By Anupam Dabral
When Karishma was a little girl, her father gifted her a scrapbook, which soon became a bearing ground of all her fantasies. Seeing their daughter intrigued by the beauty of her surroundings, Karishma’s parents recognised her passion for fashion early on, and fuelled it by introducing her to a variety of influences.
Primary among them was her art-historian and educationist aunt, Madhavi Kapoor who, with her beautiful saris and love for Indian crafts, can be credited for introducing Karishma Shahani Khan to different textiles as a child.
“Fashion was never a part of the plan” says Karishma, adding, “I am not a fashion designer per se; I am an artist who creates clothes.” Today her understanding of fashion as an art form manifests in her creations. Unapologetic use of bright colours, dupattas with pom-poms, and ensembles that tell a tale of India’s rich craft heritage have become her signature.
This year, Karishma was a part of an award-winning, five-member team to represent India at London Fashion Week. Each designer had to create pieces befitting the theme ‘Indian Pastoralists’. And Karishma looked back at India for her inspiration. She reinterpreted the crafts of Rabari tribe of the Kutch region and gave them a contemporary appeal.
Karishma, who has won several national and international accolades, is not new to the ‘Made in India’ philosophy. Her great-grandparents were freedom fighters, and her great-grandfather had only donned handspun khadi throughout his life. Karishma’s grandmother, who was a poet and an author, fed her some rich familial history through her writings.
Today, the 30-year-old mother of one takes pride in her roots and returns to them again and again in her moodboards. “While a student of design at London College of Fashion, I realised how much I missed India and its eclectic design elements,” she says. As an intern in London, she would fly to India to work with a craft-based organisation in Kutch.
There, she met a number of weavers and dyers, and noticed the self-sufficiency and sustainable nature of their business. She also observed details such as tarpaulin-covered slums and street-dwellers wearing layers of clothes, which prompted her to create pieces that not only represented India but made a social statement too.
Keeping reversibility, multiple layering and sustainable fashion in focus, she launched her label Ka-Sha in 2011.
“Our aim is to create responsible fashion,” informs the Pune-based designer. Her sub-brand ‘Heart to Haat’ is an extension of the cause. With 100 percent upcycling being at the core, she makes sure that nothing goes waste in the production process.
Her beautiful cotton separates, comfortable multiple paneled trousers and slouchy shirts might represent a modern facet of her thinking, but in reality, she is a true daughter of the soil, who believes in giving back to nature and her tradition, and retaining its glory.