The founder of Runaway Bicycle on hating jeans, why she likes clothes she can jump around in and fabrics that get softer with age
Mumbai-based Preeti Verma finally decided to take the plunge this year. After working on her fashion label Runaway Bicycle part-time for three years, she decided to quit her job as the creative director at DDB Mudra four months ago to give fashion all her time and attention. Her new workplace in a suburb of Mumbai is a small, cozy workshop with a porch that has a mango tree and some tables for her friends to come over and work or spend lazy afternoons. “I picked mangoes from the tree to make chutney," she says excitedly. Her low-key brand of handmade clothing is reminiscent of this—the small joys of life and days spent in the sunshine with friends.
A favourite amongst those who love easy silhouettes, breathable fabrics and a touch of quirk, every piece is a reflection of Verma’s personal fashion preferences. She photographs her own lookbooks, and her signature style of shooting the clothes on models with faces covered by their hair and feet painted in colour seems out of the box, but just like her clothes these ideas came from a need to simplify things. “I did not want to worry about what shoes to source for every garment, so I went with painting the model’s feet," smiles the 34-year-old artist-turned-designer.
Her fashion sense can also be distilled down to that philosophy—to wear what feels effortless and free. With no formal background in fashion or design, her style is more about the comfort and utility of clothes. But that doesn’t take away from her innate sense of colour, silhouette and knowledge of fabric. Handwoven textiles are the mainstay of her brand as well as her personal wardrobe, which is dominated by whites. We spoke to Verma about her relationship with fashion and why she doesn’t like ironing her clothes.
How did your style evolve through the years?
I bought my first pair of heels in college. I was not very clued into fashion then but enjoyed going with my friends to the tailor to make my own clothes. After I finished studying Applied Arts in Kurukshetra, I moved to Ahmedabad where I worked with my grand uncle who is a textile designer. At the time, I had no idea that I would end up in the same space a decade down the line. When I moved to Delhi to work in advertising, I realized that I have a distinct sense of style because people would point it out to me. I have always had a sense of colour, it comes with being an art director. At the time, while everyone was in love with jeans, I used to wear cottons and loved layering. I would layer dresses over skirts and a jacket over that. I liked putting things together. Everyone said you dress well, but I didn’t realise that because I never even ironed my clothes. Till this day, I don’t iron my clothes. It saves time.
I used to wear a lot of junk jewellery from Sarojini Market in Delhi, pieces picked up from my travels to Rajasthan and Africa. I had some beautiful Masai jewellery from Africa. I don’t accessorize as much anymore. I have thick curly hair so I experiment with my hairstyles. I have never worn make-up, and even today I wear only kajal. My friends have bought me lipsticks that I wear sometimes, but my friends and boyfriend think it is hilarious when I do.
How do you dress up in your daily life, at work and off-duty?
I have always been drawn towards indie stuff - indie music, films and that translates into my clothes. Otherwise, it is mainly about ease, and a lot to do with textile. I have never followed trends, just developed my own style. I have to feel comfortable first and foremost. And layering means you can sit the way you want to, you can jump, you can do whatever you feel like without feeling conscious. For me, it is not just about how clothes look on your body, but how they feel. Even the clothes I make for Runaway Bicycle, you don’t have to worry about how you sit or walk in them. I love pockets and oversized shirts and lot of whites. I love wool although you can’t wear it in Bombay too much, but I collect woollen skirts from flea markets around the world. I don’t shop too much and like to wear the clothes I own for a long time, because the more you wear a garment, the softer it gets. I ruined my Akaro pants while painting but I still continued to wear them later. I prefer clothes to be low maintenance and practical. I wouldn’t buy something I have to dry clean all the time.
Which are you favourite designers and brands?
Arts and Science, Casey Casey, Daniela Gregis... they absolutely do not follow any trends. In Indi,a I like Naushad Ali, Bodice, Akaro, Shift, and Lovebirds. I don’t buy big luxury brands for myself, but I do like gifting them to my brother and my friends.
I’ll never wear fur, any kind of bling and I very rarely wear heels. I own only one pair of leather shoes and a handbag. I try not to use animal-tested products either. I don’t like wearing fitted clothes and always buy in bigger sizes even though I am an XS size. I rarely wear prints; the only prints in my wardrobe are the checks and stripes of the garment weaves. And I don’t own even one pair of jeans.