Behind the Seams: Amit Aggarwal
For this trailblazer, upcycling is more than just a catchphrase. Adroitly fashioning commonplace elements into bewitching tours de force, he has succeeded in using heritage textiles and sustainable materials to change how fashion is perceived. “Coming up with my pret line, AM.IT, which discusses sustainability, while I was already doing couture — which is about luxury and opulence — is one severe risk that I took,” Aggarwal ruminates. Evidently, it was a risk worth taking, helping him nurture “the skill required to keep reinventing the label without losing its soul”. The beautiful thing about his creations is that if you look closely, you can see what the source elements were in their former life. An appropriate illustration of this can be found in his Spring/Summer ’17 collection titled icloud, which stunningly incorporates articles like CDs, sequin waste and doll’s eyes. The Resort ’17 collection, on the other hand, is built around unclaimed pieces of Patola saris. Here, the fluidity of ikat and handwoven silk Chanderi is complemented by faux leather braids, nylon mesh and tapestry. Each series comprises a distinctive set of components, that transform into various avatars and, sometimes, serve as inspiration for something completely novel in a subsequent collection.
“I owe it to my personal interest and the international experiences I had as a student that helped me broaden my outlook and later explore parallel ideas in India,” says the couturier. He deems himself fortunate to have had, straight out of college, a number of opportunities to collaborate with people who were experimental in their craft, from the minimal options available during that era. Working with Tarun Tahiliani and launching Morphe equipped him with all the know-how, confidence and commitment he needed to envision his own label. Still, his imagination and curiosity had already been sparked well before these formative years, while observing his father working on architectural blueprints. He eventually started drawing similar forms, which helped him understand basic concepts. His interest in the industry he now calls home, however, came from finding his cousin’s fashion illustrations extremely fascinating as a wide-eyed child. “Since I already had a flair for drawing, I decided right then that I wanted to become a designer.”
Aggarwal’s process is meticulous yet non-linear, evolving according to the requirement of the collection. After outlining a base idea and discussing it with the team, he spearheads many discussions to formulate a story and mood which in turn influences the materials, techniques and silhouettes. Once the format is specified and constructed, the sampling of a number of outfits begins while a creative team works on the ideation for a campaign shoot, customised tags that tell the story and the manner of presentation to audiences. “Besides practising sustainability, there are no rules,” he explains. “I like design to erupt out of the most mundane things and serve a larger cause. It’s a threefold process and requires a well-equipped team to execute it on every level.” He lives by a longstanding conviction to always follow his gut. And it is this very instinct that led him to create his entrancing Spring/Summer ’15 collection, which echoed the architecture of a honeycomb, and a memorable Autumn/Winter ’15 presentation of bindi-inspired garments that married traditional dyeing techniques with indigenous weaves and materials like bindi sheets.
Often inspired by old patterns in architecture and art, he makes sure to travel as much — and as extensively — as possible, to get the creative juices flowing. On home turf, simply walking through the streets of Old Delhi can result in the conception of a showstopping ensemble. Meeting new people and engaging with them helps him gain perspective and understand how his work is perceived, and discover newfangled philosophies. “I am an outgoing person, my new employees and people I meet tend to not connect that with what I do,” he admits, confessing that he’s a total sucker for any cuisine and vintage flea markets. He picks Rome as the most stimulating destination he’s been to, but lights up as he describes his last Paris jaunt, when he had the opportunity to visit the atelier of one of his favourite designers, Azzedine Alaïa. “It was something I could never have dreamed of. At the most beautiful studio space in a very inconspicuous neighbourhood in Paris, watching the Autumn/Winter 2017 collection being given its final touches…it was the most amazing experience I have had in a very long time.”
Presently building more retail channels for the label internationally and in India, he is delighted by the way the lehngas for his Amit Aggarwal Indian couture line are turning out; perfect for the modern bride. He is passionate while describing his current fascinations — “flounce falling out of a contrived silhouette” and “the surfaces and colours that can be achieved by mixing traditional textiles with our exclusive techniques and materials”. Explaining that he is now enjoying his investigation of Indian culture which, at one point, he was less scrupulous about incorporating into his work, Aggarwal praises the current fashion environment for its exchange of ideas and for presenting itself as a community of creatives with multifarious interests. “I see so many people coming up in the industry who are doing exceptional things, and I feel that the profession has found more genuineness,” he smiles. While on the subject of alternate interests, I discover that the pioneer is exceedingly passionate about interiors, often putting together the remains of his work as art pieces in his living space. “I will totally expand the label into the interiors realm someday!”
Experimental without losing the focus on aesthetics, Aggarwal’s vision is becoming a necessity today, not only for its ethical-correctness, but because it delivers something that people can both lose and find themselves in. His creations simultaneously induce nostalgia and a drive towards the future, which he sees as a dazzlingly positive light.