For South Asians scattered all over the world, growing up is a highly nuanced experience and not always an easy one. While on one hand there is the vague knowledge of traditions of their homeland, on the other is the reality of a culture that is the exact opposite but feels a lot more familiar. In trying to make sense and straddle two or more cultures, expression of one’s identity becomes an integral part of fitting in. Especially when it comes to clothing, which is such a fundamental aspect of the Indian identity (whether or not we like it). This confluence of merging identities and cultures is pretty evident in the silhouette patterns of Priyanka Kaul and her design label ‘Badaam’, which has a touch of two contrasting worlds.
As an Indian growing up in Australia, Priyanka’s upbringing was complemented with a strong urge to explore the creatives – a field that would allow her to not only adapt to the culture around her but also allow a certain amount of freedom of expression. Having dabbled with graphic design, fashion design, and textile print design, Priyanka had tried to explore as much as she could during her formative education years, “I had interned in a few places around Sydney and felt out of place. This drove me to find a way to create an aesthetic which represented my interest in both Indian and western fashion.” And thus, she founded Badaam in 2017.
With a focus on eco-friendly and ethical fashion, Priyanka’s beautifully muted tones, silhouette patterns, and breezy designs are a successful juxtaposition of her Indian and Australian sensibilities. In fact, in her debut collection ‘Cardamom Saree’, she experiments with the traditional nine yards sari in unprecedented ways, “I knew I had to design these [saris] in my own way because it’s something I’ve wanted to experiment with even when wearing saris in Sydney”, she tells us.
When asked about the name of her label, which is so obviously reflective of Indian culture, she explains how it’s more about the organic shape, the colour, and the role ‘badaam’ or almonds play in the Indian set up. But to constantly juggle between two countries, both professionally and personally, can be as strenuous as exciting. “I sometimes wish Australia had a textile industry, because sourcing or designing fabric in Australia is a struggle. People also understand garments very differently in both countries, there’s a lot of translation when working with two different cultures”, says Priyanka who visits India almost every year. Sometimes even twice!
Perhaps, it’s this rootedness to her culture that keeps Priyanka grounded and perpetually striving to ensure a positive and ethical environment for her artisans, whom she regularly interacts with, “You can’t really work in this type of fashion business without meeting your artisans because that’s where the communication starts and ends. I ensure that the place my artisans work in is an environment which follows ethical and sustainable practices. I don’t make large runs and focus on season-less drops.”
When Priyanka isn’t sketching out clothes, she is often found drawing or painting. For her, fashion and art pretty much go hand in hand. Which is probably why she is so appreciative of skills, rather than the mechanised process that is so impersonal. “A lot of my garments are handwoven because I feel handwoven just feels different on the skin and of course the many community benefits. I guess what makes my garments special is the fact that they are designed by me and inspired by my art,” she tells Homegrown.
Even though her work is as contemporary and suited to the needs of those around her as it is traditional, I can’t help but be concerned about how Priyanka, a designer of colour, navigates the creative landscape. My worries are quickly settled when she tells me about the existing multiculturalism in Australia, “Australian customers know more than I do about saris and Indian textiles. They are so versed in fabrics which are sustainable, eco-friendly and good for the body that it’s only natural for them to resonate with a multi-cultural and ethical brand.”
But what’s interesting to know is that, despite her fondness for feminine traditional Indian clothing, Priyanka secretly admires men’s clothing a lot more. She is very often spotted wearing “boxy and tailored clothing” and is currently working on a men’s collection which is expected to release by the end of this year. “My new Dhyaan collection is about staying mindful in urban spaces through reminders of natural fabric, structures and textures”, she tells us.
As for her plans of expanding her creative endeavours to India, she isn’t quite sure yet but is hoping to explore the market back home through pop-up stores and see how it goes.
Feature Image courtesy: Priyanka Kaul
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