Hip Labels We LOVE (And You Will Too!)

Indie fashion is finally making itself heard. These new designers are challenging stereotypes and stretching the boundaries. Vogue profiles five hip labels that are using a local viewfinder to chart a global course. By KIMI DANGOR in the Vogue May issue, shared online exclusively with InOnIt.in.

They’re young, edgy and imaginative; setting trends, redefining luxury prêt and changing perceptions of indigenous fashion. Keepers of cool, and conscientious champions of slow fashion—we meet five avant garde labels that have got style circles buzzing. From 11.11/eleven eleven’s khadi denim innovations and Huemn’s minimalist lines to Obataimu’s Japanese vibe, en Inde’s steely baubles and NorBlack NorWhite’s vivid textiles—these cutting-edge brands promise to lend your closet an instant style update.
While the world is their inspiration board, they are rooted in the time-honoured and traditional, presenting a delicious dichotomy. Here’s our pick of the hottest labels in town.

OBATAIMU
Japanese design has influenced Noorie Sadarangani’s aesthetic.

Obataimu - Alex Robinson - indie label

‘Conceived in Tokyo. Born in Bombay’ reads the tag on a safety pin-covered dress at Noorie Sadarangani’s Kala Ghoda store, Obataimu. The name of her multi-disciplinary design studio may literally mean ‘overtime’ in Japanese, but her label has long been in the works. While she tested the waters with a pop-up store in 2011 and showcased her furniture line in 2013 at Volte Gallery, it was in December 2013 that Obataimu launched with a ‘defined identity’, says Sadarangani. The 600sq ft space stocks clothes, books, vintage sunglasses and furniture while housing a tailoring and artisan school.

Nippon Niche: Though the Fine Art major has lived in Hong Kong, Mumbai, London, Madrid, Barcelona and New York over the years, it was the Japanese design aesthetic that influenced Sadarangani’s creativity the most. While a short stint working with a pyjama company in London got her interested in sleep fabrics, it was Japan’s sleep at work culture, called Inemuri, which prompted her to travel to Tokyo to study the phenomenon. “If, like in Tokyo, a time comes when we have to make do with naps wherever we can, our clothes will have to be multifunctional. We will need to dress smart enough to work, yet feel light enough to snooze anywhere,” says Sadarangani, who was then propelled to start looking at sleep fabrics as potential outerwear. Today, the two clothing lines at the store—Shibui (a unisex line bringing the comfort of sleepwear to outerwear) and Wabi Sabi (an art clothing collection that creates textures with Shibui fabrics)—are a result of this creative stimulus.

Thread Count: Sadarangani and her team of slow fashion champions—Nongothung Ezung (designer and visualiser), Sameeya Murad (business development, marketing and operations) and Rein Steger (head graphic designer)—have created a line of sleep fabrics after four years of intense research and development. The fabrics have been given evocative names like Liquid Silk, Cloud Cotton, Aero Mal and Bathrobe Waffle, that literally convey the feel of the cloth. “We collaborated with textile innovators who produced our blend of fabrics, which were then subjected to enzyme washes and steam treatments to get the right feel,” explains Sadarangani.

Film This: While travelling remains a favourite pastime, it’s the activity of exploring and reimagining cities and watching people that fascinates Sadarangani. “One day I want to make a movie that combines urban design, costume design and a story of evolved characters. The scenes would reimagine the city in a future that looks more like the past, a future built upon Bombay in 1950,” she ruminates.

Connect the Dots: Sadarangani’s influences may span continents and a wide arc of subjects, yet they’re deeply personal. “It’s the same thing that inspires everyone—a connection with an idea, with yourself, with a person, with a place, with a memory or a future vision. My fascinations are always changing. Currently, my dreams are filled with imagined scenes of French cafés in ancient Luang Prabang, Italian mafia in Malindi and women warriors in Manipur,” she says.

NORBLACK NORWHITE
India’s textiles and craftsmanship were a draw for this Toronto duo.

NorBlack NorWhite - indie label

Founded in 2010, NorBlack NorWhite (NBNW) was born out of Toronto girls Amrit Kumar (31) and Mriga Kapadiya’s (31) exploration of Indian craftsmanship. The duo gives a new spin to the classics, whether using vibrant tie-and-dye techniques, Benarasi weaves or Gamosa textiles from Assam. Their aim: “Shifting and reinterpreting the concept of ‘Made in India’ from cheap and quick to reflect the history of textile practices, the livelihood of skilled artisans and the intricacy of creation and design,” says Kumar.

Culture Collage: For girls who first noticed each other in Toronto because of the way they wore their mothers’ shawls, it’s hardly surprising that textiles play such a big part in NorBlack NorWhite’s core philosophy. While life in Canada exposed them to saris, various hijab-draping styles, Colombian weaves and European silhouettes, it was their move to Mumbai in 2009 that proved the real eye-opener. “India has so many art forms unique to a region, practised and perfected over generations. Handmade textile, and generally handmade anything, got taken for granted as there was such an abundance of it. It’s now becoming scarce and we want to respect the power of the ancient while keeping it fresh and relevant to the present,” says Kapadiya.

Going Places: “Travel excites us, opens our eyes, and discovery feeds our soul,” says Kumar. While bandhini from the Kutch is a constant in their collections, the girls have also incorporated textiles from Lucknow, Benaras, Hyderabad, Kerala, Assam, Mizoram, Nagaland and Meghalaya in their designs. “We are excited for the future, when we can collaborate with Mexican, African, Japanese and Peruvian artisans from around the world,” says Kumar.

Costume Drama: With style icons ranging from Denise Huxtable on The Cosby Show, Rekha, and Frida Kahlo to Rei Kawakubo, Henrik Vibskov and Sabyasachi Mukherjee, the NBNW designers are currently enjoying the perks of home delivery and the ‘crazy energy’ of Mumbai. They recently also turned costume designers for an independent experimental film, Glass Bottom Boat, by filmmaker Shreya Dev Dube.

Music and Dance: Kapadiya is fascinated by Michael Jackson, the ocean, TLC (the band), people-watching and ‘food made with love’. “I am not a fan of ignorance,” she says. And Kumar loves dancing. “I don’t enjoy slowness,” she confesses.

Read more about designers like 11.11/ELEVEN ELEVEN, HUEMN BY PRANAV MISHRA AND SHYMA SHETTY and EN INDE in Vogue India’s May 2014 issue, out on stands now.

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