seen in them. At Lakmé Fashion Week in February, an Amit Aggarwal model sported a kinetic flower between her lips. It opened and closed as she walked the runway. That piece of jewellery was courtesy Narsinghani. “I had to work with my mechanical engineer cousin for it,” she says.

Are digital shows sustainable?
  • With the focus on sustainability, the company Normative will be calculating the carbon footprint of this online edition of Helsinki Fashion Week. To understand the environmental impact of digital fashion shows, one has to take into consideration the data centres and servers required to host online.
  • Also, each participant’s carbon footprint must be calculated. No wonder then that Narsinghani has also been studying Sustainability Development during the pandemic. “It opened my eyes to things like sustainable auditing,” she says.

So clearly, when HFW reached out in April about participation, and about switching from handmade to digital, she wasn’t going to say no. Not even if her current base, Goa, meant she had no cellular connectivity. “I haven’t received a normal call in the four months since we got here and it gets a bit embarrassing as I cannot control the electricity or network issues in Goa,” she explains. That said, multiple dongles, hotspots and a team that has perfected WFH, have helped make Gaia, her eight-piece collection, possible. That and her tie-up with Adhiraj Singh, the Delhi-based 3D artist behind the digi-fashion brand, LOTA.

Of avatars and revenue

“When HFW contacted us and we began conceptualising, we realised their 3D team was only equipped to do apparel. I then decided to work with Adhiraj as I had already featured LOTA at Future Collective [an organisation co-founded by Narsinghani that celebrates conscious living through events and storytelling]. She explains how her in-house team created the renders and 3D models, then sent them to Singh who digitised them, “made the gold life-like” and placed them on the model. The HFW team had converted eight human models to digital avatars, so it helped that Singh had also launched India’s first CGI influencer last year.

India’s eco advantage
  • We really need to start looking at where we can buy pre-loved clothing, says Narsinghani. “I believe that’s the move that more people in India should make. Because of all these beautiful garments, you have to realise that you are also travelling with a story. Bodements, for vintage clothing, is an interesting homegrown innovative brand,” she says.

“He changed the way I look at things. When I think of jewellery, I think of metal, heaviness, size and practicality. We broke that barrier because of the fact that digital is limitless,” she says. While seven of the pieces are functional, and a few designs are being sent to Jaipur to be handmade in brass (for retail in November), there is a “surreal, conceptual piece” made in collaboration with Singh. She hopes to pitch it to virtual gaming and fashion e-tailers. “So it’s not like there is no revenue model at all,” she says, adding, “HFW is also helping us put up our pieces on blockchain where people will be able to have ownership of our files.”

From the collection

From the collection   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Tech support

Being a part of HFW has meant turning the file storage service, Google Drive, into her virtual studio, and converting all ‘offline experiments’ into Zoom calls. “It has been a full relearning. For our 3D renders, we use Solid Works, and Trello to update our assignments for everyone,” she tries to explain. And there have been a host of webinars from HFW as “we are 15 designers who have really never done anything like this before”. This includes other Indians — Neha Celly of Bluehemia, a denim research and design firm in Bengaluru, and Helena Bajaj Larsen, an Indian-Norwegian textile designer — so don’t forget to catch the show.

Gaia is priced from ₹1,500 and will début at HFW on July 29, 8.45 pm. At

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Printable version | Sep 18, 2021 12:06:28 PM |

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