The Fashion Hours at DesignerShala is a series of fashion-oriented insightful conversations with leading industry experts as well as young designers that are hosted by Team DesignerShala as well as Designer Didi herself to encourage the academy’s students to learn more about design as a career. Sounds amazing? I hear you right!
In the academy, students legit learn each day be it from a fashion industrialist or from each other’s works and mistakes. We learn every day! Such diverse personalities share their backstage and on-field journeys creating a sense of diversification among budding designers, fashion aspirants, and enthusiasts, also helping them bridge the gaps in between. Listed below are a number of notable figures that our academy witnessed in these past months, who with their spine and boldness fought the way up to leave a mark and encourage young designers in the making!
Coming in first, from the existence of the queer community who were once shunned from professional spaces and remained unaccepted to the society are now proudly cherished. The LGBTQIA+ community, with their creativity and milestones in fashion, has immensely changed the face of fashion in today’s century through their art. Let’s look at some of the faces who’ve transformed the fashion industry over the years-
1. Hiten Noonwal
In honor to the queer community, we were exhilarated to have Hiten Noonwal, a gender-fluid artist, a design educator, and alumni of NID Ahmedabad as our first guest to speak about creative expressions and how he uses it as a medium to express his inbred feelings through his splendid performance presentations on flow movements.
Hiten, an Indian performer artist, drag artist, and fashion designer known for their avant-garde style of drag has performed more than 800 dance covers across the world and has conducted design and gender sensitization workshops. He works as a fashion designer to pay his bills and support his parents. Hailing from an orthodox family in a small town, Hiten had faced many difficulties in presenting his art forms without his family knowing of it. His previous efforts include working as a fashion designer at Ritu Kumar and assistant designer at Raw Mango. He earned a Masters in Apparel/Fashion Design from the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, and is an LGBTQ+ Influencer with an intention to teach art someday.
Hiten, after showcasing his inherent talent on several platforms, quoted in an interview “I’m not ashamed to dress like a woman. I don’t remember exactly what all I was feeling except that I was feeling so beautiful, happy and complete. To me, gender fluidity means that you have one gender identity that's not exclusively male or female; you're both combined or a mix of these two binary genders. I'm living in between genders and feeling comfortable with either male or female pronouns. I see gender as the universe”. Noonwal’s definition of gender fluidity might not adhere to everyone's standards but he’s glad that he can express himself completely with it. He portrays himself as a strong believer of the fact that ‘Art has no gender’ and that artists’ narratives are no longer defined by mere gender boundaries.
2. Anwesh Sahoosource
Anwesh Sahoo has been nothing but a splendid example of what happens when you own your skin, embrace your soul, and are completely in correspondence with your creativity! From graduating in electronics and communication from IIIT to pursuing Masters in Designing at NIFT New Delhi, Anwesh’s journey marks well how one can finally come across his dream career and start accounting with it. Being an Indian artist, blogger, writer, model-actor, TEDx speaker and having received awards for his activism all around, Anwesh Sahoo has staunchly been the Pride of our country!
The Effeminare, blog written by him at the age of 18 to combat homophobia in his way and create awareness related to LGBTQ+ issues depicts the hurdles and obstacles he had to deal with and overcome at such a minor age. It was later published on Gaylaxy. Also wrote an article called “Under the Lucky Star” for Pink Pages, a national queer magazine. At the age of 20, he was crowned Mr. Gay World India in 2016 which acted as a notable change in his life course. There he expressed his innate feelings by quoting, "There is an underlying sense of security that only the walls of the closet can ensure. But then follows the phase of suffocation. The walls that once protected us begin to make us feel restricted and what follows is the end of self-denial. This is when it all gets better".
Many more articles based on growing up as a gay in an unacceptable society written by Sahoo created benchmarks for him. He wrote for online forums like Youth Youniverse, Miscellaneous Miley also featured by Deutsche Welle, Germany’s public international broadcaster where he spoke of coming out gay and empowerment of queer personalities in the nation. He also had mainstream visibility after shooting a video with Gaysi and went viral all through the internet which resulted in broad features on Indian and International websites like BuzzFeed India, Cosmopolitan India. His work includes working in a Campaign “50 shades of Gay” by Shubham Mehrotra and as a writer for Swaddle about sexuality and gender-related issues.
