Founders of Vaishali S and Kanika Goyal Label are leaving audiences spellbound with their polar opposite presentation of ‘Indian aesthetics’ on international ramps. A frequent collaborator with cultural projects, Shadangule enjoys the merit of being the first Indian woman designer to be invited to Paris Haute Couture Week, and has showcased at Milan twice; Goyal is no stranger to New York Fashion Week (NYFW). On a hectic pre-Diwali afternoon, we get together these globe-trotting designers to share their thoughts and experiences of frequenting international fashion weeks. Shadangule is back from Milan, and Goyal, fresh from her show at the FDCI X Lakmé Fashion Week Oct2022.
Excerpts from their conversation
KANIKA GOYAL (KG): Around 2014, you went international. What sort of technical and mental preparation led up to the moment where you said, ‘Alright, this is it, we’re doing an international fashion week’?
VAISHALI SHADANGULE (VS): I received the news that I was selected to showcase at the haute couture week at Paris, in April, which was peak pandemic time. My first thought was, how were we going to get the collection together in the first place! Because at that time, I was in the Maldives and all my workers had returned to their villages. Everyone eventually came together and stayed in the store, working day and night to get the collection ready. It took me 14 days to reach since travel was affected my route was through Serbia and Slovenia, including customs’ hassle! It was also a big opportunity only about six legacy brands like Chanel and Dior were showcasing along with me. Besides that, that idea of creating haute couture with hand woven textiles was a challenge in itself. My mission was to introduce Indian weaves on a different level.
KG: I recently did my second show at NYFW and there’s a lot that goes into making it happen. The minor tiff between the American and European fashion is also an omnipresent factor in deciding where to showcase. Since you’ve done several different locations, what are your thoughts on this? Do you see it as experimenting with different markets or as a natural evolution of the brand?
VS: I’ve done fashion weeks in multiple cities, but New York (NY) in particular, has given me confidence. My journey of trying to create unconventional designs through Indian weaves grew there. NY provided me with a lot of exposure, buyers, and stores, and helped me feel confident in my designs. I feel
Europe really appreciates design as art and the whole value behind a garment; Paris is all about creativity—you can let the canvas loose and express your creativity fully; And of course, when we talk of pret in Europe, Milan is the go-to destination.
KG: For Indian designers showcasing at a fashion week else where, there are pre-conceived moulds of what an Indian label would look like. But you also wish to challenge it, while simultaneously representing the unique flavour that your heritage adds to your design language—how do you balance the two?
VS: With me, they’re always a bit surprised. Obviously, when they think of couture based in India, they think of traditional silhouettes and heavy embroideries, and it’s nice to be able to give them something different from what they expect. I’ve never had to adjust to markets because I create from natural inspirations, and my own unique visual language. This allows my designs to work globally. Obviously, even when my work turns people’s expectations on their heads it’s important to recognise that the soul of the creation is still Indian.
KG: As we mainly do Ready to Wear, there are always minor changes according to what our stores are recommending. It’s incredible that you’ve managed to crack the code of a signature language and be appreciated equally. It’s definitely challenging because you need to hit certain numbers to even
continue showcasing at a fashion week outside.
VS: Absolutely! I did a capsule where I tried to make my garments more wearable but multiple agents pointed out that I maybe diluting my essence.
SONALI SHAH (SS): When people think of Kanika Goyal at an international fashion week, what kind of expectations do they have?
KG: I think there are certain preconceived notions about the Indian fashion industry in general. They don’t expect finesse and refinement in the clothes, they expect a kitsch and busy aesthetic from the clothes. It adds up over the years, when they see other Indian designers, and keep forming similar opinions. When I did the ‘Who’s Next? Premier Class’ in 2017, there were people who would not be able to correlate my work with my persona, but when there was a French person at a stall they’d express curiosity and interest! VS: I think there’s a lot to show if you’re a fashion designer from India. Following my showcase at the haute couture week, a French newspaper’s headline read: ‘Finally Couture is Back’. I think because I’m able to create my collections from the fabric itself and don’t follow trends, it is couture in its truest form. Costume history itself is a very integral part of the Indian subcontinent; it is still ingrained in the people’s way of life.
KG: What’s been the most exciting part of a fashion week for you, internationally?
VS: My journey in this regard is very different. I was experimenting with textiles and weaves, and showed around 24 shows with Lakmé and FDCI, and somehow felt like it was too early to create that kind of a silhouette here. I felt like I needed to go international to have people appreciate the work. It was then that I made the shift to NY and also did random things occasionally; there were people there who weren’t appreciative of the work as well. But I did what was possible. I got confidence in what I do through that city, be it exploring fabric or new silhouettes. Currently, I am supporting more than 1,500 families in villages through the employment I provide to them. If I don’t sell, I cannot continue to do that! Hence, a city enabling you to do that by providing good business is always appreciated. I also had the vision of seeing people in NY wearing Indian clothes which I was able to realize alongside this and that’s also an amazing feeling.
KG: When I’m designing a collection, sometimes I’ll end up adding a piece or two at the end of the collection—and my pattern master will hate me because everyone is already getting the pieces but they end up becoming bestsellers. Do you have any similar experiences?
VS: It is difficult to do that with international fashion weeks because of its stringent processes. At the last Milan Fashion Week, however, the outfit I wore to the opening event was received so well that I added it as the 41st piece to a very completed set of 40 garments… and it turned out to be a hit!
KG: Any advice for young designers eye international stages?
VS: You have to be very clear with your philosophy and vision, about what you’re currently doing and what you want to do. Of course, you need to be original that is the most important aspect while competing in an international space. It is definitely not easy and a lot of money is at stake so you have to do what you do very well.
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