Behind the Pink
Est. Form is a collaboration that grew organically between two friends—Oona, a visual artist practising globally and currently based in Mumbai, and Sohni, the founder and head designer of House of Sohn. Whilst Oona’s art visually serves as a free-flowing interaction of colour and movement, inspired through experience and memory, Sohni designs clothes with clean cuts and neutral palettes reflecting unrestricted femininity and emotions through texture and form. Although their individual practices are in separate disciplines; art and design; an instinctive and experiential drive marks a starting point for both.
It is an interesting collaboration to see how fashion reacts to art. The duo has created a combination of paintings on canvas and interactive installations styled as skins, an existing part of Oona's signature fabric alteration artworks; a selection of House of Sohn pieces developed through responses to the paintings and their collaboration and wearable art which stands as a melting pot of both their practices, truly driving the concept far and beyond an expected end. In conversation with the creative minds.Deconstruct Est. Form for us.
Oona: Est. Form is a vision, a culture and a conversation. This creative collective is the creation point of my work with House of Sohn, the bold and radical start to innovative creations, generative conversations, expanding the space of interdisciplinary collaborations and the opportunity to facilitate creative freedom and play towards making something beautiful and authentic.
Our technique is rooted in verbal and nonverbal communication to facilitate collaboration. Words are effective, yet hold the potential to leave some things unsaid. Here, we accessed what was said and what wasn’t. I would make a painting using House of Sohn fabric and then give it to Sohni. She would take this painting into her studio. She would then, using on verbal communication and a ‘response process’ create a garment in response to the painting. This is how we would work together. Allowing the others creative energy and work in our personal studios was critical – to challenge the work, explore the space of the unspoken word and experience a truly immersive working format. Only when this interaction is authentic and yet challenging, do we drive our ourselves to make generative work and feel deeply invested in its creation.
Sohni: Est. Form is a creative collective, an artistic platform and an innovative space that allows co-creation to happen at the intersection of different art forms. It’s a space where dance and art, or poetry and architecture, or any other combination of the arts can meet, mingle and create something that neither could create alone. Creating an inclusive, communal space where not only different creative disciplines, but also the lovers and viewers of those disciplines, can come together to discuss, critique and grow is very important to us. We want to be a shift in society, and give people an option to see things a different way and live in multiple worlds.
How did this collaboration come about? Tell me all about it.
O: Sohni and I met fleetingly about four months ago. We knew that we wanted to work together and truly explore this unchartered space of interdisciplinary collaborations. Although the creative chemistry was present, we spent time learning about one another, our creative process, styles and the vision we held for our work. When collaborating, the essence is not to change the work that we individually make, it is more so to co-create using the existing strengths of our practices and personalities to innovate and carve out something that can stand alone or together and be appreciated in all environments. Intentionality around developing a working creative relationship was very important to us both – curiosity was our marker of respect for the each other’s practice.
S: This collaboration was born out of curiosity, the desire to do something rare, and admiration for each other’s works. Our process started quite organically, and that allowed it to be immersive and come from a genuine space of wanting to merge the two forms.
My personal design process with House of Sohn includes writing, sketching, draping and painting so I’ve never restricted myself to a certain way to express my art, and working with an artist like Oona was a very natural next step. Somewhere between the smell of paint, needles breaking through canvas and endless strands of thread, we found our creative rhythm, and before we knew it we were making some really cool stuff.
Art is design is fashion, boundaries are clearly blurring. Please comment.
O: Personally, I would not say that the boundaries are blurry and/or that Art is design is fashion.
Creative mediums are different, made, treated, consumed and interacted with very differently. Art and Fashion may hold something fundamentally different; the purpose for which they are created. Fashion is an expression of the designer, an interactive medium and has held an element of flattery in its creation. The human body wears, adorns and represents something/ someone when wearing/interacting with fashion. Art, in my art, I am the only judge. I create to self-express, to tell a story and the critique of my work is not to flatter my audience or myself. That is the fundamental difference – that is the beauty of their individual processes and why the unique coming together of the two has in the past and here, through Est. Form been distinctive.
