The gods may be a capricious lot, but Karishma Shahani’s final-year collection at the London College of Fashion can only be described as divine-inspired. “Yatra” (“pilgrimage” in Hindi) is a breathtaking distillation of her native India, a land saturated by colors so intense they’re almost tangible, where “splendor and rags, palaces and hovels, genies and giants,” in Shahani’s own words, coexist without contradiction. Inspired by India’s pantheon of many-faced deities above, the lineup also draws cues from the mortals toiling below, many of whom recycle and reuse not out of any sense of altruism, but because it’s a means of survival.
YOU SAY “RECYCLE,” I SAY “REINCARNATION”
To create Yatra’s vivid hues, Shahani enlisted the aid of an artisan in India, who dip-dyed natural fabrics like cotton, silk, linen, and muslin using plants from his local market. Shahani also incorporated recycled plastic packaging—a homage to the Indian ingenuity of adapting existing materials to suit one’s changing needs.
The collection also incorporates recycled plastic packaging—a a homage to Indian ingenuity.
It’s here that the designer found illumination from a more worldly source: India’s homeless. One particular homeless man, Shahani tells Ecouterre, wore so many layers of clothing that he appeared to be carting around his entire wardrobe on his person. “He had on this plastic sack [as a jacket] and another one as a bag,” she says. “It was this versatility that really attracted me. It’s a synthetic fabric, but one of many uses.”