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India's GenNext designers to fight it out in fashion!

Last updated on: July 26, 2012 18:00 IST

Divya Nair

Right from debating a career in fashion to carving a niche for themselves in this fiercely competitive industry, each of these designers has a story to tell and a lesson to share. We introduce you to 10 newbies who will be showcasing their talent for the first time at Lakme Fashion Week's GenNext showing this August.

That Lakme Fashion Week is one of the most widely celebrated fashion events in the country is a given.

That scores of models and designers, both aspiring and established, participate in the showings each season is also common knowledge.

But the one thing that's truly unique and laudable about Lakme Fashion Week is its GenNext show. Best defined by its title, it's a welcoming platform of sorts, and presents the work of young upcoming designers from different parts of the country to the who's who of the fashion industry.

Each season, as the shows get bigger and better, the GenNext participants, most of whom display their collections for the first time, share the exclusive privilege of opening Lakme Fashion Week.

They look upon this opportunity as providing a fresh start to their careers, particularly those who have struggled with rejection due to lack of experience. A sense of recognition, a word of encouragement at this stage can go a long way in realising their dreams.

With just a couple of weeks left before these youngsters finally get to see their years of hard work and ideas enjoy a few minutes in the limelight, the residual feeling is one of nervousness and exhilaration, of the bigger and better things that they hope lie in store for them.

In the following pages, we speak to the 10 aspiring designers who will participate in Lakme's GenNext showing this season. These are their experiences, struggling against the odds and chasing a dream that many aspire to, a few chase and a handful conquer.

Please click NEXT to continue reading...

'I chopped up Granny's kerchiefs and Mom's scarves to drape them on headless Barbies'

Image: Aniket Satam (inset) and a creation from his collection Aarambh

Born into a conventional Indian family which considered a steady career the ultimate achievement, Aniket Satam, 25, struggled with science and media for a long time, unable to find his place in either field.

With the absence of a mentor in his life, he tried his best to please his family by choosing a profession that he believed would make them happy and proud of him.

Years later, when he experienced dormancy in his career thanks to a humdrum job, he knew that he had to make a decision he would not regret again. And when he finally chose to pursue fashion, he saw himself confronting a nucleus of ideas buried within that were waiting to erupt.

In his final year of design at the BD Somani Institute of Art and Technology, Mumbai, he bagged two titles at the college's annual Silhouette 2009 event -- the CMAI (Clothing Manufacturers Association of India) Star Designer of the Year and Best Fashion Designer awards, which gave him the much-needed courage and conviction that he was finally on the right track.

After a successful run of couture showings, Aniket found lady luck smiling upon him when celebrities like actress Amrita Rao and Miss Earth 2010 Nicole Faria donned his ensembles.

Before launching his label Aniket in the fall of 2011, however, he ensured that he dabbled in multiple roles at a leading designer's studio as the creative director and communications consultant to gain relevant experience.

What inspired you to become a fashion designer?

I was born into a typical Indian family, where the ultimate aim was to either become a doctor or an engineer. So it was a long way to conquering my latent ambition. If you browse through any of my art journals from school, you will find only women dressed in fancy outfits, irrespective of the topic provided for sketching.

I chopped up Granny's kerchiefs and Mom's scarves to drape them on headless Barbies and stapled the seams to create the perfect fit.

I always wanted to create things, so I thought translating my vision into fashion would provide wearers an opportunity to enter my imaginative world and be part of it.

Describe what it means to be part of GenNext at the LFW and what you hope to accomplish by it.

Participating in Lakme's GenNext means reaching a benchmark in a career I've so fondly selected, so much later in life. And it's a matter of great delight to be associated with India's fashion equivalent of the Kumbh Mela.

I hope to establish a strong sense of brand identity and most importantly, to have orders flowing in for me at the end of the day. It's an amazing platform to interact with the who's who of the fashion and media world. To be part of the event which I worked so hard toward and the resulting sense of achievement are both overwhelming.

How did Lakme GenNext happen? How long have you been trying to get here?

