Fashion is no stranger to the power of creative collaboration and perhaps this is the reason why a lot of decorated industry names come in powerful packs of two. Following the same suit is Lakme Fashion Week’s GenNext 2017 finalist Saaksha and Kinni (S&K), the eponymous label from Indian design duo – Kinnari Kamat, a craft connoisseur who has been working on embroideries for the likes of Elie Saab, Balmain, Gucci since 10 years and Saaksha Parekh, a lawyer by profession, born and brought up in a family of actors and film makers.
Stepping into the world of fashion from these diverse backgrounds has helped them marry heritage techniques with modern no-fuss silhouettes and colours. Kamat’s elevation of traditional handwork comes from an astute understanding that only develops with experience, whereas sister-in-law Parekh’s non-fashion base is what keeps their line practical and accessible to the modern working woman.
“We have a set-up of over 50 seasoned karigars who have trained and worked in Kinni’s factory for 5-10 years now, so there is no dearth of artisanal work in our studio. We work on embellishments, antique stones, and of course on an abundance of micro-pleating that you can see this season. But really our forte lies in threadwork that is as ornate as it is wearable,” corroborates Saaksha.
The label’s moniker metal karigari is an artful revamp of traditional badla embroidery that uses fine metal threads, typically called zari but interweaves the same with bigger sheets of dulled metal to create a sort of modern armour type look. Saaksha briefs, “Our inspiration for this comes from 12th-13th century breastplates but obviously if you give metal to anybody today, it will be too heavy. So we have been hands-on in preparing our craftsmen to make it lighter and more commercially viable to recreate because we do not want to outsource anything.”
To contrast this stronger masculine guise, Saaksha and Kinni use gentler materials like chiffons, mulmul, chanderi or even regal raw silks and unsurprisingly, the source of most of these materials is available within their home city Mumbai, and they claim that the quality found in the city is much better than anywhere else in the country.
The brand’s clear understanding of its consumer is the reason why they sell very easy to wear styles like trench coats, crop tops, co-ordinates or boyfriend jackets and stick to traditional flora and fauna prints.
However, what makes their work different is the treatment of colour. The duo’s palette of choice is characterized by very dull, vegetable, earthy undertones and all their colours are really antique.
Everything is washed with acid or oxidized and the designers even hand paint black over gold karigari at times because that is the look they want to create.
Only a year and a half old, the brand has already found home in some 18 stores such as Collage Shop, Elan and Anahita across the country and on sites like Aza and Pernia’s Pop-up Shop online. Even though the bigger chunk of their clientele is from the Indian subcontinent, they also stock products at stores overseas like Shagun in Bangkok, The Silk Knot in California and Affiniti in Bahrain.
Back at home, Saaksha and Kinni are becoming the go-to-outfitters for celebrities like Karisma Kapoor (who recently wore their Winter/Festive 2017 pieces), Kalki Koechlin and Aditi Rao Hydari who have been wearing their garments since the brand’s inception.
The duo also received great reception at the fashion week from stylists, publishers and buyers alike. Saaksha added, “Being a part of such a huge event really increases your brand visibility by tenfold and even if we were already working with a lot of buyers we met, it still puts a face to the name. Plus, the people who might have been a little dubious about our work in the past, now appear more positive about working with us in the future.”