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Fashion Talk

Amritha Ram

Creative Director
Brand - KH House of Khaddar

For me, the fabric I work on is my canvas—my main source of inspiration

Fusing authentic handloom with Indian heritage and Western designs, the House of Khaddar aims to rejuvenate khadi and make it more appealing to the young urban market. In an interview with Fibre2Fashion, creative director Amritha Ram talks about the challenges the brand faces in its journey and her biggest source of fashion inspiration.

Fibre2Fashion: What inspired you to start the House of Khaddar with Mr. Kamal Haasan and focus on blending Western designs with traditional Indian techniques?

Amritha Ram:

I started out way back when I was a student in New York. We had to do a project where we were required to present our own collection with the fabric that we thought worked with us best. Instead of khadi, I decided to use cotton. The project was called Kanshi Mobs, which was shorthand for kanjivaram modernist. I mixed Western designs with country cottons, working on halters and harlins, but did not do silks. I think the seed for this initiative was sown in my mind a long time ago. Thanks to Kamal Haasan Sir, I was able to put this up together, and give my love for Indian fabrics and forms of art a name—KH House of Khaddar.

 

F2F: What is your creative vision for the House of Khaddar? How do you ensure that it is reflected in every collection?

AR:

My creative vision for KHHK is to put it on the global fashion map. Fashion across the world comprises different aesthetics. There are brands that represent sustainable fashion in their own way, mixing more comfort with luxury. But I want to drive KHHK into the prime fashion zone. So, with every collection I make sure that I do not tamper with the fabric. When I say ‘tampering’, I mean that we do not add too many outside elements to the fabric, but experiment with all kinds of cuts.

Our very first collection was completely experimental. Our retail section is still doing very well with our first collection, which had jackets, trenches, blazers, suit cords, and everything. So, from there up until now, throughout all the chaos, we have been innovating. Doing art with colour on khadi was a bit challenging because we have to understand how the medium picked up paint and move accordingly. This is something what I am looking forward to doing in the future too.

F2F: What are some of the key design elements or signatures that define the aesthetic of House of Khaddar?

AR:

I think I have already answered a large share of this question. I had also mentioned that I do not tamper with the ethnicity of the garment, and we do have styles that cater to loungewear and other clothing types. I think it is a very fine balance that needs to be maintained. I look forward to receiving guidance from a visionary such as Mr. Hassan if I happen to encounter any roadblocks. I believe that we have been doing great with the balancing act.

F2F: How do you stay updated with the latest fashion trends and incorporate them into your designs while staying true to the brand’s identity?

AR:

Well, staying updated is a tough job made easy if you love what you do. I often check for new informative updates on social media at nighttime post work. I also familiarise myself with several global fashion branding teams. I believe that doing so is extremely important. As someone who steers the brand as creative head, it is vital to understand what is happening around. You just need to stay connected and observe the changes. After all, the only thing that remains constant is change.

F2F: What are some of the challenges you face as the creative director of a brand that aims to make khadi cool and relatable to the young urban market? How do you overcome these challenges?

AR:

I think every challenge is your next step to grow. In the beginning we faced several challenges, starting from dyeing to creating some stability for the fabric to even deciding which fabric I needed to use for a particular design.

The whole idea is to not get stuck and just keep moving. So, that is what we have done and with every collection I think we have kept growing. One needs to take baby steps, so that they do not trip and fall. Moreover, I consider the people around me who offer their honest opinions as my teachers.

Like I said before, we are going to do many more innovations and that is going to throw up many more challenges, but I am always open to learning and love the growth process.

F2F: Are there any specific sources of inspiration that you draw upon when designing for the House of Khaddar? How do you keep the creative process fresh and innovative?

AR:

For me, the fabric I work on is my canvas—my main source of inspiration. That could be kanjivaram, khaddar, lycra, georgette, or chiffon. Do not differentiate, and give it all your attention and love, and see what that canvas can do for you. You will soon realise that you do not have to do anything. Everything will eventually fall in place, and you will be the one taking everything from that canvas.

My biggest inspiration is the mentor I had in college, Edith Head. From being an illustrator to someone who has won eight Academy Awards—can you get any better?—I feel that she has always been there telling me stuff because every time I read what she has written, it feels like she is narrating the whole thing to me. I am also a costume designer and have worked in films. Edith was among the first ones to start collaborations, whether it was with Gucci or with Dior.

She has carved her own path and has been my biggest role model. I have marked some of the pages of the books that she has written, which I read over and over again. Doing so helps to move on during times when I feel like I have gotten stuck.

From Mr. Mishkin to Mr. Vetrimaaran to Mr. Hassan, I have worked with the kind of people who teach you to believe.

F2F: How important is storytelling in your designs? Do you have any specific narratives or themes that you explore through your collections?

AR:

As I said earlier, I draw inspiration from everything. My biggest inspiration is people watching and I often indulge in it especially when I am travelling, even at airports. Art also inspires me a lot—and that is what chaos is all about. I was totally blown away by the Bangor immersive at the Paris Fashion Week event, and I really wanted to do something about it. Colour inspires me the most and I happen to add a lot of colours in my collection. And I am sure this goes without saying that it is Mr. Hassan with his experience and the kind of things he has done who has been a huge inspiration for me. Especially during the pandemic, I happened to watch many movies that were recommended to me by Mr. Hassan. Sometimes it is not about a specific period of costuming portrayed but simply drawing parallels and getting inspired. So yes, I believe that you get inspiration from everything everywhere. I love everything that inspires me.

F2F: How do you see the future of the House of Khaddar’s design aesthetic evolving? Are there any new techniques or design elements that you plan to experiment with in upcoming collections?

AR:

That’s a big yes. I am totally ready to experiment with cover, on to the next level. Our upcoming collection will be showcased for the first time in India at the Lakme India Fashion Week finale. I will be trying something very, very new with Cardi but that is all that I can share with you for now. This collection will serve as the base for me to take things further. I have always said that I wanted to put our brand on the global map, on the red carpets—from the Golden Globe to the Oscars, everywhere. I am currently in New York experimenting with a few techniques out here, learning from a few people because yes, I believe that that is a constant source that keeps you going. I started out here and have my teachers around me. Going back to my roots might help me gain a deeper understanding and ultimately crack the code.

F2F: What advice would you give to aspiring designers who are interested in blending traditional craftsmanship with contemporary fashion?

AR:

I would say go for it. Do not overthink and do not look back. Just keep walking ahead. It might be a very long walk and yes, the journey could get strenuous sometimes. There is an incline and also a decline. It could be a beautiful journey, but it is also not easy. Just go for it because I believe that a designer is an artist. So, you have to be extremely grateful for the fact that you are here doing it—clothing other people and creating something that can make others fall in love with. So, yes, I would say just go for it, enjoy the process, fall in love, keep falling in love, and stay in love always.

F2F: How do you envision the future of the House of Khaddar? What are your long-term goals and aspirations for the brand?

AR:

I dream about seeing KHHK make its mark in the global market—be it on the red carpets to the most enviable retail locations across the world. And yes, I am confident that this is just around the corner.

How do you envision the future of the House of Khaddar? What are your long-term goals and aspirations for the brand?

Interviewer: Kiran Sahija
Published on: 12/09/2023
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