Comfort being key in today’s fashion vocab, we couldn’t be more thrilled when Japanese fashion giant UNIQLO dropped its new Kurta Collection in collaboration with New Delhi-based designer Rina Singh – with a refined, modern, and fresh Indian aesthetic. Here she tells us all about working with UNIQLO, her artistic inspiration, and the special fabrics, weaves, and finishes used in this smartly edited collection.
This is your second collab with Uniqlo – how has the experience been? What’s it like to work with their team?
Yes, this is the second edition of the Kurta Collection, and I’ve enjoyed and learned tremendously from my relationship with UNIQLO. Our design philosophy is similar and yet different at the same time. This has given us a great opportunity for growth and exploration. It was important to understand the range of architecture and offering of what fits in seamlessly with customers around the world. For us, design creation and working technically to enhance each finish, were key. The emphasis has always been on building a strong foundation of the product from the textile onwards, where pattern, print, and shape follow effortlessly.A tunic top from UNIQLO x Rina Singh 'Kurta' Collection
How did your association come about?
For many years now, I have been retailing internationally with my brand and have been building on our customer landscape across demographics – their take on fit and the merits of the design in terms of functionality and acceptability. During one of the design exhibitions we were showcasing at, I happened to meet the Head of R&D at UNIQLO, Mr Yuki Katsuta.
It was after a few brainstorming sessions and meetings that we decided to collaborate to push forth UNIQLO’s idea of LifeWear with a product that would be accessible for all. The kurta has been India’s day dress for years now. It is timeless, functional, extremely democratic, and aligns perfectly with the brand’s philosophy. It can be layered, worn with or without jackets, scarves or trousers. The possibilities were endless.A rayon half sleeve kurta tunic by UNIQLO x Rina Singh
Did you work during the lockdown period?
Yes, initially I worked from home and later on from the studio, as we had special permission to open studios to manufacture masks to be distributed to the local administration. Once we opened at about 60 percent of the capacity at the studios, we were back to business. We have been working on doing online launches, promotions, and research and development of new lines for the next season and onwards.
What is it about UNIQLO’s LifeWear philosophy that appeals to you?
From the very beginning, there was a very distinctive synergy and clarity in the way we collaborated, to push forth the idea of LifeWear, and a product that is accessible to all. Till now, the scale of my work has been fairly small and indigenous, and I was excited to see this project mature with UNIQLO’s technical expertise.UNIQLO x Rina Singh 'Kurta' Collection SS2020 with stoles and louche silhouettes
Our design philosophy is similar and yet different at the same time. Understanding the range and offering of what fits in seamlessly with customers around the world was key.
I called my collections “lived in” – which signifies clothes that are made for all stages and days of a lifespan. And UNIQLO’s philosophy is ‘LifeWear’. Both of us identify with the wearibilty, comfort, and everyday functionality of clothing as a meaningful commodity, instead of just catering to top fashion.
The name Kurta for the collection is very apt – what does the line embody – it’s flowy and summerlike, and how is it perfect for India?
Through my previous collections, I have systematically worked towards introducing garments that are rooted and indigenous, whilst maintaining a contemporary and atypical look. From the very beginning of our association, there was a very distinctive synergy and clarity in the way UNIQLO and I collaborated.
We envisioned a layered outfit that could be worn with other everyday coordinates across all age groups, be it a 50-year-old woman or a young girl of 24 years. Given its versatility in sizes, shapes, and materials, we believe that the UNIQLO Kurta is a democratic shape that could be offered to women across the world, with its innate functionality a step in that direction.
The idea was to have a linear, simplistic, and monotonal approach as opposed to the traditional treatment of the kurta. Design adaptations were made to introduce the kurta as a wearable and universally adaptable day dress that could stand on its own anywhere in the world.UNIQLO x Rina Singh 'Kurta' Collection SS2020 has soft, flowing dresses in earthy hues
You have chosen Indian hues like crimson and certain florals – can you please tell us about the art of Amrita Sher-Gil that has inspired you? What work(s) in particular can you reference for this palette?
For our second edition of the Kurta collection, I was inspired by Indo-Hungarian painter Amrita Sher-Gil. I believe that her modern interpretation of art, her personality, her take on India in a colour sensibility that brought together the East and the West, were truly ahead of their time. While her painting style was influenced by European and Impressionist schools of thought, the projection of subjects and landscapes in her paintings kept her Indian sentiment alive.
Some of Sher-Gil’s popular artworks such as ‘Three Girls’, ‘The Little Girl in Blue’, and self-portraits piqued our interest and definitely resonate through this collection of daily wear essentials. The colour palette draws on the rich hues of her canvas and is complemented with hand-painted botanical motifs.
My effort was to visualize and create a modern-day wardrobe for and inspired by one of the greatest avant-garde artists of the 20th century, and her pioneering take on portraiture.
What is it about Amrita Sher-Gil and her art that draws you as a designer, to her?
I’ve always been intrigued by her work and personality. As an Indian who studied in Paris, her take on Indian art was very modern for her time. I too, feel the need to design from an Indian sensibility, yet with a modern approach that crosses cultures. Amrita Sher-Gil was offbeat. She looked at India through her art and her subjects in a very worldly way. Her clothing was a mix, inspired by India and the world.
Why is her art so timeless and why, in your opinion, was she one of the world’s most prominent artists?
She gave a modern voice to Indian art. Without loud, jarring colours, too many detailed connotations, flat subject drawings. Her painting style was not ornamented. Her framing was very avant-garde. She focused on women subjects a lot, almost as though she were enamored –inspired and influenced by the reality and depth of her subjects.Embroidered sleeveless kurta dress by UNIQLO x Rina Singh
Can you please tell us about the fabrics that you have used? Is this all material from UNIQLO – and are all the clothes made in Japan in their manufacture, or is it in India?
Reflecting on our modern approach to tradition, the pieces incorporate blends of Indian slub yarn, rayon, linen, and other materials, and employ dobby weaves to replicate the handwoven feel. Fabrics feature soft weaves, with light and fresh finishes. The collection retains premium linen dresses that proved popular in the previous season, as well as new additions, dresses made from an easy-care rayon fabric that UNIQLO developed with Toray Industries.
This is in addition to summer gingham checks, solid linen, lightweight and airy printed cotton voile, and floral prints along with classic functional stripes for outerwear and trousers. The fabrics developed have a rustic and tactile feel to them, with irregular textures created with yarns – uneven weaves and distorted patterns.UNIQLO x Rina Singh 'Kurta' Collection Spring Summer 2020
What are the silhouettes that you were aiming for – a mix of Indian – kurtas and pyjamas, as well as long dresses and tunics?
The collection comprises tunics, dresses, pants, and stoles. Kurta design touches such as pin tucks, square necks, and embroidery are included, while the line features gathered sleeves that fall dreamily in the soft fabrics.
Is this collection available internationally too or just in India?
Yes, this collection is available across UNIQLO stores internationally.
Do you think that this collection is perfect for the present Covid-19 work-from-home scenario?
It’s made with technically developed wash-and-wear natural fabrics, and the fits are very comfortable. The prints are easy, and the shapes are versatile. The collection is absolutely appropriate for working from home.A stole from UNIQLO x Rina Singh 'Kurta' Collection
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