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June 27, 1997


Mix 'n' match, this season
Bian Lobo

Krishna Mehta, the menswear designer, right?

Krishna Mehta creations But, of course. After all, Mehta was one of the pioneers of ethnic and casual menswear in India. Later, she even branched out into designing ethnic clothes for women. She had just about created a niche for herself, and we were just about getting used to her image, when she struck once again with the unexpected.

Unlike the past, when full length mirrors reflected richly embroidered, ethnic wear for women, the year-old Krishna Mehta store now witnesses a whole new line... western wear for women.

Designing clothes, for Mehta, has been something of a cakewalk. "I married into the Mehta family -- they are one of the largest garment exporters in the country. So it was much easier for me to make a headway in the industry," she says. That was 15 years ago.

"I was not sure how people would take to my collection of western wear, because they are so used to connecting me with ethnic wear," smiles Mehta. "The general reaction was positive, but I did manage to surprise a lot of people."

Mehta's latest collection is eminently wearable. She has also moved away from white, the predominant colour for the season, and played with shades of brown, maroon, peach, blue and green. Trousers, jackets, skirts and long sleeved blouses, shaped to "suit the Indian figure", are the highlights of her collection.

Krishna Mehta
Krishna Mehta
While her use of fabrics varied from linen and rayon to crepe and lycra, Mehta's designs appeared a touch repetitive. Her suits, in pale shades of caramel cream to light green and contrasts of navy blue, were undoubtedly the best part of her collection. They fell elegantly and were extremely receptive to mix 'n' match. "The idea is, someone who buys my clothes does not have to use them as a set. All items are priced separately so that, if you want only one piece, you can buy just that," says Mehta.

In the process of living up to the concept of mix 'n' match, she combines self-coloured skirts and trousers with printed blouses. Mehta does not seclude the vibrancy of youth -- a small part of her collection is devoted to T-shirts in loud shades of green and brightly checked trousers.

But, while the color schemes are soft and feminine, the cuts and stitching were not upto the normal Mehta mark. A couple of suits seemed torn; closer inspection, though, revealed the gaps to be badly stitched buttonholes. The crepe material of the shirt blouses tended to pull at the stitching, making the garment look shabby despite the smart design.

A Krishna Mehta creation When it came to prices, a full sleeved blouse could cost anything between Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,600, "It depends on the fabric," says Mehta. "Since I specially import them from Hong Kong, the cost differs." So a pair of trousers ranged from Rs 2,500 to Rs 3,000. The prints were more costly than the self-coloured clothes -- a printed maroon blouse was priced at Rs 3,040.

Yet, Mehta appeals to the fashion-conscious buyer. According to her staff, she recorded 50 per cent sales on the first day itself. The store was crawling with enthusiastic customers, who had no qualms about prices in their eagerness to own a Mehta label. "It's quite unusual," said Mithi Chinoy, a regular at designer fashion stores.

A Krishna Mehta creation Reeta, a Mehta staffer, claims that most customers feel the prices are reasonable. Which was not hard to believe, considering even college students were walking away with Mehta garments. The location, however, was a major contributing factor towards the success of the collection. Many of the curious residents of the Napean Sea area soon became customers.

"God has been kind to me," avows Mehta. "This was an enjoyable experience -- right from designing to selecting fabrics to checking the cut to seeing the finished product. I think I will continue designing for women."

As to her favourite garment of the collection? "But they are all my favourites," she says. "That's why I designed them."

Page design: Sumit Patel
Krishna Mehta's photograph: Jewella Miranda

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