I debuted my label at Hong Kong Fashion Week 2012 in February and later got busy with an array of corporate and industrial freelance projects like designing sportswear for Attiva, textile development for Netflex and developing a pret line for SOIE, a high street label.

I had applied to Lakme before, but it did not work out. This year, I was so caught up with work that I only had a few days left to prepare for their Winter/Festive entry. I simply crossed my fingers and hoped it would click this time.

I think, when you don't get all worked up about something, you create stuff that comes naturally from the heart. And eventually, you emerge a winner. And that's exactly what happened to me this time around.

Who inspires you?

My own label is born out of personal expression and experiences. The philosophy that rules my designs is faction, ie an assimilation of fact and fiction, which is what makes it unique yet believable.

My inspiration comes from my hobby of scrap-booking. The montages of imagery often help me fabricate a whole new world, from which my muse emerges.

Besides that, Raju Bhatia, the head of department from my design school encouraged me to excel and explore the best in me.

What influences your styles and designs? Is there any particular fashion era that influences your work?

Like a true Aquarian, I oscillate in mood instantly and dwell in this self-crafted universe of mine. And all design ideas and style lines celebrate that fictitious muse which I create for a particular mood.

I think the exoticism of (philosophy and style of art) Art Noveau and refined fearlessness of Art Deco have influenced me time to time.

What can we expect from you at Lakme this year? Tell us about your inspiration for this season.

My collection is titled Aarambh (which translates as 'new beginning'). The seed of the collection was the thought that if the world ends in 2012, this will be the last fall collection ever. So it's like celebrating a clean slate and signals a fresh start. I envisioned my wearer like a piece of draft, with blank (read white) spaces, golden foil as hope and ink-splatters suggesting a scripted destiny.

The ivories and whites are injected with bright ink blues, cobalt and prussian blue with glimpse of gleaming gold -- matt and shiny. There is surface texturing in the form of tonal embellishments and the looks are layered in a more global avatar. The collection celebrates the neo-Indianess of well-travelled souls.

What are the highs and lows of a career as a young designer?

Because you are young, people are always expecting something new from you. Even if you have a clean slate to start with, you have the responsibility to lay the foundation stone of the many looks, offerings and shows to come. So the pressures are high.

Since I am a micro-management freak, doing everything on my own can be pretty exhausting and thrilling at the same time.

Who according to you is a fashion icon and why?

For me, an icon is someone who reflects a whole set of unique ideologies and not some sort of a fashion chameleon who keeps adapting and re-inventing his/her look.

In my opinion, it has to be (actress) Rekha, who has this pure, glistening fiery personality which is timeless, outspoken and embodies a ferocious sense of style, trend etc.

Internationally speaking, (interior designer and fashionista) Iris Apfel was and continues to be an icon in a truly eccentric way, before the blogger mania even hit the world.

Another favourite has to be Anna Dello Russo, editor and creative consultant of Vogue Japan, again for her creative dressing, which underlines her signature fashion imagery.

Who are your favourite designers and labels?

I have this affinity for designers with the quintessential Kolkata chromosome. On the Indian front, I would say Sabyasachi Mukherjee and Anamika Khanna are my favourites.

Internationally, I really miss the theatrics and opulence of John Galliano. And I love the simplicity of Marni and Dries Von Noten.

'I believe that my career will receive a boost post the show'

Image: Richa Aggarwal (inset) and a creation from her forthcoming collection

For this 27-year-old budding designer from Delhi, who won the Best Design Collection at NIFT, Bangalore in 2007, fashion was a stroke of luck -- or so she says.

Richa Aggarwal was studying science until Class XII, when she realised where her heart truly lies. And when she decided to give it a shot, she surprised everyone by cracking the undergraduate design entrance exam for the National Institute of Fashion Design without any formal preparation.

Post her graduation, Richa worked with Madura Garments Exports Ltd, Bangalore, for over two years, overlooking their mens and womenswear collections and gaining professional experience designing clothes and in marketing and product development. In 2010, she travelled to the United Kingdom to pursue her master's in womenswear from the Winchester School of Arts.

However, unlike her peers who stayed back in the country, Richa returned to India because she believes that the country's USP is its rich heritage of textiles and crafts, which needs to be explored.

