Russians are fashion and quality-conscious – Indian designer

Shivaji Dutta. Source: Olga Sokolova

Shivaji Dutta. Source: Olga Sokolova

Shivaji Dutta, a Kolkata-based designer who was in Moscow for the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, spoke to RIR about his journey into the world of fashion and shared his views on designing clothes for Russian tastes.

The 28th edition of the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia was held in Moscow’s famous Manhezh exhibition hall on March 27-April 1. Designers from Russia, India, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia and several other countries took part in the event. Keeping with what is now a tradition, famous Russian couturier Vyacheslav Zaytsev inaugurated the Autumn-Winter/2014-2015 session.

India was represented by Kolkata-based Shivaji Dutta, who is the creative head of the label ‘Blank Spot’, which works primarily on sustainable design for apparel and accessories. In an interview with RIR, he talked about his journey into the fashion and shared his views on designing clothes for Russian tastes.

What brought you to Russia?

Russia is a country that has always excited us. Some of our friends have been in Russia and have spoken of it very highly. We see Russia as a big potential market. India is mostly associated with doing Indian designs. Right now a lot of Indian designers started doing very high-end western designs as well.

What were your first steps in the fashion industry?

Fashion is big in India, but there are a lot of taboos as well about being a designer and going into the fashion world because India is rather conservative. It all started with me studying at the National Institute of Fashion and Technology (NIFT), in Kolkata. I studied fashion design. For 4 years. Initially, I didn’t plan to make garments. I was making graphics when my friend asked for my help in making garments. After some time he decided to quit the business, and I stepped into his place and started making garments.

What kind of garments do you produce?

We do both women’s wear and men’s wear. This is the first time we started showing men’s wear. But now we started doing high-end men’s wear. And we want to project ourselves this way. The concept of sustainability comes with the entire thought process. You know people are followers. If they see something at a high level they want to imitate it at a lower stage.  If there is a popular high-street bag, after some time you’ll see the cheaper replicas of it. It is called the trickledown effect.

Source: Olga Sokolova

How did you arrange your first visit to Russia?

We were looking for the big fashion weeks around. We were just pitching you know. We sent an email to Mercedez Benz fashion week, Russia. We talked about it. They liked our work. We told them about our concept of reusing leather and how we can make this fashion good. This is the future of the fashion industry as we see it where sustainability will be one of the big things. It’s now ethical branding, ethical leather, organic cotton. This is how it changes. You know three years ago you wouldn’t even care about it and right now we hear about it all the time. We have been doing this for three-four years, right since it became an important concept.

Is sustainability a popular concept in the Indian fashion industry?

Indian market is completely different from the West. If you tell them that it’s based on sustainability they may not even buy it at times. Indian customers want new fresh western clothes and they want to keep using it, they are very brand-conscious. Russian customers are brand-conscious too but Russia is still ahead. And it is better to be the first rather than just be there.

Did you have to localise your collection to suit preferences of Russian customers?

Ideally, we work with different thought processes. There have to be different designs. We don’t have a complete understanding of how the Russian market works yet. To understand a market you actually have to come there to see what’s happening, feel it. But we can say that the nature of our clothes is global. We wouldn’t like to be branded “India”, we would prefer to be branded “Global”. The thing is that Indian designs are not mainstream, somewhere they are accepted and somewhere not. We are more mainstream, but on the other hand we promote sustainability.

The Snow Maiden
Source: Olga Sokolova

We hope that in a few years sustainability will become a big thing in Russia too. Because you know in London fashion week there are two slots for sustainability. And in Berlin they have been doing it for the last three-four years. Whatever is present here we try to change. For example, you buy jacket from me today, and in five years you’re not sure if you want to wear this jacket and you come to me, and I am making a bag out of this material. This is a win-win situation: I don’t have to buy new material and you don’t have to buy a new bag. You get something at a cheaper rate but the same quality.

Right now sustainability is a very new thing so it’s very hard to comment on it. Even high-street designers don’t know for sure if they are using organic material or not. We want to create a brand in which you know what you are getting. You are making the life of material longer and saving material and energy. 

What can you say about the fashion industry in Russia?

People love wearing clothes. They love going out, dressing up. Russians are more open to buying clothes. In the West the fashion industry has existed for a long time. In Russia it’s quite recent. That way people want to wear different things, they want to stand out from the crowd. And this is the product that we stand for. That is why I am saying that there’s a great market here. People in Russia love quality things. They won’t hesitate to spend money on a garment as long as they know that the quality of product is good, and that the product is unique.

For a designer this is a challenge to come up with a different ideology, different concept but at the same time to make sure that this ideology and concept will run for some time for the people to appreciate it. Good brands may have fewer clients but their clients are getting back to them. They are very loyal.

Who is your favourite Russian designer?

I have immense respect for Russian couturier Vyacheslav Zaytsev. He is a professional and he is one of the founders of the Russian fashion industry. He started working in this sphere in the USSR and had to overcome many obstacles on his way.

How did your presentation at the Mercedez Benz fashion week go?

It was a very warm and appreciating welcome from their side. We felt encouraged by the audience’s reaction to our collection. We didn’t expect it but there was pack house at our show.

We made contacts with some people in the Russian fashion business. We have a lot of ideas coming to us. But we don’t want to jump into anything. We would need some time to work on them.

(The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity) 

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia Fall/WInter 14/15: BLANK SPOT By Shivaji Dutta. Source: fashion-aristocracy

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