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Putting A Glamorous Spin On Desi Weaves

By ANITA AIKARA
April 21, 2022 11:24 IST
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Ujjwal Dubey is a man of few words, who believes in letting his silhouettes speak its own language.

His designs are meant to challenge the norms of how men (and women) should dress, and that has earned him the reputation as one of India's most exciting designers.

Born in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, Ujjwal studied at the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) in Kolkata, worked for 3.5 years at a prominent design label, and later branched out on his own under the GenNext category at Lakme Fashion Week in 2014.

His brand Antar-Agni has been defying fashion's gendered archetypes, creating gender fluid, androgynous silhouettes.

With his garments, Ujjwal is making people rethink everyday clothing.

IMAGE: Ujjwal's clothes have been worn by celebs like Kamal Haasan.
All photographs: Antar-Agni/Instagram

His latest collection for FDCI X Lakme Fashion Week in collaboration with Adidas was all about embarking into an unexplored land of evolution.

For the collection, which showcased bold juxtapositions with a sense of tremendous change, he was inspired by the moth.

Unlike his previous collections, where he played around with black, white, off-white, grey and other neutral shades, this collection had bold, vibrant colours.

"I was very excited with the use of colour play. I hope to bring in a new language to Antar Agni that people can resonate with," Ujjwal says adding that it took six months to put together the FDCI x LFW collection.

Continuing his love affair with drapes and layering, his neatly layered silhouettes featured "graphical surface work and softer cuts that struck a direct cord with the iconic shapes and ease."

"You'll see a subtle play of graphic embroideries blended with the abstract placement of layers and patterns."

"A wave of transition unfolds as these elements of design transform," he explains.

IMAGE: Going by the reception to his FDCI x LFW presentation, Ujjwal is one designer to watch and wear in 2022.
The designer with Shruti Haasan, showstopper for the Adidas Original x Antar-Agni's collection. 

Ujjwal doesn't believe in putting labels on what he makes.

"At Antar-Agni, we try to create a balance of minimalist and maximalist aesthetics.

"For example, our fabric is always minimalist and does the talking. Our play with maximalist silhouettes does the opposite."

Fascinated by architecture and with a strong belief in naturalism, Ujjwal likes to treat his fabric like raw materials with their own character and nature.

His silhouettes balance the contradictions of structure versus flow, natural forms versus tailored asymmetry and gender.

A 'post-new age X naturalist', Ujjwal won the regional round of the prestigious Woolmark Prize in the Asia category.

A recipient of the Elle Graduate Award in 2016, he was also named in the 30 Under 30 list by Forbes magazine in 2017.

IMAGE: Antar Agni's designs are based on a restless curiosity to explore human nature through aesthetics and clothing.
There is a story behind this look, above. Antar-Agni's weaver, Usmanji, a carpet weaver from Meerut took up the challenge back in 2015 and created this jacket fabric with zari insertions.
The fabric ended up being worn by one of Ujjwal's favourite actors Ranbir Kapoor.

Ujjwal draws his inspiration from his motherland. "India has always been a big source of inspiration to me.

"Every part of our country has a certain fabric and weave that is uniquely its own."

The pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns made the designer question his existing priorities.

"This has been true for the whole of humanity -- to question the set norms.

"It was a period of self-reflection that has led me to de-clutter my mind and has in a way liberated me as well."

His FDCI x LFW collection is the reflection of that very liberation. "And the moth is a perfect symbol for that," he says.

IMAGE: Ujjwal has been making essential clothing like jackets, coats, trousers and ethnic wear classy and chic.

The designer has some advice for us. "Focus on being you.

"Stay as close to who you are in the way you present yourself and that extends to your clothes and accessories.

"Honestly, the more comfortable you are, the better you'll look."

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ANITA AIKARA / Rediff.com