Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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EVERYTHING ELSE

Fashion

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In Fashion…Kiran’s art

Many years ago, I met Kiran Uttam Ghosh, a Kolkata designer struggling to make a mark for herself as much as she was trying to put her city on the style map. Her husband then worked for a Kochi company, and Kiran was more in the air than on terra firma, whizzing between the two cities on either side of India.

Recently, I met Kiran again in Kolkata. She had just moved into a palatial bungalow that itself looked like the last word in design. She had used a lot of wood to given that warm feel. There was glass for that bounce and sheen, and finally there was Kiran herself to transform the house into a home, much like the way she had with the wave of her fashion wand dressed and decorated women into ethereal creatures. Though in an understated way.

Kiran Uttam Ghosh
Kiran’s clothes convey this. Using silhouettes and textures that defy categorisation – like modern or traditional and Eastern or Western – she creates cuts to caress feminine contours.

Trained under British designer Jasper Conran, who taught the beauty of detailing, Kiran was also influenced by her Japanese room-mate during the days in London. So, Kiran’s signature line is “Kimono”, a diffusion of sorts that goes beyond the pragmatic prêt. Her couture, Kiran Uttam Ghosh, is classically constructed, stylishly seductive and enamouringly endearing.

In a delightful exchange of ideas one rainy evening at Kolkata, Kiran tells me how the city has helped her. “It is an extremely artistic city, where just everything is converted into an art form. Fashion as well”.

In a teeming metro where the average Bengali woman still drapes herself in a six-yard sari, believing it to be the last word in style, Kiran and her Kolkata colleagues feel that fashion has begun to crawl like an excited baby out to explore the world for the first time. “We have a long way to go, many things to achieve”, Kiran muses.

She firmly feels that Kolkata is her turf, and she must dress her up. “I am not one dying to sell my outfits abroad, though I do market in seven other countries. The scene abroad is not hunky dory. It is a lot of struggle. I have seen Conran struggle”.

Kiran is also not inclined to get into film fashion. “I have no patience to run around sulking stars”, she tells me. “Hats off to people like Sabyasachi Mukherjee who can do it and who are doing it”.

She treats fashion as art, pure art, and is not really in favour of going beyond a point to accommodate personal whims and fancies. There is a lot of irrationality in the movie world, and actresses are paranoid about the way they look. Every minute, they have to be reassured that they look great, and that they are not getting flabbier.

One can understand Kiran, coming as she does from a city that is proud of its history and heritage. Comparing Kolkata with Mumbai and Delhi, she says, “what is special about my place is the art in fashion. A lot happens in Mumbai and Delhi, much more than in Kolkata, but art in fashion is something unique here”.

We are not into “chamki-chamki things”. We do classy, sophisticated, understated style lines, Kiran’s take on the city shape.

Kiran’s next line bounces me off my back. “My latest collection is called Ethelecctic, and it has been inspired by the Archie’s comics”, she smiles. “My aim here is to make ordinary people look extraordinary, and extraordinary people look ordinary. With Ethelecctic, that is what I have tried to do. Doff my hat to the different ones. Raise a toast to the awkward. Real person inside all of us. Create that intangible something that underlines our belief in ourselves”.

Kiran feels that style is all about celebrating one’s individuality. Ethelecctic – which is just hitting the stores -- is all about single pieces that have been made with a spirit of fun. “I think my work has got simpler in simplicity and in detailing. This is far more difficult”.

Kiran loves to edit out what is unnecessary. “I love to edit, edit, edit. I call myself an edit queen”, she chuckles. Brilliant design needs few innuendoes, and Kiran’s are not far from that.

(Webposted September 18 2007)