Designer Shravan Kumar believes that fashion is a religion than just a profession. Born and brought up in Hyderabade, he is a graduate from London School of Fashion Designing with a specialisation in colour psychology.
He believes in a research-oriented approach towards creating new trends. He started his studio in 1993 and runs an organisation called ‘The Society of Aalayam’, where he actively strives to uplift the weaves and weavers of India.
Speaking to Narada News, the designer talks about his idea about fashion, his love for saree and his campaign ‘Save a Weaver’:
Q. There is the constant urge to churn out good designs every season. How do you manage to give your clients something new each season?
We do a lot of Bespoke, meaning customisation. We keep the requirements of our client in mind. It’s very important to know and understand our client. If they are not clear, it becomes tough for us to know and elucidate their area of interest. I make sure that the bride stands out, not the lehenga and jewellery. Clothes surely add up to a person’s personality but at the same time, it shouldn’t take the individuality out of you. If somebody comes and says, “Your lehenga is nice”, it is a comment but if they say, “You’re looking beautiful”, it is a compliment.
Q. What is your focus for this season?
This season, I’m focusing on less is more because I want the bride and groom to enjoy their wedding.
Q. Going back to the beginning of your career, how did you think of becoming a fashion designer? What’s your background story?
I was supposed to be a doctor. I got my medicine seat but I wasn’t engaged to pursue it. I started my career with JD and went to NIFT. Then, I practiced for a bit and went to London for a short span. When I returned, I started my own organisation called ‘The Society of Aalayam’ and started working with weaves and weavers of India.
Q. Did you face objection from your family for your choice of career?
No. My family was my biggest support. In today’s world, where I’m trying how to survive and understand what I am today, I’m here because of them. The entity, soul and warmth is given by family although you try to find it in friends.
Q. What do you keep in mind before starting to sketch for a season?
The problem with us is that we don’t follow trends or we do not set a trend. Last season, the mood for us was jewel tone, this season it’s about soothing pastels. Eg. An onion pink with a light blue, a pale orange with a nice grey, a nice off-white with a light pink and yellow. We are research-based designers and research the trends in the market. We work with a lot of weaves and weavers of India. I do a lot of Banarasi chadars, which look beautiful on a woman’s body. We do a lot of 6-m and above sarees. For me, sarees have to be trailing to look beautiful. A piece like saree or a lehenge has to be very classy. A designer can make it look authentic. I can make a lehenga look realistic, as if it has come out from your grandmother’s Pandora box. A designer should not compromise the art by contemporizing it. I think, a classic is endangered when you contemporize it.
Q. Do you prefer designing western or Indian wear?
My heart is totally towards Indian wear. I’m learning a lot of Indian wear. For me, everyday is a learning day. I don’t know why, but people love my western designs. I’m very structural but my western designs are freehand.
Q. You mentioned about your organisation called ‘The Society of Aalayam’. Can you elaborate.
My campaign is called ‘Save a Weaver’. About eight years ago, I had my own campaign ‘Save a Saree, Save a Weaver’ which now runs as ‘Save a Weaver’. We urge a lot of clients to add one handloom saree to their wardrobe, which would save a weaver’s life. By uplifting the weaves and weavers, we’re trying to uplift the art. We support them because their art is phenomenal and beautiful. “Kitne log kharidenge yeh dhai lakh aur teen lakh ka saree? (how many people will buy a saree worth Rs1 or 3 lakh?), not many can afford it.
Q. What does fashion mean to you?
Fashion is neither my passion nor profession. It’s my religion and I can’t change it.
Q. If you had to pick one designer whose work you’d say, “I wish I had designed this”, who would it be and why?
There are so many. A designer is a designer, it’s not good or bad. It might suit my palette, it may not suit your palette but for that designer, he’s got an inspiration. He’s got a mood and an art. I belong to the category that don’t believe in calling themselves designers. I’m an artist who puts love, art and soul in our designs.
Q. Since you called yourself an artist, who is your inspiration?
There are quite a lot of models, designers, movie stars, directors who’ve been my inspiration. Where this is art, there is no specification. I love the sets of Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the mood of Anurag Kashyap, charisma of Kalki Koechlin, intensity of Ram Gopal Varma. I love the heera-kheeri heirlooms what Rohit Bal is getting. The world is so expressive, its so beautiful, how can you miss an expression?
Q. According to you, how easy or difficult is it to stay in vogue?
It is very easy to stay in vogue as far as you are yourself. Fashion can be taught, style cannot be taught. Style is a signature, there’s a flare and you pronounce it when you want. To stay in vogue, it’s important to know where and why you’re going somewhere. Eg. You cannot go to a night party wearing a morning outfit and you won’t wear summer outfits in winters.
Q. Now-a-days, youth are trying to fit-up groups by following fashion. What is your advice to them?
Don’t follow anything, follow yourself. By the time you say that you have to follow this and follow that, you’re going to be lost. Then who’s going to be following you, if you follow others? Fashion is as unsteady as an ocean. Everyday you need to learn.