‘Customised’ converse trainers were all the rage when I was in school. While the more rebellious would shake up a pen of whitening fluid and scrawl their initials onto the bright red cloth of their high-tops, those with a steadier hand experimented with paint and setting spray. I remember one pair in particular that a friend of mine once wore - the original colour barely visible through the many layers of blackish-blue paint, adorned with stars and a bright, white moon - and was inspired to do-it-myself. The outcome of that particular project is not relevant but it leads me to my point - hand-painting shoes, spending the afternoon crafting a music festival-ready crop top or strategically ripping a pair of jeans were all expressions of a personal, unique style identity.
Now, years later, with a slightly (only slightly) bigger budget, the same desire for one-of-a-kind pieces, and questionable painting skills, I continue to try and cultivate my personal style by investing in customised statement pieces by Indian designers.
Take, for instance, the classic denim jacket that has been reinvented in countless ways since it was first designed by Levi Strauss in 1880. A street-style staple, the garment that was originally fashioned from sturdy denim and meant to survive the wear and tear of manual labour have since been the jacket of choice of rock stars, rebels and off-duty actors and models. Unencumbered by style rules, this statement piece works any way you choose to wear it - deconstructed, oversized, hanging off the shoulder, tied around your waist. Since its creation, it has captured the imagination of designers and stylists and been reinvented in wonderful, unique ways. Like these four Indian artists and designers who are hand-painting and customising the wardrobe staple, so it can be tailored to the wearer’s street-style identity or sartorial fancy.
Not mass-produced, these jackets are proof that personal style is alive and well and stand out amidst a sea of fast fashion, carbon-copied clothes.
Here’s four that we’re loving right now.
I. Nikita Sagar
Based out of Mumbai, Nikita is a self-taught artist who uses denim as a canvas to bring surrealism to life. Drawing influences from pop art and psychedelia, she transforms her paintings into statement pieces that offer a glimpse into an alternate universe–one that Nikita has created. Each piece takes a week to be completed. Painted onto her jackets is the ongoing story of an astronaut who travels to new worlds with every piece.A big believer in personal style and individual fashion identity, Nikita accommodates customer requests as well, weaving them seamlessly into her distinct and vibrant style.
HGLoves: Journey through the portal less travelled in this sick hand-painted jacket by Nikita.
Price: Rs. 6,000
Fashion blogger Charuta has always been a collector of clothes; her view that fast fashion effectively led to the demise of individual style and character resulted in a lot of DIY products that are completely one-of-a-kind like her eclectic collection of hand-painted and embellished jackets inspired by Indian goddesses. Street-style in India is evolving as a response to global trends, as well as a strong desire to stay connected to our roots; like Charuta’s jackets, complete with 3D costume jewellery that you’ll remember from annual day plays in school.
HGLoves: Invoke ‘shakti’ in this badass denim jacket
Price: On request
III. Babbu The Painter
Toronto-based artist, Babby The Painter runs her own dukaan with an eclectic collection of products that are a fusion of art and streetwear. Blending traditional aesthetics with modern contemporary, ideas is Babbu’s distinct style that evolved as a direct response to the “merging of my two identities and how my surroundings are affected by it. And the idea of fitting in – being ‘too south Asian’ in the West and ‘too western’ in my birth country.” The dukaan is stocked with everything from ‘bakwaas hats to hand-painted jean jackets’ and there’s lots to choose from if you’re interested in the latter. All completely bindass, these jackets are definitely on the higher end of the price spectrum but worth the splurge if you’re looking to invest in a statement piece to last you many years.
HGLoves: This hand-painted ‘Rani’ vintage jacket that goes with everything.
Price: $359.99 or Rs. 23,000 (approx.)
Making a mark for his fantastic original style of design and commitment to the environment, designer (and tribal native from Arunachal Pradesh) Nixon Bui showcased his first full collection, Urban Tribal, at The Green Week runway show at Copenhagen this year, to great applause and appreciation. Nixonbui’s jackets (like all of his clothes) are a glorious celebration of international, contemporary wear with tribal details; the designer’s deeply-rooted values shine through in each Nixonbui creation. Not just limited to his art and designs, these values also guide the brand’s philosophy - ‘Recognizing and respecting the forces of nature, advocating quality and originality.’
HGLoves: Beautiful traditions of the Apatani tribe come alive with this hand-embroidered Chitam jacket.
Price: €229.00 or Rs. 9,500 (approx)
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