I am currently working on a number of investigative fashion features as part of my dissertation, looking into the fashion – recession relationship. After working at London Fashion Week in 2008 I got back in contact with designer Jatin Patel – Kalikas Armour to talk about his new collections and how high-end fashion has been affected by the recession.
How did you get involved in fashion?
I kind of fell into it during my foundation course, because I was going to go into graphic design. I had a place at Westminster, so I went on my foundation thinking I have already got my place so I can use this as a sort of experimental stage. I came across this fashion module and really fell in love with it, and my tutors were like go and do this, so I got really inspired by it then.
What would you consider as your big break?
OnOff was the first real opportunity to take the label to a bigger audience, and to be selected as one of their 22 designers was special, I was acknowledged and taken seriously.
What do you do between exhibitions and catwalk shows?
We are doing a lot of bespoke at the moment, bridal and made to measure; we have just started doing a lot more men’s wear as well. I also do special lecturing and work in school’s doing creative projects.
Where do you get your inspiration from for your designs?
Probably anything and everything really, I like to use a lot of theoretical concepts, the art of dressing, semiotics, but then also looking at architecture. Sometimes it is starting with materials and then using the format of the materials to create the shape of the garment, or it is fabric manipulation of fabric techniques and being creative with the garments.
What do you want women/ men to feel like when they wear your clothes?
A lot of inspiration comes from the masculine dress, but you obviously have to feel good. I try to give them a sense of confidence and a sense of power, not power of rage or anything but to really build on their confidence so they feel good in what they are wearing, because if you look good you are going to feel good. The garments are beautiful on the inside as well as the outside, the linings and materials we use are all silk, you feel glamorous and you feel good. Quite a lot of our pieces are statement pieces.
Would you prefer your clothes to stand out or follow traditional trends?
Absolutely stand out, almost like those timeless classics in a way.
Where would you like your customers to wear your clothes, the workplace or out in the evening?
Mostly out in the evening, and perhaps at events but then there are things that the right women could wear to work, but that depends on where they work really. I mean somebody working in the office could easily wear the tailored shirts under the blazers, and then you could either dress it up or dress it down depending on where you have to go.
Where can you get hold of your clothes?
Through the website, and then by appointment at the studio.
Are you working on any interesting new designs?
We are part of the major midway product project in Kent at the moment, and they asked us to put a proposal in to create a product that was diverse but yet still retained our core brand values and our core identity and technique. They then match you up to a manufacturer to get you into the market place, and we have made good luck ganesh bears. We are doing them in leather which has been embossed with an undertone of gold, they are good luck bears but they still have the key techniques and core values of the brand, we are just diversifying into a different market.
Any interesting upcoming shows or exhibitions?
I am looking forward to the September fashion week, we especially want to try to do a trade show in Paris but you need a London presence so maybe if we do a show with OnOff or Vauxhall and then do a proper trade show in Paris.
How did London fashion week go for you last week?
We didn’t show in the end, mainly because of financial restraints, so we just decided to concentrate on September and really give our show a bigger collection instead of do everything too quick too soon.
How did you come up with the name for your brand?
Kalika is a Hindu goddess, and she represents power and protection. On the one hand she is represented as the real strength and aggression of womanhood but she is also the mother goddess as well. You have the whole concept of women who really want to portray themselves as really powerful and in control but also feminine on the other hand.
Do you think the next year is looking quite promising for you?
Do you experiment with different designs and colours?
A lot of it is trial and error, you have the period once you have done the research and you know which sorts of colours and fabrics you want to work with, but I like manipulating fabrics and adding detail. You just have to try different things and see which ones are successful.
Do you think the recession has directly affected the fashion industry, has it affected your designs and the fabrics you have used?
Yes definitely. We didn’t get as many bankers and clients at big Christmas events, and others wanted us to rework the things that we had made or just add accessories in terms of making little jackets to cover up things, or shorten evening dresses, and add less detailing.
Did you cut back during the recession or accommodate your designs around consumers who maybe on a budget?
You used to have people who would normally show their wealth off with what they wear who became more cautious, it became unfashionable to show your wealth.
How do you feel personal aesthetics and appearances played in people shopping during the recession?
I feel that there is that group in society who still spent and still invested but where very careful in what they invested in, and it then became a real thing about quality over quantity. I think the big brands and established fashion houses did really well there because they still had their loyal following. So you have the market before where people were experimental or willing to buy into newer brands, but it stopped, and there was a bit of a pause and people kept to buying into their Gucci or their Burberrys.
Has the situation improved over the last few months?
I think people are a lot more confident and willing to experiment again. The women who buy into this fashion lifestyle are looking for the next big thing and to support and nurture new labels.
Have we moved into a slow fashion era instead of a fast fashion era?
The clients who shop in your higher end are not going to go into Primark even though there is a recession on. I think the high street used to be considered as a real bane on high fashion, and it is interesting how over the last five – six years designers have kind of realised that high street is where the money is. If you can’t beat them lets join them. The production capabilities of the high street are far beyond some of the other fashion houses, and if you see something on the catwalk in a couple of weeks it will be out on the high street. So instead of letting them do that I think a lot of designers have been clever enough to now work with the high street so at least they are getting a slice of the action.
Which shop do you consider the most successful during this time?
It is quite difficult really in terms of high street but I would still say Topshop. Topshop just excels, whether you like it or you don’t, again with their marketing and with their accessibility and their production capabilities it is very hard to walk into Topshop and not come out without anything. There is something for everyone in there, I think everyone there is a genius.
For more information please visit http://kalikasarmour.com/