She seeks inspiration from the eccentric lifestyle of slum-dwellers in the country -- the vibrant colours of the streets -- and today, its multitude of elements naturally finds its place in her designs.

What inspired you to become a fashion designer?

Fashion, for me, was a stroke of luck. I was always a studious kid, so I chose to pursue science in high school. When I chose to appear for the entrance exam at NIFT, I had no idea about the format of the paper. When I got selected, I was happy, but it wasn't a planned choice. Since I was good with my sketching and creative skills, that made it easier for me to switch to design after Class XII.

Describe what it means to be part of GenNext at the LFW and what you hope to accomplish by it.

To get into GenNext is an opportunity of a lifetime! It's a great platform to showcase my work and attract buyers from all the possible ends of the world. Besides, it will also be a great learning experience. Now that I have this opportunity, I no longer doubt my abilities, because I believe that my career will receive a boost post the show.

I am aiming to make an impression -- I want everyone to remember my collection and hope that they look forward to it season after season. Even if I don't do good business, it's more important to me that people recognise my work and appreciate it.

How did GenNext happen? How long have you been trying to get here?

This was the first time I tried for the GenNext category and luckily I got through. I have known about this platform for quite some time, but I was always busy with work and never managed to send in a collection for the entry.

This time, sending in my designs was on my priority list. Luckily, I had a line readied during my master's course in the UK, which proved apt for the show.

Who inspires you?

My parents are my biggest inspiration. They have sacrificed a lot in order for me reach where I am today. I come from a middle-class family, where studying fashion is not considered a great career move. But my parents always understood what I wanted and supported me throughout, in every possible way.

What influences your styles and designs? Is there any particular fashion era that influences your work?

My work is completely desi at its soul. My design philosophy revolves around India.

Modern yet traditional, complicated but wearable, diverse but united best describe my style. In my designs lies the colours and textures of the vibrant streets of India.

The fabrics and patterns are juxtaposed to recreate a multi-layered experience. Simple silhouettes coupled with hand-made surfaces create a traditional feel, as well as offer modern functionality.

What can we expect from you at Lakme this year? Tell us about your inspiration for this season.

My label is very young in terms of its designs and silhouettes, and every piece has a contemporary take on traditional Indian sensibilities. I would say it's a Fab India or Anokhi take for a younger audience. Maybe desi Zara (the high-street brand) would define it best. I have designed block-printed fabrics and created peasant blouses, choli-cut tops, jumpsuits inspired from sari drapes. The sensibility is completely desi, but it's styled internationally.

What are the highs and lows of a career as a young designer?

Each line of work has its own pros and cons. Being a designer also has its fair set of positives and 'not-so-positives'. The fact that one is able to create something new, and in the process of creation ends up learning so much is definitely a high!

In fashion, success is never the same and there is no set formula to make things work everytime. So one basically relies on instinct. I believe what differentiates a good designer from others is that s/he trusts his/her instincts and takes the risk.

There are also times when you want a garment made a certain way and have visualised it but for some reason, it doesn't turn out the way you wanted. At the same time, it is this subjective nature of fashion that makes it so exciting to pursue.

Who according to you is a fashion icon and why?

I believe a fashion icon is one who sets trends rather than follows them. I love Kiron Kher's sense of style. I also admire Anna Dello Russo.

Who are your favourite designers and labels?

I love Sabyasachi a lot! His work inspires me, which is why I love it. Each of his pieces speaks of his concept and I also love how he has used his skills to help revive ethnic crafts and utilise the skills of traditional craftsmen. India is so rich in textiles and handicrafts and he has truly been a godsend, saving them from dying out.

'It is challenging to market garments, because you are competing with established names'

Image: Asaboy Kazingmei (inset) and a sketch from his forthcoming collection, created with handwoven textiles by the Thangkhul Naga tribe

The only designer from the north-east to participate in the GenNext show this season, Asaboy Kazingmei, 28, is also one of the eldest.

Born in Ukhrul, Manipur, Asaboy decided long ago that he wanted to become a designer, occasionally conceptualising clothes for his family and friends.

