Weekend with Cotton Rack

It’s the time to buy new clothes for the new season.
Cotton/Khadi in soothing color would be my pick for the summer of New Delhi.

I was in Jaipur last month for Literature festival and to visit my friends who are behind the label ‘Cotton Rack‘.

Cotton Rack is all about Khadi fabric.
They have a small team, which includes
Vinayak Sharma : Gentleman with great sense of humor and brilliance,
Rameshwari  Kaul : Humble and a small packet of bigger ideas,
Mohan : Shy man who is their main tailor.

They have a cozy rented space from where they operate.
I got the chance to visit Cotton Rack‘s office to understand their way of working.

I had a long discussion with them and here I am introducing Cotton Rack, as today’s Inspiring Talent.

Antima Khanna : AK | Vinayak Sharma : VS | Rameshwari Kaul : RK

AK : Tell me something about yourself and your brand.

RK: This question reminded us of the first job interview and the arduous task of introducing ourselves in best words possible in a small time frame. So we decided to make it fun and answer it for the other person. Vinayak is the guy who makes Cotton Rack work. He is always on his heels making sure things get done just in time. The state of his well-kept beard is an indication of how even in desperate times, a guy will never let his beard go haywire (a perfect example of maintaining calm when everything threatens to go wrong). I sometimes feel happy about the otherwise sad fact that his brilliant ideas were always under looked in his previous company, making him resign from his position. And thus I got lucky in landing up with a perfect co-founder!

VK: Seems it’s my turn to write something about Rameshwari. Well she’s a Virgo which explains it all! She loves to maintain order & hygiene in her workplace as well as her designs. The best part is that with her experience that she got while working with weaving clusters & a big ethnic retail brand, she knows how to handle the task of building practical & commercial collections while at the same time make sure that the craft itself gets benefited.

Cotton Rack women’s wear is the first in line of efforts towards building up a premium Khadi lifestyle brand. We believe that a garment should be designed in such a way that enhances a personality and not shadows it. We at Cotton Rack are proud of what we do, because we not only get to add value to fabric, but to the lives of people who weave it, who wear it and to the environment we live in. And that is a great feeling to work with!

AK : What is your earliest fashion memory?

RK : I remember draping my mother’s khadi silk sari as an off-shoulder gown. I was 12 then. I eventually got that sari stitched into a dress when I was in college.

VS: I very vaguely remember breaking the only dressing table that we’ve ever had in our house while trying out my mom’s eyeliner. I somehow managed to stick the eyeliner in-between the mirror & the frame and while trying to take it out bringing the entire thing on my head. I was unhurt & I was 11.

AK: Can you share with us your thoughts on Garment designing?

RK: Apart from the technical aspect, garment design, just like fashion is a method of self-expression. Some like it elaborate whilst some keep it simple.

AK: For instance, where does your inspiration come from?

VS: Our inspirations comes from everywhere, our everyday lives and the objects around us. Inspiration is everywhere. All we do is channel those inspirations in a way that builds up our brand in a warm & hearty way.

AK: What excites you about fashion?

RK: Fashion is a very dynamic entity. It has the power to enhance or gobble a person. While the latter is a scary prospect, it is always interesting to see how the most powerful of the people wear simplest of clothes and yet it exudes humility rather than noise. And this is what we believe is exciting about fashion. It can either be a part of the personality or overshadow it completely. The line is very thin and very interesting to play with.

VS: To me it’s like a paradox. You see a bunch of people wearing same outfits and relate them to an institution or to conformity while striking it out of the fashion stream, screaming that fashion is about standing out of the crowd. While, at the same time, you follow the latest trends just like everyone else around you, which is a kind of conformity. Fashion is an institute that condemns instutionalization and continuously does the same to stay alive & relevant. That’s what intrigues me!
I hope I made some sense. :-P.

AK: In terms of your label, Cotton Rack, can you share some insights on how you go from an initial idea to a collection i.e. your process, materials, team/collaborators?

RK: We would love to go by the book, where we first plan a story, draw sketches and then source the fabric.  However that is not the case with Cotton Rack. We are the happy-go-lucky type (trying to be humorous). Our circle begins with sourcing the fabric, then creating a story around it and then making sketches based on both. Though we are trying to stream the process by collaborating with the weavers, we still have a long way to go. Until then, just like gypsies, we will keep picking up best of the stories from remote areas and bring it out for our beloved customers.

