Known for creating wearable art from handwoven textiles with inspirations drawn from nature, Vaishali Shadangule’s eponymous label, Vaishali S is one to watch out for. Having worked with over 900 weavers and explored 14 different weaving techniques, the fashion designer is committed to highlighting Indian craftsmanship through her designs. She has also gained an international presence as she has showcased her work at New York Fashion Week five times since 2015.
Zero waste and upcycling, the core concepts of her label are translated into her flagship store in Kalaghoda, Mumbai. Soon after opening in March last year, the nationwide lockdown forced Vaishali and her team to adopt a contactless approach and get innovative. This month, her flagship store completes a year. We got in touch with the designer to talk about how she kept her business running in a pandemic, the idea behind her store aesthetics, and more.
ELLE: Congratulations on the one-year anniversary of your flagship store in Mumbai. How do you feel?
Vaishali Shadangule: Thanks so much! I feel like a warrior. What a year! I opened the store just one week before lockdown, and you can imagine how difficult it must have been. Nevertheless, I am still here, learned a lot, changed the way to interact with clients and weavers alike. But believe me, I am dreaming to be back to when you could have relaxed face-to-face relationships.
ELLE: The store looks lovely. And it has a very rustic, earthy touch as opposed to your signature style of texture play and wearable art. What inspired its interiors?
VS: My textures and wearable art come from nature and from Indian roots. The fabrics are all handwoven in villages, with weavers sitting on the ground and surrounded by threads and looms: you can feel the same vibes here. Likewise, all my silhouettes are directly drawn from the flow of the energy of nature. This is the reason behind the amazing atmosphere. If we talk about furniture, it has all been made by repurposing old doors I found in the dumping grounds of Mumbai.
ELLE: Your store had opened a few weeks before the lockdown in the country and everything shifted to the digital medium. How did you change your approach and what steps did you take to keep the business running?
VS: I was heavily opposing all social media and advertising. ‘My clients will find me by themselves,’ I used to wrongly say. During the lockdown, I launched India’s first virtual store and started directing interested people there, where they could see the store and we could video chat with them in real-time. It has been a great learning curve for me and the team. The core of my philosophy is about giving a new global language to our heritage treasures of hand weaves. I have learned that innovation has to be brought to the rest of the process as well.
ELLE: What experience do you want to create for the people who enter your store?
VS: I want to create a complete experience. At first, you are captured by the intense smell of flowers, then the music created by me literally carries you along with the collection with glimpses of multiple messages all relating to handmade art, the villages in India, nature and rebirth of senses.
ELLE: We know it’s hard, but if you had to pick one piece in the store that perfectly reflects your aesthetics, what would it be?
VS: I would say the only one not made by me! It is that Frangipani plant, no leaves left but full of flowers and dispersing this amazing smell. It is the symbol of this year. Despite the hard time of closed shop and arid sales, it has shed unnecessary leaves, shown resilience and focuses on the core of beauty.
ELLE: What are your future plans for your label?
VS: I have so many plans. The real one though is to always remember to stay loyal to my core, without forgetting who I am and where I come from.