Fusion of art and fashion
Sushma Thota tries to deconstruct the Indian modern art to reinterpret the handlooms by using art as design element in various traditional techniques through her brand by making coats, stoles and the classic sarees. Her Paithani weaves collection is a work of a few years in experimenting while working closely with the artist and weaver to create an aesthetic product.
This was on display at New Delhi at ‘Transitional Spaces’ by Art Pilgrim live where it received an overwhelming response.She did not plan to be a fashion designer. It was her journey that with each step unrelated to the passion. “I was in a boarding school since I was 6- years-oldtill my 10th. I was great with Maths, but also had passion towards life sciences.
I joined JNTU university and took up engineering inBiotechnology. When I almost knew that I wanted to be a scientist, I decided to skip studies abroad to stay close to my parents. I joined a tech-based MNC in Bangalore and worked for two years. But I was not satisfied. I wanted to do something on my own but was not sure what.”
She volunteered for an NGO and (NachiketaTapovan, a free school for underprivileged children) where she taught biology, physics and chemistry for six years. Even social service needs funding. “While trying for funds, I realised that I need to earn money to do what I want to do. That is when I started ‘GoldenParrot’.
I could do something meaningful, by working with artists, weavers and artisans while trying to spread more awareness on art and handloom. Now, I am also a partner with ‘The Culinary Lounge’, another unique start-up in the F&B space.”The idea of collaborating art with her handloom collection is all because of her inspiration from her father-in-law, the famous artist Thota Vaikuntam. “At first, I started painting, Thota Vaikuntamgaru inspired me a lot.
He always encouraged me and told that I should make use of my education and do something meaningful in life. It could be anything, he said.I love clothes and loved to experiment with colours and patterns. After getting married into an art family, I got a lot of exposure to art and fell in love with0 it.And then, I thought why not use this as a design element. I researched and tried working with Indian tribal art at first. I was surprised at how much our culture has to hold!”
Sushma Thota says, “Sometimes we fail to see what’s beside us all the while and look everywhere else for inspiration. I used to admire my father-in-law’s work a lot. It was available to me and that was where the idea first sprouted. Even my brand name is inspired from parrots in his paintings.
“When I started experimenting this fusion.Many people appreciated it. And wanted something similar. So, I understood that people were ready to experiment.”
“I use only handloom and traditional techniques with modern art - to bring out this harmony in my product. I started with Thota Vaikuntamgari art but will work with more artists.” The challenge was that she did not have formal education in fashion. She says, “It was tough to work on design. I took some help from friends, who were designers to understand how to plan a design.
But there were many mistakes, costly ones but I just pushed through.The knowledge I gained on Thota Vaikuntam’s art helped me overcome last minute challenges.”“Another challenge in the market was misuse of intellectual property of the artists’ works. So, to differentiate, I came up with an idea to work with the artist by getting permission for limited usage of their intellectual rights.
So, I give an authentication certificate signed by the artist with each product sold. It builds the trust of the customer.Every step was quite challenging, but it is a learning every day,” she adds. “Apart from sarees I designed stoles, different styles of coats for the younger generation and I am working on bags and I am coming up with really interesting jewellery - might take more time though,” she adds.
About the process of designing she says, “I either select the art first and then the handloom, sometimes I love the handloom and think what kind of art can be used on it.I select the artists painting, then study it a little to understand the elements and how it can be used. I read about the artist and art to emphasise, then go with the right kind of technique/medium that’s best with it. I,then get in touch with the craftsmen to come up with an amazing product.”
Shebelieves in collaboration than competition. She says, “I wish to work with more artists, weavers, and artisans to be a part of a greater community. I am still studying to explore more in Indian modern art, techniques and mediums.‘GoldenParrot’ will be available across major cities in India soon and want to make this Indian product international too.”