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Paromita Banerjee (centre) say she craves to tell an India “story” every time through her shows
Paromita Banerjee (centre) say she craves to tell an India “story” every time through her shows

Paromita Banerjee | White as a rite

A young designer on why glamour is not fashion's only fix and the perplexing bridge between art and commerce

Seriousness of purpose is writ large on her face and she looks like an earnest student who has never bunked a class. Face scrubbed clean, no make-up, no fussy hairdos. When you dig into the work of Kolkata-based designer Paromita Banerjee, a product of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad (NID), who debuted in 2009, you can see this seriousness translate into a linear pursuit of handloom-focused fashion. She craves to tell an India “story" every time through her shows with clothes crafted at weaving clusters yet tries hard to grapple with the industry’s commercial side. At the recent Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week’s Spring/Summer 2014 edition, Banerjee’s delicately designed crochet anklets as part of her collection Safed Rang Part 2 were a big hit, attracting instant attention from buyers and critics alike. Here, the 28-year-old designer tells us what befuddles her about fashion and why she doesn’t want to sell her crochet anklets as separates.

As a handloom-focused young designer, do you find the Indian fashion industry intimidating?

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Is working in fashion incomplete without glamour, networking and partying?

I am far removed from the party scene since it doesn’t come naturally to me. I do wonder though if I would have had a different image if I partied, given the amount of networking that actually goes on, in this circuit. About glamour, I question it. In my previous press kits I have written things like: I’m trying to take the glamour quotient out of fashion and bring in some sense of normalcy. Why does fashion have to be about the glamourous? Why can it not be about the mundane, the ordinary? Every day is not a wedding; every day is not a party…so what does one do in those instances? Isn’t fashion also about making clothes that sustain for seasons and become classics?

Does that mean that trends are enslaving?

I never follow trends even if the clothes I make may end up sitting alongside trendy clothes of the season (made by others).

What crosses your mind when you see the big finales and the lavish, sponsored events?

I am sometimes taken aback by the amount of money: the glitz, the pomp and the “show" behind each fashion show.

As a designer working from Kolkata, do you feel disconnected with the mainstream fashion industry?

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With pricing of garments being so arbitrary in fashion, what’s the rationale you use for pricing?

I price our collections depending on how labour-intensive or value-added the processes are, the technique and time taken in weaving and finishing. Sometimes a seemingly simple-looking fabric might have a very tedious, labour-intensive process, the Dhakai Jamdanis for instance. Since we work with weaver clusters, we try to give them work throughout the year by planning collections in advance. I make it a point to include them in our profit sharing.

Your crochet foot thongs were a big hit at the recent fashion week. Will you sell them as separates?

We have always made in-house footwear for our previous collections as well. This time, I intend to add our crochet anklets to all the white pieces from our Safed Rang Part 2 collection when they go to the stores. I do not intend to sell them individually. Just as we have added stoles as an additional styling element with a garment in the past, this time it would be the crochet foot thongs.

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