The cultural beauty of his hometown and the Tangkhul, a Naga tribe, in particular, further coloured his passion to pursue textile and fashion designing.

After completing his graduation in design from the Inter National Institute of Fashion Design, Delhi, in 2008, Asaboy worked with designer duo Amber and Shirrin, learning more about personalising designs and patterns to suit audiences.

Asaboy is also a huge fan of pop icons Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson, admiring their personal experimentation and creativity, in addition to their musical abilities.

What inspired you to become a fashion designer?

As a youngster, I always reworked and restyled my clothes, never wearing them as they were. That's when I knew that someday I must start my own label.

Describe what it means to be part of GenNext at the LFW and what you hope to accomplish?

GenNext is a window to the bigger fashion world. The show will encourage my efforts and it's the experience of a lifetime. It's a first step towards launching myself as a designer.

How did Lakme GenNext happen? How long have you been trying here?

This is my first attempt, but my participation would have been impossible without the help and support of a few people from my institute.

They encouraged me to send in my collection and I got selected.

What influences your styles and designs? Is there any particular fashion era that influences your work?

I take inspiration from many things -- a particular situation, or a place that looks or feels interesting. It oscillates between martial arts, my rugged hometown, rockstars and spiritualism. There is no particular era that has influenced me so far.

What can we expect from you at Lakme this year? Tell us about your inspirations for this season?

You can expect the unexpected.

The theme of my collection is Immortal. As the name suggests, my collections will present the undying art form of our nation. The beauty and intricacy of hand-woven textiles from the north-east inspire me and my theme revolves around the mesmerising beauty of the region.

I tried to create a confluence of tradition and modernity. Immortal is a line where the silhouettes are simple, but very well structured. I have used traditional colours like red, black etc but the main feature of the line is the textiles of Thangkhul, a Naga tribe which are very rare to see. Their clothes are beautifully hand-woven with the traditional geometric and zoomorphic motifs.

What are the highs and lows of a career as a young designer?

The biggest advantage is that as a designer, you're not typecast into a particular category and you are free to experiment. The tough part is that you have to work really hard to become known and appreciated. It is challenging to market garments designed by young designers, because you are competing with established names. You have to be really good to make a mark.

Who according to you is a fashion icon and why?

Lady Gaga, because of her courage to experiment in both music and her way of life.

Who are your favourite designers and labels?

I love the label Diesel, because their stuff is original.

Your favourite quote?

Well done is better than well said: Benjamin Franklin.

'Everything in life burns and ends in ashes'

Image: Kavita Sharma

As a young girl, Kavita Sharma enjoyed watching fashion shows on television.

As she grew up in Chandigarh, she came to enjoy the simplest aspects of city life -- from the telephone booth, to the ice cream parlour and the zebra crossing -- that soon became memories of her childhood, which she kept revisiting.

A graduate from the International Institute of Fashion Design (IIFD), Chandigarh, this 22-year-old is grateful to her parents, who she says helped her pursue her dream.

Today, as she prepares herself for the GenNext show, she is nervous and excited about her first-ever collection. Titled 'It's a Beautiful Life', Kavita says it will document some prized memories from her childhood.

What inspired you to become a fashion designer?

Watching fashion shows as a child certainly inspired me. However, it was only after completing Class XII that I became so sure of pursuing it as a career.

As an aspiring designer who had no role models, my training at IIFD for a degree in fashion gave me just the right amount of knowledge and experience to start with. And now, with the GenNext opportunity, I can finally see my dreams coming true.

Describe what it means to be part of GenNext at the LFW and what you hope to accomplish by it.

I am really looking forward to it. I am thankful to the jury members for giving me this opportunity to showcase my talent. As a beginner, it will launch me in the right direction to become part of the fashion industry. Since this is my first big show, I am working very hard on it. I hope my artwork, my designs and my talent come out with flying colours and are liked by one and all.

How did Lakme GenNext happen? How long have you been trying to get here?

I sent them two garments from my collection and a file with illustrations of designs. This was my first-ever attempt in this category and it's going to be a big break for me.

Who inspires you?

