Shalini James-The new face of Indian ethnic wear
Shalini James from Kochi came into prominence in the Amazon India Fashion Week’s (AIFW’s) Spring/Summer 2016 season in Delhi last season. Her infectiously colourful collection, known as Indians by Choice, was a protest against Western imperialism as signified by the names of the colours such as Krishna (blue), Anar (red) and Saletti (grey) rather than usual colours such as marsala, tangerine or pink champagne. Indian By Choice includes apparels that are a blend of textiles from different parts of the country, ranging from Bagru prints of Rajasthan in combination with Kalamkari prints from Andhra Pradesh and the Ikat from Telangana with Mangalgiri from Andhra Pradesh. Eminent beauty and hair expert Ambika Pillai was James’ showstopper.
Distinct Features of Shalini’s designs
The asymmetrical apparels, long and short kurtas with fitted silhouettes and white shirts, palazzos, stoles and saris were the high points of Shalini’s new collection. The exuberance displayed by participants at the show went beyond members from the Malayali community (Pillai is also from Kerala). Indian By Fashion wasn’t only a work of fashion. It was a beautiful display of regional fashion sensibilities in the form of different textiles.
James was deeply inspired by the Civil Disobedience Movement. As a child, she had a deep interest in textiles which helped her in differentiating between the different fabrics and prints easily. She instinctively came to into the world of fashion at a very young age in her mother’s own design unit. Later, she created her on a label named Mantra, in 2003 from a suburban house in her native Kochi. Over the years, she has come up with a number of other labels such as Shalini, an occasional wear line, Little Mantra for young girls in the 2-12 age group and a maternity-wear line known as Mantra for Moms-to-be.
Shalini’s rise to the top as an ace designer
Though her ramp debut was made in Delhi after so many years in the fashion industry, yet James, a pass out of National Institute of Fashion Technology(NIFT) in Chennai, always wanted to go beyond the limitations of being a regional designer. She always wanted to prove her innate potential as a designer to reckon with, at the national level. Shalini’s strong point as a fashion designer lies in her ability to come up with ready-made fashion for Indian consumers. By focusing on ethnic textiles, she has managed to stand out from the avant-garde Western wear which have a large circulation.
Ethnic wear from small, upcoming fashion designers has started gaining a commonplace in the malls, marketplaces and Indian e-commerce portals. Well-known designers such as Anita Dongre and Ritu Kumar have also come up with ethnic apparels as part of their line. So for James to make her mark at the pan-India level, there will be cut throat competition in the days to come.