3. Divya Thompson
Divya Thompson, the founder of Super Moon London, a handmade accessory label launched in April 2018 in London is a sheer definition of everything colors and aesthetics. Her love for colors and fashion is evident in her designs which fit seemingly to someone whose color aesthetics are so gorgeous! With a strong inclination and deep interest in jewelry, Super Moon London came to be known all over the world in no time! Besides being a jewelry designer, Divya also continues to be a lifestyle content creator on social media platforms and also runs YouTube vlogs.
“Life is too short for minimalism”- that is what her ethos is which certainly transpires into her design aesthetic as print and color dominate her jewelry to give you stand-out pieces.
After having worked in the fashion industry for several years (whilst making jewelry on the side for friends and family), Thompson knew she had to elevate her love for jewelry making, into a business venture. She started off by experimenting with a variety of materials such as beads and wire, wood, pearls, and semi-precious stones, before discovering polymer clay and resin, which she loves for their lightweight feel and versatility. She also incorporates other elements like glitter, tassels and high gloss finishes to create earrings for any occasion (accessories worthy of both the office and date night). Thompson also explained how she goes about designing her pieces, “I have a huge passion for color, and that’s usually my starting point. I usually pick one color, or a few colors and hover around them, but my inspiration usually always comes from either art or nature because they are two things I really love”.
Although the business has only been up and running for a short time, interest has grown rapidly as people are drawn back by Thompson’s addictive use of color combinations and styles. Thompson says, however, that her Dash collection (a monochrome design consisting of a white background covered with black dashes) has become her standout design: “It’s sold out four times over, and each time I make double the quantity to the last time, and every time it just sells out again.” At the moment, Divya Thompson is working, quite amazingly, by herself to build and sustain Super Moon London. She not only hand makes all the products that she sells, but she also manages the marketing, social media, pricing, and distribution of her products. “While studying to get my Fashion degree, I incorporated jewelry-making techniques into my work. I now make mixed media pieces. The possibilities are endless! Super Moon London was born as a result of my love for color, pattern and bold designs”-Thompson explains.
4. Sonal Agrawal
Sonal Agrawal, founder of The House of PinkPeppercorn also tends to be a Fashion blogger who is known for focusing on culture, style, art, and fashion-related content which she shares with her blog Pink Pepper Corn. She shares additional beauty and fashion-related photos and videos through her Instagram family of over 70k followers. Sonal made her face and works renowned by being a member of the famous Blogger list. Her blogs contain insights on fashion and also deal with beauty and wellness, sustainable fashion, travel, op-ed, fashion
look books, and many more. Prior to that, she began her career in fashion as a brand strategist in Mumbai for over 9 long years in some advertising industry then followed her dreams and went on to earn her Master’s degree in Luxury Brand Management from Polimoda Institute of fashion design and marketing in Florence, Italy.
She has also been a consumer insights miner specializing in fashion and luxury brands. In addition to her blog and Instagram content, she also runs a YouTube channel where she shares daily vlogs along with other fashion-related content for her 3,000 subscribers.
“Some say, you learn about the culture of a place through their food… I say the same about fashion. Pink Peppercorn makes fashion more interesting and insightful by fueling it with inspirations from different stories and cultures from around the world & of course my own wonderful imagination”- Sonal quotes!