My mom and dad are my biggest inspiration. It is only because of their support and blessings that I have managed to come this far.

What influences your styles and designs? Is there any particular fashion era that influences your work?

There is no particular fashion era that influences my work. In fact, my carefree, independent life influences my styles and designs. I strongly believe that there should be no boundaries when it comes to your career -- efforts made sans boundaries and limits always turn out excellently. You will know what I mean when you see my collection on the ramp.

What can we expect from you at Lakme this year? Tell us about your inspiration for this season.

You can expect some very exclusive and innovative designs that you have never seen before. The theme of my collection -- It's a Beautiful Life -- is inspired by my realisation of the fact that life is like smoke and the concept that everything burns and ends in ashes.

During my growing up years, I observed the beautiful surroundings, the lifestyle of the city's masses and made a mental note of them, but never expressed or shared my feelings or memories with anyone. I wanted to put everything together, in a collection that would be the mouthpiece of whatever I've seen and experienced all these years. My collection comprises a semi-formal range of elegant garments, which will revisit those memories.

What are the highs and lows of a career as a young designer?

As a young designer, you have to constantly prove your talent to various people. You are treated like a student and are made to feel helpless due to the lack of good contacts. Unlike established designers, you don't have mastery or a knack for professionalism, which works to your disadvantage. Despite the odds stacked against you, you need to be focused and make independent decisions, which can be difficult for some, especially if you are young and don't have the right people to guide you.

You also need to struggle a lot at each level, and face new challenges every day. The only good part of this whole process is that you learn a lot of things.

Looking back to where I've come from, I have learnt that highs and lows are an inevitable part of life. And today, with the GenNext show on my side, I am beginning to forget all the challenging situations I underwent as a young designer.

Who according to you is a fashion icon and why?

To me, Sonam Kapoor is a fashion icon. She understands fashion very well, the proof of which is evident in her choice of clothes. The best part is she can carry them off in style, which defines a true fashionista.

Who are your favourite designers and labels?

I don't have a personal favourite when it comes to designers, because I feel that each one has created a niche through his/her work, which deserves to be appreciated.

Your favourite quote

All things are difficult before they are easy: Dr Thomas Fuller

'I feel like clothes usually say all that I have inside my head'

Image: Astha Sethi and Sidharth Arora (inset) and a creation from their forthcoming collection

For this designer duo from Delhi, clothes are a medium of communication and designing them, an outlet to express their creativity.

They were both about 18 years of age when they decided to take up fashion as a serious vocation together. Even though most people they knew considered fashion an alternate career, they believed that it one best-suited to the courageous, the planners and the doers.

With this thought, Sidharth Arora attended the College of Art, Delhi while Astha Sethi graduated from the Pearl Academy of Fashion, Delhi.

Post their graduation, they worked for two years with prominent labels, alongside creating their own -- ANS. The twosome then went on to win Best Illustrator Award for the book Media Plays, an honour they received from former president APJ Abdul Kalam.

With the GenNext show, Sidharth and Astha aim to bring a spark to their careers with a collection that is simple in form, yet different in appeal.

What inspired you to become a fashion designer?

Sidharth: A designer always needs a medium or canvas to express himself/herself. I chose fashion.

Astha: I always felt the urge to express my views to the world. I feel like clothes usually say all that I have inside my head. In fact, I started the label with the sole purpose of expressing what I believe.

Describe what it means to be part of GenNext at the LFW and what you hope to accomplish by it.

Astha: GenNext has turned my dream to become a designer into a reality. It is a unique platform provided by Lakme that nurtures young talent, which indeed means a lot to aspiring designers like us. The show helps us dream big and become more courageous.

Sidharth: I see it as a great opportunity to showcase our work and abilities to different audiences.

How did Lakme GenNext happen? How long have you been trying to get here?

Sidharth: This opportunity presented itself to us when we were 100 per cent ready for it, and experienced enough to work on it. Though we did try for it before, I think it was the timing.

Astha: There is a beautiful saying to the effect that it's hard to wait around for something you know may never happen, but it's harder to give up on when it's everything you want. This totally describes how eager we were to make it.

