Nimish Shah is an alumnus of the prestigious London College of Fashion and one of the upcoming designers in the world of fashion. He has his own label, ‘Shift’ boasting of sophisticated urban designs. The Grazia – Young Designer of 2011 has also done a few runway shows. Here are some excerpts from an interview with the ace designer, where he discusses his new label, wardrobe essentials and what looks good on Indian women.
1. What’s fashion for you?
According to me fashion is everyday consumption which gives you an identity. Be it uniform of schools, stereotypical dressing sense of people wearing salwar kameez with sports shoes, it is consumption of clothing and that’s all fashion is, keeping the good bad aside. FASHION Is a communication of self-identity. It’s a great ideology. For me fashion is a need just like how even you might not be a foodie but you might want food. So I have the similar connection with fashion.
2. What inspired you to take up fashion designing?
Initially I started as a product designer, I wasn’t sure that someday I would go in fashion industry till a very long time, when I came to college.
As kids, we get attracted by visuals we see in magazines, movies, newspapers and relate it to another level, not just the critical appreciation, but trying to be involved.
Looking at magazines at early age and trying to be well dressed like the models in them, not knowing you like fashion and looking at the air hostesses and being gobsmacked, like wow they’re so well dressed. There is a subconscious attraction towards fashion which is more than the other people who are influenced by fashion, so basically there was no starting point that pushed me in fashion.
3. Who’s your style icon?
I think when it comes to style, a lot of people wear good clothes but yeah Helena Bonham Carter is the style icon. So as far as style icon is concerned, she is quirky and alternative, even if she is wearing a bin liner it’s not fancy dressing. In Bollywood, Sonam, is great in terms of commercial look, kudos to her because I don’t think anyone else has created a style, which I guess no one has done after Rekha, which was bringing kanjwaram to the red carpet. I think no one has brought up the dressing up standards as Sonam has done, others do dress well and look great but they’re terrified of the dressing up. Others are always nervous about the red carpet thing but with Sonam it’s like ‘oh yes, it’s my day’ kinda thing. Malika Sarabhai has a great sense of style too.
4. Why did you name your label “Shift” ?
Shift was pretty much an extension of my graduation process. So shift is a change in the mindset, a shift in the mindset, in the way people consume and the way startup businesses are looking at, at creating a new business. Consumption has changed and people are now buying lesser but they’re buying quality products, like say in 2003-04 when H&M and Topshop were in rage and everybody was buying a lot more clothes that lasted for 3 months tops! So there was a change in the way people are buying things and a shift in their mindsets. This was one aspect and the other was that the shift dresses are in the basic garment shape. And we wanted to do the basic clothes, we were not really about frivolous fashion commodity, it’s about a basic garment like what Gap does. The moment you hear Gap you can visualize a basic garment, they do have a designer product but eventually it’s about that basic garment.
5. What does it really take for a designer go design an outfit, the whole ensemble?
It’s never one thing; it’s the way we envision a brand, a personality who we relate to, who is ideally our customer. It’s an evolution of your vision.
6. Five accessories a woman must have?
I think everyone must have a :
i. Medium sized hand bag with a strap on, which you can either wear cross body or on one shoulder. It’s a great accessory, no matter what clothes you wear.
ii. A good pair of comfortable high heel shoes and flat ones.
iii. Coming to hair accessories, it must be matched with one’s haircut.
iv. One pair of sunglass, just one. Also a classy spectacles, if you have one, wearing lens is something I hate.
v. And yeah, it’s extremely important to wear a good pair of underwear.
7. Five clothing essentials one must have.
i. The right trouser not jeans, a well-tailored trouser. Breaking it down to have enough separates to mix and match.
ii. Lots of dresses, if one is comfortable with wearing that for work.
iii. A cardigan, which is multi seasonal not just for winter. So one can use a cardigan, poncho or a shrug but it has to be of a good quality. It’s a good thing to layer, I think every woman likes to layer.
8. Five wardrobe essentials for men.
i. A great white t-shirt and also a black t-shirt is a must.
ii. Great pair of shoes or trainers.
iii. A perfect pair of raw denims.
iv. A well-tailored, perfect fitting suit.
v. Formal shoes to go with it.
