A Real Narrative: Ayush Kejriwal On His Designs, Ideologies And Staying Relevant
I first stumbled upon Ayush Kejriwal’s designs while browsing through Instagram; so it comes as no surprise to me that the media has labelled him as a designer made by the internet. Social media is a strange place. It builds brands and then it tries to break them with the same gusto. In no time, followers turn into critics — “internet trolls” is what they are referred to in modern terminology. But Kejriwal seems to remain unfazed by them. Instead, he continues to weave his ideologies seamlessly into the thread of his handcrafted saris, without the intention of pleasing anyone.
The journey hasn’t been an easy one for the designer, who is based in Glasgow. Talking about his humble beginnings, Kejriwal narrates, “I was always creatively inclined from a young age, but never had the chance to get a degree in designing or pursue a career in fashion. My mother lost both her eyes due to multiple sclerosis when I was a four-year-old, so I started helping her out around the house and also in matching her sari blouses, jewellery, etc. I guess that is where it all started. It was as though I had a knack for it, and everyone used to appreciate what I would put together for my mother. This continued for years until one of my very dear friends encouraged me to pursue my passion for design. My sister would wear my initial designs and we would share the images on Instagram. And I got my first sale from Germany for 150 euros.”
What strikes you almost instantly is the visual imagery on Kejriwal’s Instagram feed. His women are not elfin supermodels posing with utmost perfection, but rather women like you and me, looking happy and comfortable in their own skin. The realness of his narrative seems to have been one of the reasons for his online success. “Using real people for my brand promotions was the most sensible and natural thing to do. I never wanted to portray my offerings in a way that would make people feel unsure about who they are. I wanted to empower people, make them happy and connect with them at a personal level. Showcasing my clothes on perfectly shaped bodies and flawless skin would go against my brand ethos, more so because it is simply not me,” he explains. “As a brand, I feel it is my responsibility to make sure I don’t capitalise on people’s insecurities, but instead help them to love and accept themselves. It’s more fulfilling that way.”
Kejriwal doesn’t seem to follow any trends — nor does he roll out collections according to the fashion calendar. He creates limited pieces per year and caters to his loyal customer base spread across the globe. “I don’t care about market trends or demands. I don’t understand them. I have always said I use my clothes to tell my story. It cannot be constrained by trivial things like those. There are people who will find my work boring, old-school and repetitive, and that is fine. I can live with it. On the other hand, there will also be people who will want to hear my story, relate to it and connect with my brand. That is what matters to me. My brand is not just about selling clothes; it is a platform that gives me an opportunity to share my views.” From addressing issues like discrimination against dark-skinned women to talking about women and their insecurities, Kejriwal’s feed resembles that of a raging feminist’s, where beautiful clothing is purely incidental. His saris are canvases rather than simple articles of clothing, and he chooses to remain true to traditional techniques and motifs rather than tweaking his designs to seem more current.
It is not hard to figure that Kejriwal is purely a non-conformist. In the ever-dynamic fashion ecosystem anchored by many opinions and points of view, this is harder than it looks. So how does one stay relevant in today’s times? “I think that to survive, you have to be true to yourself and also true to what you’re offering. You have to stick to your brand ethos and deliver it with full conviction. Your brand’s voice may not be loud enough to be heard by the masses, but at least your whispers will be full of integrity and dignity. And once the brand story is written and finalised, it’s important to stick to it. ”