At the same time, there are no shortcuts and neither did I look in for one. I had to take a few steps to reach where I am now. It's like beginning a new tradition in the family.

Who inspires you?

Astha: I haven't lived too long to define my biggest inspiration. My inspiration happens to change everyday, every minute, from situation to situation, just like life itself. But my biggest strength is my parents -- they are my support system.

Sidharth: Ditto for me. My family is the major driving force in my life.

What influences your style and designs? Is there any particular fashion era that influences your work?

Astha: Frankly, I always thought that as young designers, we have the capacity to influence the next generation with our work. Yet, there are some styles or eras that you love looking back to. I personally love vintage clothing and the Baroque era for its flamboyance.

Sidharth: Our designs are minimalist. We like geometric shapes and often play with solid and bright primary colours.

What can we expect from you at Lakme this year? Tell us about your inspiration for this season.

Astha: The source of inspiration for our forthcoming collection was a dream that epitomised the things that we adored as children, but left behind as we moved on. The story we have developed is the relationship between the prey and the predator -- playing on their interaction, behaviour and balance -- where our vision is to create garments that take one beyond the inspiration through material exploration, which in this case is fabric.

Sidharth: The collection is a conversation between quirkiness and androgyny, which is created by juxtaposing various elements like colour, structure, pleats and most importantly, splicing of garments.

What are the highs and lows of a career as a young designer?

Astha: The best thing about being a young designer is that you are very warmly welcomed by the industry, because you are new. As an aspiring designer, you have the opportunity to set your own standards and break free as there is nothing for you to lose. But at the same time, it brings a lot of nervousness and apprehensions, as you do not have as much experience as the established designers.

Sidharth: Working as a young designer has a lot of challenges. For instance, I am the creative/designer head, the managing director, pattern master, production manager, seamstress, accountant, runner, QC guy, driver, store manager, salesboy and also the delivery guy! Everyday, I find new roles to play.

Who according to you is a fashion icon and why?

Astha: My fashion icon is Karl Lagerfield. He is a man who has all that I think a fashion icon should possess. A firm believer in what he does, he has the potential to influence younger generations. With an extremely strong and individualistic personality, he is a true trendsetter.

Sidharth: For me, it would have to be someone who has an individualistic style, and does not give in to something that is defined from season to season. Instead, she should find her own way of putting things together, which influences the world. Women like Grace Kelly and Princess Diana define that persona.

Who are your favourite designers and labels?

Sidharth: I love the works of Alexander McQueen, Valentino, Viktor and Rolf, Rohit Bal and many more. I like them in particular because I can relate to their aesthetics .

Astha: There are too many. From among the labels I like Lanvin and Valentino and among designers, I like Alexander McQueen, Rohit Bal, Manish Arora, Atsu Sekhose and Thierry Mugler to name a few.

Your favourite quote:

Astha: A ship in harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for: John Augustus Shedd

Sidharth: Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say and not giving a damn!: Gore Vidal

'The inspiration behind our collection is the movie Avatar'

Image: Ankit Sharma, Kanika Seth and Mehek Pruthi (inset) and a sketch from their forthcoming collection

Kanika Seth, Ankit Sharma and Mehek Pruthi first met each other at the Pearl Academy of Fashion, Delhi, where they became inseperable as friends.

After their final year exams, the three friends feared that they would go their separate ways after completing college and in time lose touch. Even when applying for jobs, they hoped and prayed that they would work together in the same firm.

Then one fine day, they decided: If we really enjoy each other's company and want to be together, why not start our own label?

The idea took shape in June 2012, when their collective entry was chosen by Lakme for the GenNext show. That's how their label 'Threesome' was founded, barely a week after they'd graduated from college.

For Ankit and Kanika, who'd won the Special Jury Award and Best Designed Collection Award back in college, the GenNext show came as a 'pleasant surprise'. But with it also came responsibilities.

The 22-year-olds, who only had a few months of internship experience to their credit, faced challenges almost every day. Since they are young, the worksmiths would not take their instructions seriously, sometimes even delaying their work. They met people who took them for a ride, quoting higher prices for the fabrics and artwork.