9. Tell us about your latest collection?
The latest collection is inspired by Coachella music festival. And as we see people are going from the hippie trend for music festival to the first class fashion. These days we see people are wearing couture brand for the day events. It’s not for Coachella, but inspired by a women who goes to Coachella.
10. How was your experience at the London College of Fashion?
It is a very multi-disciplinary institute where what happens is that the minute you start your education there you’re kind of left alone to identify what’s for you. It’s super confusing and you’ll be like why isn’t anybody saying anything because you’re just left in there. It’s like a brewing time, where you’re just building on your own skills and abilities and identifying what inspires you by just walking around in city and in the college, by interacting with people from different courses like make up, garment technology production, product management, fashion management and so on.
So you meet all types of students within fashion industry and identifying what’s for you and then doing that as your major. It’s like a self-learning center and it’s the best because if somebody told you the way to do you’re not going to explore any other way. You really wanna get done with it and get out. The minute you get into college the idea is to get out, be it anything. But the minute you get out, you can’t get out like a clone, you can’t be like the others. With the London College of Fashion, everyone who got out had a different skill set and it’s amazing because I knew that no friend of mine was thinking the way I do and vice versa.
Today every time I look at an interns portfolio it’s all the same, it’s so identical and which is very unfortunate. Their research areas are similar, the websites, blogs, magazines and designers they follow are the same and they still don’t know the difference between a lot of technical things both observational and interactive.
11. What was the first outfit that you designed?
It was actually a mistake. I took a fusing fabric and I fused it together and made my own fabric and we made like a funky top out of it. It was quite amateur but it was fun.
12. What is your take on men’s fashion in Indian?
Ahh, men’s fashion is finding its foot. Men’s on a global level are not as a great fashion consumer as women are. They are into luxury and utility and finding a brand and buying everything from there. Men’s fashion is evolving but it’s nowhere close. There is hardly any shopping options for them. So we need a homegrown high street fashion brand for men. In women’s there are several like Anita Dongre and Chemistry. But everybody does mens fashion as a by-product but we need quintessential mens wear brand and not like Raymond which is almost fuddy duddy, Allen Solly and Van Heusen, they’re all trying to revive and stay relevant but then they’re playing the price game and missing out on the design element.
13. How is the Indian market for the designer wear? How many people actually buy designer wear?
Not at all. We’re a country full of middle class and conscious customers. If we’re talking about India as a country, I just spoke about salwar kameez and stuff, we really have a long way to go. Buying and consuming fashion, men’s and women’s, is still a very urban product and I’m talking about high fashion. It is changing because of the whole e-commerce and online shopping thing. People are buying a lot more online these days but they’re still very price conscious.
14. What silhouette suits the Indian body and skin tone the best?
People assume women here have the same body type – big breasts, small waist and big hips but that’s not it. There are all sorts of variations and types of body. Every woman needs to experiment but then again we don’t have enough options. I think people need to practice and experiment on their own to identify what works for them. I wouldn’t stereotype but in that case I think the saree is something that works for everybody, like literally for any Indian girl.
15. One thing that never goes out of trend?
Denims, like the right pair of denim and black dress which is very clichéd but works well. High heels shoe.
16. 2015 was heavily inspired by retro fashions. What do you think will be in store for 2016?
I think people always look at what has happened previously so people are referencing the 50’s 60’s and 70’s which, fortunately have been very clear to identify as the decade of fashion. We haven’t been able to establish what has happened in 2000 and we still haven’t been able to figure out what has happened in the finished 5 years and we don’t have anything much for this decade. So people are referencing to it and that is what will then become the trend. Like having multiple personalities. You see the biker look always being in trend and the retro look always being in trend. Retro has been going on since 2006. So, it’s not really what happened last year. You look at any brand and you’ll see they’ve been doing it since 2005-06 and are still doing it.
There are multiple fashion trends now. Like you may relate to a retro look and buy it from Chloe or Gucci, and then if you like the sporty look you may buy Nike or Adidas, and then there’s the biker look. So there are multiple trends going on and it has been going on for almost 8 years now. For the coming season I think, there will be a lot of exploration and experimentation with the sleeves. The attention will go back on the shoulders and the collar bones. The whole sexy legs and cleavage look is old now. Showing your collar-bone and shoulders and wrists is sexy now, they’re now becoming the sexual attention zones. And more column like shapes will be in trend.