Craftsmanship, handloom and sustainable materials – these are the cornerstones UK-based Sketch stands by, a brand that proudly puts textiles at the centre of its narrative. Incepted in 2014, Sketch is the brainchild of London-based Shazia Saleem and her sister, who cite Florence, Scotland, India and London as the main reference points for the brand. The visual and cultural codes of these cities are engraved as integral parts in Sketch’s DNA.
Shazia produces and manufactures her pieces in India, spending up to two months thrice a year in the country. One of the main missions of her brand is to work with Indian artisans and craftsmen, creating more job opportunities and a good work environment for them.
“I always wanted to work in a non-exploitative manner and have constantly given importance to ethics and sustainability. I think it is perfectly possible to create a fashion brand without exploiting the people involved,” Shazia told AR.
Her collections feature hand-woven fabrics made through a collaboration with suppliers from Varanasi, Jaipur and Nagpur, who provide silks, cotton silks, cotton material and other handloom fabrics, thereby combining their traditional techniques with the designer’s creative expertise.
A variation in prints which ranges from ethnic to at times, abstract is achieved through techniques such as screen printing, block printing and digital printing.
What sets the brand apart in a highly saturated market is its ability to provide expensive looking merchandise at an affordable price point. The difference lies in the little details Shazia puts into her designs which are a direct influence of her association with India, London and Stockholm, and her avid travel experiences.
“Italy and India are known for vibrant colour combinations, whereas in London, black works best, keeping this in mind, we integrate elements into our collections,” Shazia explained, further adding, “the Scottish interjection comes up in Harris Tweed which is sourced from Scotland, to bring out an aspect of luxury textiles.”
Her aim at Sketch has been to promote sustainability and to help revive handloom fabrics, which comes with its own set of constraints.
“Handloom is difficult to produce if demanded in larger quantities,” briefed Shazia, and went on to say, “keeping this point in mind, I decided to take all the knowledge that I had gathered from working with various craftsmen and weavers in India and put that into Sketch.”
With the exception of Harris Tweed, which is sourced from Scotland, all fabrics used by Sketch are sourced from India.
The brand is not boastful and does minimal preaching when it comes to voicing the amount of work they put into building a label that is non-exploitative, ethical and sustainable, but at the same time, versatile in its aesthetic.
From safari jackets to crafted blazers, shirts, outerwear and knitwear, each adorned with quirky prints and details, Sketch opens a variety of possibilities in preppy power dressing for today’s fashionable women.
Some of the chief defining elements of Sketch are its flamboyant details which emerge in either colour or accessories such as pompoms, and also fabric texture.
The product is priced next to Zara’s high-end range as the designer aims to make the brand more affordable, widely available and at the same time, maintain a competitive edge.
Apart from the brand’s own website, Sketch can be found with 40 stockists spread across the UK including independent department stores such as Creasey’s and Austin, and boutiques such as Leggera Nell’Aria.
At the moment, Sketch is producing twice a year for Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter and mainly entertains short orders and forward orders by the stockers. Leftover stock from forward orders if any, is taken back from the stockers and sold online.
“British fashion performs well all around the world and Sketch has designs that appeal to majority of the clients,” said Shazia, adding optimistically, “for example, if you take our designs to New York, they will still be relevant.”
Plans for international expansion are in the pipeline for the brand with an avid interest in India as a prospective market.