However, in the last two months, they've learnt the tricks of the trade and grown to be more confident and fearless in their approach. With their first collection ready for the show, they believe that their ideas have the strength to take the world by surprise.

What inspired you to become a fashion designer?

Kanika Seth: I've always wanted to experience the eccentricity and vibrancy of the design world. I wanted to revel in it, so that I could give back to the industry what I have learnt so far. I feel that design is a form of expression and the best way to share it is by either wearing it yourself ,or designing it so that others can.

Ankit Sharma: The thought that we were ready to open up to an industry with a strong sense of aesthetics and versatility inspired me to become a designer.

Mehek Pruthi: At design school, we realised that we shared the same passion for design, which prompted us to start the label. The mutual understanding and ability to work together as a team helped. Besides, when the three of us are together, work seems much easier and fun.

Describe what it means to be part of GenNext at the LFW and what you hope to accomplish by it.

Kanika: GenNext is a turning point in our careers. We are hoping to enjoy and savour being among the best of the fashion fraternity, if nothing else.

Ankit: GenNext is a strong platform for us to showcase our personal vision of fashion. We hope to gain acceptability from our audience.

Mehek: GenNext is an opportunity that very few young designers get. I am looking forward to being part of this amazing event and want to try and accomplish a place for our brand.

How did Lakme GenNext happen? How long have you been trying to get here?

Kanika: Lakme GenNext came as a surprise to us. We were just out of college and this was our first attempt. In fact, it's been well over a month since we got the news and the idea that we've gotten through to the show has still not completely set in.

Ankit: As a young designer, I feel extremely lucky to have gotten in at the first try.

Who inspires you?

Kanika: My biggest and only inspiration has and always will be my mother. She has made me who I am today.

Ankit: My inspiration comes from my aim to continuously channelise my energies into various things. I want to wake up each day and accomplish something new.

Mehek: Simplicity inspires me and when coupled with the right elements, I believe it can help strike the right balance in life.

What influences your styles and designs? Is there any particular fashion era that influences your work?

Kanika: I am influenced by the extra-terrestrial. If I were to be more specific, watching Star Trek keeps my enthusiasm and humour quotients high.

Ankit: Romance as an expression enchants me; so does the beauty of women. When it comes to design, I like to challenge the general norms of fashion and take them to a different dimension.

What can we expect from you at Lakme this year? Tell us about your inspiration for this season.

Kanika: The inspiration behind our collection is the movie Avatar. The collection focuses on creating a new avatar, like an incarnation through a new design. When someone wears it, s/he will feel like surrendering their current 'self' to gain a fresh perspective of the world.

We have adopted a super-edgy, global look with a vision of the future, so that the collection embodies and interacts with the wearer.

Ankit: We have explored new materials and textures for the collection -- you will find a lot of texture detailing in our garments. The combination and use of Indian fabrics on Western silhouettes is our USP. We have also used hand-woven netted fabric from Banaras for some of the creations.

Mehek: Our designs are inspired by the future and have abnormal aesthetics. The style is offbeat and the design is multi-layered. It offers just the right balance between edgy and wearable.

What are the highs and lows of a career as a young designer?

Kanika: There are several highs against several lows. The highs are a lessened fear of failing, the benefit of time, enthusiasm, energy, the joy of being together and enjoying every little moment in life. The lows are vulnerability and lack of experience. You also have people who don't take you seriously (but sometimes, that can also be a high).

Ankit: According to me, as a young designer you enjoy creative freedom and have a futuristic vision. You have the opportunity to work in a team of your choice, where you can learn, explore and analyse new options. The challenge is not to be over-creative, thereby compromising quality and commercial value.

Mehek: The good part of being a debutante designer is that you are not afraid of failure. However, since you are young in the industry, you may be underestimated by some.

Who according to you is a fashion icon and why?

Kanika: According to me, Bjork has a great sense of style -- it possesses international appeal..

In India, Susmita Sen, Sonam Kapoor and Ranbir Kapoor have excellent personal styles.

Ankit: I admire Tilda Swinton, Cameron Diaz and Lisa Ray for their exquisite styles.