5. Kavan Antani
The Fashion Hour with Kavan Antani dealt with all things portfolio, freelancing, and getting that first gig! Kavan Antani, all of 25, runs two successful startups in the Indian startup ecosystem which are IndieFolio Network and GetCreator which are online market networks for Indian creative professionals. The Indian creative community is the second-largest in the world, but despite the massive potential; it is yet under-appreciated and primarily untapped.” We hope to build a platform, which will strengthen the Indian creative ecosystem” says K
avan. He shares some key insights on getting hired, reaching out to potential clients, rookies' mistakes to avoid, helping brands to find vetted freelancers, and much more! Some articles by Antani include the advantages and disadvantages of a designer, what mistakes to avoid while making a design portfolio and what not! Co-founder and CEO of IndieFolio Network and
GetCreator by indiefolio, a vetted talent marketplace, Kavan has also made a great response on Behance where his works are hugely accomplished. Also, he continues to share his meaningful information on various trends in design, what it takes to succeed in the creative industry, and also the origins of how India’s largest creative platform came into being! “Creating things from scratch has always been addictive for me. This led me to pursue design and animation in school, set up my freelance biz before college, and launch a startup while attending college”- Kavan.
6. Devki Bhatt
In our session with Devki Bhatt, she shared with us how the idea of gender-biased clothes is essential in today’s time more than ever. By creating fashion, all genders have a space in fashion to express their true selves and Devki is making that possible every day with her unique styling and doing away with gender stereotypes one outfit at a time. Devki Bhatt, stylist, and Founder, and PR Executive at The Yellow Dot, a project on a collaboration of fashion and art. She works in celebrity styling, editorial styling, e-commerce styling, creative consultancy, and also as a pharmacist. One of her famous editorial designs ‘Lakeerein for Mati’ and her lookbook shots left all of us in complete awe!
She’s also known for her penning down her words at Vogue India and several articles on Only Natural Diamonds. Worked at Rue La La, a fashion boutique for their studio shoots briefly for their digital portal content.
“I don’t believe in trends. I am a strong believer in what you are and what you should wear. Your personality should always shine through. Your style is a mere extension of your personality. I am someone who believes in comfort, so for me, a white tee and blue jeans will always win over any trend out there. I feel cultures are blending and boundaries are being blurred. We are reaching out to the west and vice versa” quotes Devki.
7. Pragya and Divya Batra
The dynamic sister duo who’ve got us hooked onto their eclectic and unique silver jewels at Quirksmith had a conversation with us talking ab
out entrepreneurship, design thinking, and a world post-Covid!
Pragya and Divya Batra, the cofounders of Quirksmith, a design company that creates handcrafted jewelry and accessories are running great as a duo in the industry. Prior to starting Quirksmith, none of the sisters had previous experience in entrepreneurship.
Divya’s expertise was designing, she’s a NIFT '04 grad with a specialization in jewelry designing. Divya heads design and production at Quirksmith while Praya came with 8 years of experience in business strategy and is an IIT Delhi grad ('07) and an INSEAD graduate ('12). She ventured into Quirksmith to pursue her common dream with her sister. Pragya heads marketing & sales at Quirksmith.
Quirksmith identifies the basic instinct of women today to express themselves the way they want to. The primary reason to start Quirksmith was to create almost a “cult” brand in the jewelry industry. Several pop-up events, traveling to big cities to showcase their designs helped them to create a larger domain. The sister duos suggested a few key insights one should make sure of before venturing which are, Leverage on digital marketing from Day one, budget for returns, collect customer reviews early on.
“At the time we started Quirksmith (2016), silver jewelry was not yet mainstream and jewelry was seen as a mere accessory that decorates a woman. An industry that was built with women as its prime customer, was ironic, run by men – right from production to business ownership. We wanted to change that! An artist at heart, Divya wanted to create pieces that sparked curiosity and conversations. And we wanted to make women the owners of an industry that was built to serve them! With 40k INR of our personal savings and dreams in our eyes, we created our first collection and showcased it at one of Bangalore’s quirky flea markets. That marked the birth of Quirksmith!
What started as a passion project by two sisters, is today a growing brand recognized for designs that stand out in a crowd. Our in-house team comprises over 60% women today. Through our work, we’ve created employment for over 50 artisans and their families across India” explains Pragya as their brand motto says-
“अपने जज़्बात पहनिये” – “Wear your emotions”
All set to witness the upcoming adventurous and insightful journeys in our academy? Stay tuned and follow DesignerShala. We’d love to hear your thoughts and see your creations! Go CREATE!
- Written by Student of DesignerShala,