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Kallol Datta

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Previously for our Fashion issue this year, we got in touch with some designers to talk about gender-bending clothing, a phenomenon that is gradually taking over the fashion industry. Here are excerpts from an interview with Kallol Datta, whose clothes are not for the faint-hearted. 

How has your creative process evolved, and how has it changed over time?
When I started creating clothes in 2008, the entire process was cyclic. Start off with shapes, silhouettes, move on to print, sampling, production and deliveries, and back to step one. That stopped in 2011, when I decided that I would stick to an ever-evolving personal formula in doing things the way I wanted to, in a way that would make me happy. The creative process became more insular.
Do you keep any gender in mind while designing? What influences your art?
I’ve always maintained that my garments are sexless. There is no acknowledgement of sex. Going by the notion of ‘sex is; gender means’, I’d say my clothes-making approach has included a study of gender dialectics where female and male are not at opposite ends of the spectrum but are different individual spectrums. Additionally, there’s the fact that these aren’t the only genders present. My work has always been a documentation of my reactions and engagement with my immediate environment. Until recently, there used to be an obsession with the human body, more so when it veers towards a state of decay or putrefaction. Now, coupled with that, there is this sense of urgency that I should do everything to convey the meaning of our times. Work now talks about loss, lost data, lost in translation.
Gender Fluidity has been building up in fashion for a few years. Last year, non-gendered clothes progressed even further. In your opinion, what is the significance of the new trend?
I don’t really know or follow what is showcased. All this androgyny, gender fluidity etc. seems myopic and temporal. You can’t put a male model in a chiffon shirt/skirt and say you’re bridging genders. If anything it bridges stupidity and rapidness. The same applies to a female model sent down the runway in a tuxedo. How is that creating dialogue in gender fluidity if next season the same ‘designer’ sends evening gowns down the runway? It’s just not there in the DNA of most labels. It is, like you said, a trend. Some faceless corporation decided that ‘androgyny’ has to be ‘in fashion’ for the coming season. So that thought percolates into the mainstream and everyone is busy buying that trendy piece for a season or two. It’s like us sharing a picture on social media about the awareness around a particular disease, once a year, different disease every year.
And lastly, describe your overall design vocabulary. When conceptualising a new piece, what is the most important aspect to you?
With new works, what is important to me currently is that it has to harness the now. As non-mainstream the applications of my work may be, if others pick up on elements and broaden their scope, then that makes me happy. We’ve got to realise it’s not about us. Most people don’t care. We’re a miniscule part in the context of Indian design vocabulary. An important part, but miniscule.


Text Shruti Kapur Malhotra

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