Kicking off Design Fabric Festival
Day 2 of Design Fabric Festival started off with the one and only author-artist Adam J. Kurtz’s theatrical entrance and ‘Hello, It me.” In his extremely enjoyable and insightful talk, he spoke about the unexpected making of his career, from casually scribbling thoughts, doodling and making zines to making that into his style. Besides talking about specific projects he’s worked on and collaborations with brands he likes, Adam offered a lot of honest, creative advice like ‘Figure out what you are saying and then say it’, ‘Feel something, then create work that will evoke that emotion in others’, ‘Be genuinely interested’ and ‘Nobody is begging you to sell out’, which he backed with his own personal experiences. “It’s nice to know that I’m not alone with my internal demons. We’re all fucked up, which is what I have learnt through sharing my work. People love to talk about failing. But I don’t have the time or energy to do that. It’s only failing if you quit, otherwise it’s just learning,” he shared. With his fun, relatable presentation and his self-deprecating earnestness, Adam was the perfect opening act to set the mood for the day.
Next up was Tuesday Bassen, whose presentation focussed on her growth as an artist, from making zines about horror films that nobody wanted and dealing with self doubt to creating her own style and carving a niche around it. “I’m a true fucking weirdo. And I’m cool with it,” she said with pride. Tuesday shared her journey as an artist, reflecting back on making angry zines like Miserable & Worthless and Ugly Girls Gang and tote bags with ‘Fried Cunts’ on it, which eventually led her to create enamel pins that became her ‘thing’ and finally, clothing using the illustrations she made, which are as badass as she is!
The first panel discussion for the day was on ‘Graphic Storytelling in India’, with an all-women panel comprising of comic artist Aarthi Parasarathy, illustrators Alicia Souza and Priya Kuriyan, moderated by Kohl Studio founder Mira Malhotra. The panel covered a variety of topics, from using graphic art to rant about patriarchy, democracy, and feminism to using art to preserve and document culture to individual styles and process to finding inspiration from one’s personal life in the work. While Alicia shared that her drawings were like “vomiting out ideas on paper in the quickest way possible”, Aarthi’s approach was more about “constructing a narrative” and emphasising on the pause to “make sure that the visual lands and has an impact”. Priya, who thinks in visuals, spoke about the importance of carrying a sketchbook wherever she goes as it’s a “place to regurgitate things she sees and hears and as a record of all the crap she thinks of”. The conversation also spurred around censorship, monetising the art, and the notion of professionalism to get anywhere in life.
[Top] Tuesday Bassen talked about the influences that drive her craft; [Bottom] Moments from the 'Graphic Storytelling In India Panel' with Mira Malhotra, Aarthi Parthasarathy, Alicia Souza and Priya Kuriyan
Illustrator’s Katie Rodgers’s short and sweet talk took the audience through her childhood, love for nature, experiments with different mediums and styles and her popular Shadow Dancer series. During the early years of her career, the focus was on fashion illustrations. “I’d walk into stores, see something beautiful and go home and start drawing and painting it in my own whimsical style. I was obsessed with creating art every day,” she said. From the more realistic forms, she eventually started loosening her brush strokes and making more abstract forms, so that “the viewers could fill in the missing pieces themselves”. She found herself intrigued by ballerinas and the quiet beauty of dance and movement, and taught herself animation to bring her work to life. From this emerged her Shadow Dancers series, much like a game to discover the dancers in everyday things like spaghetti, jam, sand, jewels and even flowers. Her colourful and gorgeous visuals were the star of her talk, which she concluded with the simple advice: “Focus on your personal work. That’s how you will evolve.”
Ruchika Sachdeva of androgynous fashion label Bodice shared her journey as a fashion designer, highlighting her latest collection that won her the Woolmark International Prize ‘18. “More than just making clothes, my idea is to create a feeling. I believe that clothes and what you choose to put on your body are a way to construct and express your personality. I’m designing a language through which you speak without even saying a word,” she said, going on to talk about how the collection was inspired by Tyeb Mehta’s curvy lines, colours and voluptuousness and Nasreen Mohameddi’s monochromatic lines and geometry. Finally, she spoke about the making of the garments, from translating the concepts into attire to the team of craftsmen who made it all possible.