VS: I tend to like the way we are working currently. Apparels in a collection that is designed the traditional way looks all similar. I think our way of working brings in more flavour.

AK: Do you think your style is tied to or belongs to a distinct location, or can it be received globally?

RK: We would like to believe that our designs are global but we know they are rooted in our ethnic design sensibility. We are aiming for a balance where we can call our designs glocal.

AK: Do you think that women are a little bit tired of the fashion cycle and that maybe they just want simple pieces for their daily lives?

RK: We agree that there are people who give priority to comfort and self-expression than following pre-determined fashion cycle. And interestingly the number of such people is at rise. This points to the growing trend of self-sufficiency and minimalism. People want a break from noise, both in terms of design and lifestyle.  And interestingly this echoes the philosophy of Khadi.

AK: Is there a big difference between your personal style and the look of a woman who you are representing in your collections?

VS: I think no matter how radical designs you make and who you make them for, you always put in a bit of yourself in there. It happens quite often that Rameshwari sees a finished product and goes like- Oh wow! I want one.

AK: What role does knitwear play in your work?

RK: Knitwear is something that is always in the back of our minds. You can’t create an entire wardrobe without involving knits. We are working towards it, should see something in coming times. 😉

AK: There are designers who sketch and then there are designers who can sew and construct. What do you do best?

RK: Both! Though we sketch our designs, we usually end up improvising them while they are under construction.

VS: It’s a game of planning & implementation. At end it’s all about a good end product.

AK: How is your experience in working with Khadi? 

RK: Khadis are beautiful fabrics to work with, they are like all-rounders, you can always find the right version of Khadi for the occasion. Regarding treating them, there are always some minor glitches since it’s handmade, but in our personal use we rough them up till it tears apart, and Khadi takes a lot of time in coming apart.
Our usage funda is simple- Wear untill it tears!

AK: After working with names like Raymond and Fab India, how do you feel with having your own brand? How is it different than any other fashion brand?

VS: The biggest advantage I guess we have coming from big brand names is the understanding of importance of branding and brand creation. It’s not just about designs & collections but also about what your brand wants to be… as a person. It is definitely a great feeling, like nurturing a baby with great care and learning things on the way.

Regarding the difference from the competition. For one, Cotton Rack avoids the fads and specifically looks out trends which are more classical and longer lasting. We totally avoid doing anything just because it’s “in trend” and will “sell good”.
At Cotton Rack we also take a great care while pricing the products for customers as well as from the backend point of view and so a good share goes to the makers too. At the end of the day we want to be a brand with great warmth towards the customers, products & producers.

AK: If your designs had one united voice, what would you say?

RK: Simplicity is ultimate form of sophistication

AK: What questions are you answering with your work?

RK: We all want to do something meaningful in our lives. We are trying to make Khadi get its right place. Simply because that would be meaningful. That would be meaningful for the society, the artisans, our lives & our environment. It would be meaningful to uplift all of humanity simply by helping Khadi gain prominence.

AK: Where do you see yourself going from here? What do you want to accomplish? How is your style evolving?

VS: There’s long way to go. We are still in our infancy. If Cotton Rack was a human child, it’s still a day old.
A lot is on platter. A lot more needs to be explored and worked on. We are working towards building up a sustainable business with an honest intent to help humanity as a whole. Design wise too we are evolving day by day. The more we design the more we understand the craft and our consumers and their needs. At the end of the day we want to be remembered as good hearted folks (personally as well as brand-wise) who are always around to help. 🙂

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Recently, at Design X Design event, New Delhi

Cotton Rack is currently retailing through :
JAYPORE | TADPOLE STORE | NEEMRANA SHOP, Khan Market, New Delhi | EITHER OR, Pune | INDIA AUGUST, Noida | TEATRO DHORA, Jaipur | WHITE BRICK WALL, Goa 

For the latest updates about the collections you can follow them on,
Facebook | TwitterInstagram | Pinterest

You can buy their old and new designs below:
https://goo.gl/XbqFUJ
https://goo.gl/ES9U2g
https://goo.gl/wi7aGM
 
They are coming out with their latest collection in April, 2016.

Content, All rights reserved
Antima Khanna ©

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