in 2021, Vaishali Shadangule became the first and only Indian female designer to reach the prestigious Paris Haute Couture Week with her most recent couture collection, ‘Abyss’ that she describes as "a quest to go beyond your comfort zone to find unexpected inner beauties. I used the metaphor of diving into the dark blue scary ocean like a manta ray, thus my few black and blue garments. Then you suddenly start discovering beautiful new worlds, from the corals, coloured fish, jellyfish, etc. In the same way, when you start exploring your inner self, suddenly you start discovering unsuspected strengths and beauties."
Back home, Akanksha Pandey, a creative director embodied the same ethos behind the collection for its campaign. In 2021, when Vaishali was hospitalized due to Covid, Akanksha and her decided to go forward and document the progress despite the adversities. The artist flew to Bombay with their photographer Vikas Maurya and and started shooting instantly.
A lot of pieces from the collection weren't finished which was another opportunity to create unpredictable looks for the creative director. She knew Vaishali's work to be craft oriented and therefore casting the artisans involved with the development of the collection resonated with her. When everything came together and the artisans that are originally from Uttar Pradesh came onboard, uninhibited, they ended up shooting the campaign at the designer's Kala Ghoda store in a matter of 5 hours without a hair & makeup team or assistants.
This project taught Akanksha that ground breaking creative feats are sometimes a byproduct of facing great adversities with a positive attitude. The artist had always created with the purpose of bringing compassion to her judgements/preconceived notions, to engage with design and thinking tools to find solutions to existing problems. Consequently, she feels like everything she does now is new and more anthropologically driven.
Akanksha is inspired by philosophy, psychology and how it ties with the social, political, and cultural aspect of everyday life that informs us to make the decisions we make. Some artists that are currently on her radar are photographer Tirtha Bin Lawati, textile researcher Somya Lochan and art director Yashna Kaul. She also aspires to be a part of ''Who made my clothes?' — A non-profit global movement that campaigns for reforms in the fashion industry focused on transparency by clothing brands about their supply chain.
Akanksha's work is driven by her aim to undo the conditioning of the world she had subconsciously given into. The way she decided to flip the script and use the artisans as models for their work quite boldly reflects that. Merging homegrown crafted fabric with the grandeur of Paris Haute Couture, the artist created a one-of-a-kind campaign that shines in its expression and authenticity.
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