I will also say that where they blur is the key aspect that they are both expressions of their maker. They both use languages that are non-spoken. Est. Form has beem able to surpass a lot of the separations, leverage the strengths and create a true collaboration; where what we have made belongs to us both & yet to neither of us, is made to flatter & yet remains authentic to its artistic making process, is art x fashion & yet be exist in spaces individually and collectively.
S: When you open up the boundaries, there is space for original thought. The way an artist looks at a canvas is different from the way a designer does, and somewhere in that discomfort and struggle, something new can exist. When you deconstruct the silos that everything sits comfortably in and different disciplines can meet for the first time, a unique energy comes to life and that is the energy I am looking to create over and over again. “Wearable Art” – something that came as a direct result of a fashion x art co-creation process, where garments were made from pieces of art – embodies this energy.
Form is Established
What are the fabrics that you have used and what informed that decision?
O: My personal practice is in pure painting and fabric alteration work. In the past I have worked with silks, chiffons and linens. This choice is predominantly to use fabrics that can enhance and push form, texture and create varieties of movement in the work.
In this collaboration, I have worked with fabrics that were entirely new to me – muslin silk and organza. The decision to use these fabrics was simple. They were House of Sohn fabrics and reflective of her identity in the choice of fabric, flow and colors. This was important. I could have used materials that I was conformable with – yet by not doing so I learnt a new language. The language spoken by muslin silk and organza. At times, stubborn and thick materials that required patience and engagement to work with. This created something interesting; in the spirit of true collaboration – House of Sohn’s materials were not mine, yet they became mine. They integrated into my aesthetic and practice. This set a beautiful stage and garnered a positive spirit around co-creation amongst us, artists&creatives.
S: I’ve always loved working with natural fabrics like hand-woven cottons and khadi that have a deep history with this country and can tell a story of their own. I think of it as taking something traditional and repurposing it into a contemporary form. The art pieces, which then in turn were used to make garments, are made from these fabrics. We used organza as a way to bring some form and architecture to the pieces so they could truly live off the wall and off a mannequin in a space of their own.What influences your art?
O: My work is driven and influenced by the love for making, discovering and engaging with my day to day workings on a deeper level. I interact with the world daily and in my studio, I express these interactions through color, form, fabric, writing, poetry and paint. It is a private process; the practice cane be meditative and personal. When I work, my work is alive. I mean this in no uncertain terms, at times a paining I am working on will resist, not comply and at times, I chose to do the same. It is not a destination – focused process. “My work reflects these daily pockets of experience and memory, allowing for sensations and manifestations to authentically emerge. These reminiscences are malleable, versatile, powerful and, ultimately, greater than the source: myself”.
Additionally, I am deeply inspired by what moves people – how a person responds to my work and what emotions/reactions it arises. To this end, I enjoy heavily layered pieces, sometimes with dramatically saturated colors and unusual pairings of materials. “The work remains free, gentle, perfect in its imperfection – where nothing, absolutely nothing, is wrong”
S: My design aesthetic comes from a place of simplicity and story-telling. I don’t limit myself to what I can or can’t do, but oftentimes the inspiration of my work stems from a personal place of what’s speaking to me in a particular phase of my life. Sometimes I let fabric and color take center stage, and other times it’s a narrative that I’m dying to tell in all white. There are some collections that have powerful stories that no client will ever know of, but that’s just the process I needed to go through to create it. The thing that speaks to me more than glamour and trends is creating something personal. With Est. Form and with “Wearable Art” specifically, I’m looking to reach into a really strange space and create things outside the realm of what may be deemed “normal” in fashion. I want it to be an experience that embodies a certain sense of theatricality.
Text Hansika Lohani Mehtani