Sanchita Ajjampur’s office in Bangalore is lined floor to ceiling with hundreds of design books, numerically catalogued. “I love researching them, especially those on photography, architecture, knitting, art and jewellery. Books are precious but they are also meant to be shared, that’s why we have a cataloguing system,” she explains.
Ajjampur grew up surrounded by design; her mother owned a textile company focused on reviving traditional weaves.
Born in Mumbai and raised in Vienna, Austria, and the UK, Ajjampur studied in Paris, France, and Milan, Italy. She currently keeps homes in Bangalore and Paris, shuttling every six weeks between both for work.
She plays the dual role of creative director for her clothing label, sanchita, as well as at Sanfab—her private label company working with European brands such as Lanvin and Marni.
She talks about the multicultural influences on her personal wardrobe, her favourite feel-good accessory, and why sporty luxe rules her styling instinct. Edited excerpts:
You’ve defined your style as a “modern nomad”, also using the term in your collection briefs. What does that mean?
The modern nomad is not only about clothing, rather, a holistic approach to life. It’s about living the essence of that term in every aspect.
I’ve lived in so many countries, and even though I have experienced urban cities, it feels a bit tribal as an existence.
It’s a difficult background to understand because I was informed by so much variety growing up. I express this through clothing as well, wearing and creating pieces of timeless expression, with playful, free-flowing elements like kaftans and resort wear.
How does this influence your personal wardrobe?
I’m quite easy-going and free-spirited, I think that reflects in my clothing. I always want to be comfortable; I would call it “sporty luxe”. I end up wearing a lot of jeans—mostly J Brand because they fit so well.
I also like resort wear, it has a 1970s spirit through kaftans and easy Bohemian pieces.
One of my favourite things is collecting old, original vintage pieces, things that are falling apart but have a sense of history.
I own a Paul Poiret coat from the early 1900s, it was initially made for a man but you can see they later added a larger collar for a woman; it’s tattered, but a very special piece. I also make it a point to respect where I am going and the people I meet.
How would you style an LBD?
I would reinterpret the classic LBD with a modern black and white palette—adding on gems such as thin metal frame sunglasses by Prada and a micro shoulder bag in real or faux luxe leather.
As a designer, do you feel the pressure to wear your own clothes?
Apart from being a designer for my own brand, I also work as a consultant for private labels. For example, I work with Alber Elbaz of Lanvin in Paris, developing collections for them and Etro as well in Italy. When I meet Elbaz, I am sure he would like to see me in his clothing—it’s logical.
I also wear my clothes to meet them, it’s either or. I would think it disrespectful to wear other designers to meet my clients.
Given that you work with a lot of embroidery, how do you accessorize?
I travel so much that it’s hard to carry jewellery around; I don’t want to lose anything. As such, I carry a lot of brooches, belts and hats that accessorize my look.
I do wear jewellery, but it’s more about a mood. I like the idea of wearing stuff that has a “feel-good” quotient, like the Ganesha pendant I tend to wear, or an Om bracelet.
It’s less about how it looks and more about how I feel. I also usually carry a second pair of shoes around, for an evening look; I’m more liable to change my shoes than an outfit.
On a trip to Brazil, I had a custom pair of Melissa shoes embellished with crystals, I love to wear those as they are very comfortable and look great with almost everything.
A lot of well-styled people say it is a good idea to choose one statement accessory and work it up. What is your take?
Accessories are very personal so one would choose pieces of timeless expression, interjected with playful elements. Focus on keeping the identity of the shape. The key to working with accessories is radical minimalism—simplicity that stands out.
This is not about basics though, it’s about strictly minimal pieces that are radical in their design and so retain desirability. I would use accessories to customize a look and make it my own.
You recently dressed Freida Pinto for Cannes 2013. What are your rules for standing out on the red carpet?
Iconic, inventive, glamorous and dream-like styles. Vintage works beautifully. Work with a designer/stylist who can form a strong personal connection that goes beyond glamour.
Aim for a novel minimalist approach to contemporary luxury, creating a graphic statement that is strong in fabrication and finer details.
What is your favourite era of fashion?
Both the 1920s and 1970s, the latter in which I grew up, heavily influence me. Both eras are very similar in spirit—there was an open-mindedness and non-conformist common ground.
In Vienna, I grew up fascinated with the Secession period—loving the restrained opulence of artists like Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele.
The 1970s left me privy to the hippie and gypsy culture. We used to shop at flea markets, with a lot of Eastern European influence, buying old stuff and recycling. That’s become a part of my lifestyle. I remember it with pleasure and take on in my work.
What are your tips for travelling with style?
I prefer to carry clothes that are comfortable with a functional ease and keep my luggage light. I aim for relaxed glamour with jumpsuits, playsuits, warm-up pants with cuffed track bottoms, essential Sarouel pants and fluid silk wrap skirts accentuated with waist details.
Malika V. Kashyap is the founder of the fashion website Border&Fall.