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The designer in a Lucas Magalhaes jacket, Stella McCartney jeans, Céline shoes and a shirt from her sub-label Kapda. Photographs by Priyanka Parashar/Mint
The designer in a Lucas Magalhaes jacket, Stella McCartney jeans, Céline shoes and a shirt from her sub-label Kapda. Photographs by Priyanka Parashar/Mint

Urvashi Kaur: Punk spunk

The designer on glocal fashion, scouring flea markets for unseen treasures, and resorting to hats on a bad hair day

Urvashi Kaur is a study in contrasts. Sporting an edgy, shorn bob with strands of blonde highlighting her salt and pepper hair, a stud in one ear and dangler in the other, with nails manicured to Goth perfection, she exemplifies the idea of punk with panache. Mixing high and low with carefree élan, she artfully dresses up a simple jacket worn over a white tee and a grey skirt with a chunky piece of silver jewellery found in the flea markets of Morocco. The black patent Stella McCartney wedge brogues that she wears on a daily basis afford her the style and sensibility to glide easily. A mother of three, Urvashi wears many hats (literally and metaphorically). A die-hard fashion consumer, she is an avid collector of one-of-a-kind pieces—be it tribal jewellery from the streets of India or a burgundy Céline calfskin tote.

After studying fashion design at ESMOD, Paris, Urvashi went on to work for design doyens such as Issey Miyake and Marcel Marongiu. In 2008, she set up her eponymous label. She works with heritage handwoven, organic textiles, natural dyes and indigenous Indian weaves. She has adopted a glocal vision—her clothes are global in construction yet defiantly Indian in sensibility.

Here, she shares with us her thoughts on the empowerment that beautiful clothing brings to the wearer and the maker, the importance of feeling comfortable in your own skin, and her weakness for hats. Edited excerpts:

How would you describe your style?

I am never afraid of making a statement. I enjoy the transformation that comes with dressing up. As a person, I’m free- spirited and this intrinsic quality always finds expression in the way I put myself together. There is a certain boldness in the way I approach my own style—an element of androgyny is always thrown in with my clothing as I enjoy separates and menswear detailing in my attire. I find it interesting to juxtapose this hardness with high-glam components, which include accessories like brooches and rings that I pick up from flea markets around the world when I travel.

Do you wear clothes from your own collection?

It’s always a great joy to wear what one has created. A key feature in my work is its trans-seasonal nature, and this factor also lets the individual wear the same garment differently in summer or winter. I recently wore a draped Jamdani weave summer dress from my collection with a biker jacket on top over cropped pants and boots. I’m also constantly trying to blur the lines between “Western wear" and “ethnic wear", and love styling my own pieces in a way that creates a very unique contemporary Indian aesthetic.

Since you make a lot of scarves, how would you use them?

Scarves are a fuss-free way of having fun with your wardrobe. When I’m away on vacation, I make sure that I have a bunch of scarves. On the beach I’ve tied them up into cool quick-fix bags, or even knotted them to form a top. At times I’ve fashioned headgear out of my scarves. My scarves usually have multiple techniques such as shibori or batik on them, and I find it an effortless way to add a certain depth to what could otherwise be a slightly bland outfit.

What are your wardrobe favourites?

I absolutely love jackets. Layering comes very naturally to me, and I often add multiple layers to my looks. I enjoy adding a slight sportswear twist to my outfits with cool bombers or biker jackets. This winter, I am enjoying wearing my super-bright colour-pop Roksanda coat and the graphic print Lucas Magalhaes jacket.

How has your sense of style changed over the years?

It has been a process of a beautiful evolution. I’ve gradually grown more comfortable with my body, falling in love with each aspect of myself as I understand and appreciate the beauty that’s innate in all of us. This slow and steady respect for oneself and one’s body leads to a confidence to dress for oneself. The days of dressing to impress another are long behind me and it’s wonderful to feel more empowered in my skin as each day goes by.

Any style obsessions?

Shoes. A girl can never really have enough shoes, and I’m living proof of this. My Giuseppe Zanotti hidden-wedge sneakers and Stella McCartney wedge brogues are a great example of comfort meeting style. My Gucci snakeskin colour blocked lace-up stilettos are perfect for a night out with the girls, and my Lanvin sculpted heels make me feel red-carpet ready the moment I slip them on! My other great weaknesses are hats: They lend the perfect quirk to my personal style and over time I’ve collected a few fantastic pieces. My Philip Treacy fedora has been a lifesaver on a few bad hair days. The pop orange hat made by the top Italian hat-maker Borsalino has been a standout piece for me many a time.

Do you wear a lot of international labels?

I travel a lot and love to pick up beautifully designed pieces wherever I go. It’s always the design of the individual item rather than the label on it that works for me. Of course, there are certain designers that appeal to my personal sense of dressing. A large part of my closet is dedicated to Rick Owens’ amazing street-style inspired fashion. Gareth Pugh is another favourite, and Roksanda’s bold use of colour really excites me.

Any fashion faux pas that you cannot revisit?

For me the entire 1980s and 1990s were a blur of major faux pas. I actually remember myself in acid-wash denim skirts and neon tights with permed hair. I hope no photographs from that time come back to haunt me and I would not want to revisit that period.

Do you have any favourite shopping destinations?

I’ve been known to get lost at vintage flea markets, scouring them from end to end in the search for beautiful things—think rings, bags, brooches, jewellery. The Dover Street Market in London is brilliant. I’m also equally excited to pick lovely tribal artefacts and jewellery at exotic hidden locations across the world. Of course, fabulous textiles feature extensively on my journeys, and I love adding to my steadily growing collection.

Supriya Dravid tweets at @superear.

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