The second panel of the day on ‘Can fashion be ethical and sustainable?’ was a heated conversation, with some amazing insight coming in from the speakers - designers Rahul Mishra and Mayank Mansingh Kaul and Aliya Curmally of Fashion Revolution, moderated by Nimish Shah of Shift. Starting with the history of sustainable fashion to the need for transparency in the fashion industry, each of the extremely proficient speakers had a lot of interesting perspectives to bring to the table. Rahul spoke about his Ghar Wapsi project and the need to refocus on rural India and generate employment opportunities there, while Aliya spoke about the need for basic working conditions for craftsmen. Mayank questioned the term ‘sustainable’ in itself with the lack of consensus for fair wages and reiterated that “what is pegged as sustainable doesn’t include environmental and human costs or fair wages”. “Consumerism is a very generational thing but it’s happening in all spheres. It’s about individuals waking up to reality and doing what we can to contribute. It’s good to see people finding their own little ways to readjust and practice sustainability,” said Aaliya. The panel also threw light on the machine versus handmade debate, and took several thought-provoking twists and turns, leaving the audience with a lot to question where the clothes they wear really come from.
Nimish Shah, Rahul Mishra, Mayank Mansingh Kaul and Aliya Curmally on a discourse about ethics and sustainability in the fashion industry
One of the most entertaining sessions of the day was with Sanjay Garg of Raw Mango and his long-term collaborator and photographer Ashish Shah, moderated by Aishwarya Subramanyam. The focus was on creating a visual identity for a brand. Raw Mango’s shoots over the years were introduced, with Sanjay giving back stories to the conceptual photographs and taking the audience through his choices of picking real, everyday people as the models and incorporating India into the aesthetic in his charmingly unfiltered way. “ India is a world to me. And I want to communicate with real people and create imagery for it. That’s why during my shoots, I’m also trying to capture who the person is, where she is, her home and feel...,” said Sanjay, to which Ashish quipped, “I want people outside India to know more than Aishwarya Rai and Gandhi.”
Ashish spoke about his shift as a photographer, saying that his career really began only after meeting Sanjay. “When I started off as a photographer, I never imagined shooting women in saris. I wanted to shoot women in bikinis on the beach. When I came back from New York, I realized that I had nothing of India on my portfolio. This brand made me fall in love with saris and feel at home in this country again,” shared Ashish. Sanjay also shared anecdotes about each of his collections, like how his Baag series was an attempt at recreating a Raja Ravi Varma painting or how the Midnight 2018 one used fabrics as a metaphor for the night. The engaging conversation between the designer and photographer was a pleasure to watch unfold, a fact made clear by the constant clapping from the audience for remarks the duo made. “One day you’re a baniya, the next day you’re a creative director. That’s the reality of life,” wrapped up Sanjay.
The last session for Day 2 was by street and fashion photographer Scott Schuman aka The Sartorialist in conversation with Diana Marian Murek, Director of Education at Istituto Marangoni. “I didn’t grow up reading the captions on photographs in magazines. I didn’t want to recognise the people. I wanted to make up my own stories,” he said. Scott also announced his upcoming book on India, talking about his fascination with the country. “I can see how fast the country is changing. When we look at books about India, we always see the cliche things. But I don’t feel I’m a reporter to tell the world about India’s style. It’s just a reaction to what I see, and a lot of it is really beautiful. India has a chain of unbroken history that is so colourful and beautiful that it has a strong chance of rising to the top.”
Almost bragging about it, Scott mentioned his friendship with Steve McCurry, saying, “I might be the only person in the world whom Steve sends his street style photographs to to check out.“ He also spoke about his intrinsic love for style, and how some people exude character and cannot not be captured in the moment. The discussion also brought out cultural appropriation versus appreciation, the use of iPhone versus the camera, and the future of India as a design hub, among many other things.
Scott Schuman aka The Sartorialist talked about the evolution of his art and where he's headed next
Mitch Paone, the co-founder and motion designer at DIA Studio (New York) had two cool sessions in the day - a kinetic identity workshop that took the participants through the art of conceptualizing and executing a motion graphic sequence and how to make shapes and letters move, shift and twist. In the evening, after the talks of the day were done, Mitch also gave a fabulous jazz performance, merging his love for the genre with others like the blues and jungle, with Indian beats thrown in for effect. Merging his musical skills with motion graphics created in the workshop, his performance was memorable, to say the least.
In the midst of all the madness was a short and highly memorable by Mumbai’s Astik Brass Band, whose uniforms were redesigned by designer Mitesh Lodha in collaboration with Design Fabric. Everybody’s faces lit up with excitement as the 25 members, trained by Master Gunvant Koli, of the band played some popular numbers like Piya Tu Ab To Aaja, Despacito and many others that left the crowd awestruck and got the band a much deserved standing ovation on their way out.
The Astik Brass Band at Design Fabric Festival
At Cafe Zoe, the after party raged on late into the night, with crazy, high power sets by electronica duo Burudu with visuals by Make Believe; a super chill set by Spryk and BigFat as part of their Strange Moments tour, and finally, Bangalore-based producer Oceantied, whose footwork tracks, and insanely synced visuals by Studio Moebius had the crowd dancing, and how!
Photographs by Devpriya Mohata and Michael Dengler