Fashion with a heart
Many contemporary designers today have stepped out of the charmed circle to create products to help the underprivileged and also encouraging them to explore their own potential for designing. Nasreen Khan reports
What is fashion without its accessory? No matter how deep you dig into your pocket to get that designer dress, it is the accessory that will spell out your style statement for the day. And if you support a cause there is no better way to make a style statement than sport a creation by Jhankar, a Turning Point initiative.
Step in select Shoppers Stop outlets in Kolkata and ask for their special counter. The attractive and colourful spread before you will fly off the shelf, in this case, table, whilst you are still wondering which one to choose. Stylish and chic these are the ultimate statement pieces you could flaunt. Ask shopper Sohini Chaudhury on way to join her Ivy League pals in the UK. She picked up a couple of the neckpieces for herself while her business woman mother Debjani was busy selecting some for herself. "They are trendy and stylish," she gushes.
Brainchild of Ishita Sanyal of Turning Point, an NGO that supports and guides children with mental illness, these jewellery pieces are truly special. And like any other work of art you can be sure that no two pieces are alike, so no worries of meeting someone wearing the same piece. All this at such reasonable prices that you could well end up picking more than you had intended to.
Indeed, such is the excitement around the table that you feel like hanging around just to see how these young adults trapeze through the skills of artist and of salesmanship rolled into one. Richard Knox from New Zealand is hovering around to lend a helping hand. Ask him what he thinks of the trinkets before him and he grins wide and says, "They are very international. I could gift them to my sisters or girlfriend and I know they will love it."
With about 25 kids involved in making these fashion jewellery under the brand name of Jhankar , the demand has been growing bigger and bigger. With a precursory training and based mostly on improvisation and personal sense of design these neck pieces and ear rings are gaining popularity. Started a year back at Shoppers Stop, now Spencers and other retail stores are opening their high street fashion doors to the persistent efforts of these creative minds. "It's a challenge to meet the demands," shares Ishita, beaming with pride.
The USP of the collection is high quality beads added with the offer to make on- the- spot making to suit personal demands. Interestingly, it is the restless ones that have an affinity to make the most intricate designs informs Ishita. Not only this, jewellery making has had such a satisfying effect on another girl that today she is able to lead a normal life away from the unsettling mental condition that had nearly driven her to suicide. Another child is now a smart and savvy business woman helping you to pick the right stuff. Long gone are her days of restlessness and attention seeking disorder.
Today, designers the world over are making a foray into accessory designing. It is not only because the demand is huge. They are doing so because they know that an accessory can make or mar a look. For the likes of Sabyasachi Mukherjee , the ace designer, it was the love of extending their art and their attention to detail that got them to foray into designing jewellery. Many avant garde designers feel the need to design the accessories themselves so that they can give the client a perfect look.
"I started designing accessories myself because it was difficult to find a piece in the market that suited my taste," reveals NIFT graduate Ipsita Sengupta. Wife of a successful designer (Arnab Sengupta) Ipsita has been involved with styling for quite a while and even styled for popular television serials. Though trained in textile designing Ipsita recently stepped into accessory designing because, as she says, "It's not about a brand or a high end product. It is to have an accessory or statement piece that will spell out your own style."
For those who came in late, fashion with a heart has been a recurring theme in the recent past. The growing sense of social responsibility has had designers raising a toast to the weavers or going green to protect the earth. For others like designer Rahul Mishra it is an obligation to society. "India has a lot of talent and it is up to us to create entrepreneurs for the economically resurgent Indian." The young designer who himself mentors quite a few NGOs confides that his heart swells up in pride and he feels blessed to be a catalyst in making life better for others.
"Fashion has the power to do so much," feels designer Kiran Uttam Ghosh. "If we really wish to show that we care then it is important to support such endeavours." Says film stylist and designer Pooja Chatterjee in support of this project.
"It's indeed very commendable that these kids are using this art to find a direction in their life."
For those doubting Thomases who feel only professional training will translate into success there are the likes of self taught designer Jattinn Kochhar. "Either you have it on you or you don't," he says. He does feel though that with the right person guiding the likes of those creating the Jhankar jewellery is bound to take them places, provided the person has belief in the inherent talent of these youngsters. "Enthusiasm and interest is what I look for," says the designer in answer to the query whether he would take time out to mentor them. For someone who started out on his own when he was barely 19 years old, Kochhar should know that it is only passion and hard work that you need to reach you to the pinnacles of success.
What started as an experiment is fast gaining ground today as a full-fledged fashion accessory brand.