Mehek: I would go with Katy Perry and Bjork, among the others. In India, I am especially fond of Abhay Deol and Kalki Koechlin.

Who are your favourite designers and labels?

Kanika: I am very fond of Ruchika Sachdeva's work -- she is also a GenNext designer. Others include Amit Aggarwal, Rohit and Rahul Gandhi, Masaba Gupta and Varun Bahl.

Internationally, I like Haider Ackermann's work. Georgia Hardinge is also very innovative.

Ankit: Among the labels, Givenchy is my favourite. Among designers, I love Alexander Wang, Amit Aggarwal and designer duo Alpana and Neeraj.

Mehek: Indian designers Gaurav Gupta, Arjun Saluja and Atsu Sekhose are some of my favourites.

Your favourite quote?

Kanika: The deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. The deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure: Marianne Williamson

Ankit: Alone we can do so litte, together we can do so much: Helen Keller

Mehek: Fashion fades, only style remains the same: Coco Chanel

' I worked days and nights on end to finalise my sketches'

Image: Sneha Arora

Kolkata-born Sneha Arora started off her career in fashion as an assistant designer in a retail firm, post her graduation from the city's National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT).

She moved to Bangalore and soon got busy designing, negotiating with vendors, interacting with potential customers and forecasting fashion trends. As three years passed, however, she got bored of her corporate job.

The young designer had always dreamt of starting an independent label, but found it difficult to concentrate and get it all together, given her professional responsibilities.

In 2011, she finally found the courage to quit her job and moved back to her hometown in Kolkata, to pursue her dream and build a label from scratch.

Although Sneha had gained enough experience in her three-year-old professional career to develop a taste for 'good and saleable designs', she did not want to design conventional garments that were commercially viable. Instead, she wanted to test her skills and present a collection that would carve a niche.

She started off with a lifestyle product line of cushions and wall frames called Copy Cat, which drew instant attention and brought her some success. But when she was selected for the GenNext showing, the 27-year-old could not have asked for more.

Sneha believes that for a designer who derives inspiration from various sources, the challenge is to create something which is rare and out of the ordinary.

Remembering advice from a professor at design school, she says, "It is impossible to be original, but important to be honest." She adds that it is equally important for every artist to acknowledge the source of his/her inspiration.

What inspired you to become a fashion designer?

I never planned to become a designer or start my own label, it just happened. When I was young, I did not have any big goals. It was only a little later, after joining college, that I realised designing is what I am good at and enjoy doing. And since then, my love for the field has only grown deeper.

Then I wanted to launch my own label, but it was becoming difficult to manage alongside my retail job. Meanwhile, I'd gained some work experience and developed some contacts, which served useful when I finally ventured out on my own.

Describe what it means to be part of GenNext at the LFW and what you hope to accomplish by it.

The GenNext platform means a lot to me. In fact, it is my first big opportunity to showcase my designs on a national level. Thanks to Lakme, my belief in the label has also become stronger now.

Shows like these have opened the industry's doors to young talents like us and I feel extremely lucky to be part of it. Since it will be my debut show, I am looking forward to a lot of feedback from industry people, buyers and fashion critics, who help young designers like us expand our labels.

How did Lakme GenNext happen? How long have you been trying to get here?

I've always wanted to participate in the GenNext category. I'd even tried last season, but since I had just started then, I took some time to settle in and send in my entry. This season I decided that I won't delay it, but I was away for an exhibition and came back only a week before the deadline for submission. I worked days and nights on end to finalise my sketches. All that hard work finally paid off and I got selected.

Who inspires you?

I get inspired by a lot of small everyday things, random people and the stories they have to tell.

What influences your styles and designs? Is there any particular fashion era that influences your work?

For my designs, I derive inspiration from vintage architecture, the 1980s power dressing and digital art.

What can we expect from you at Lakme this year? Tell us about your inspiration for this season.

Taking cues from the corporate lives we lead, I have designed a graphically strong collection with a little bit of drama to it. 'Paradigm' is a collection that talks about bringing in a paradigm shift -- of breaking free from our monotonous cubicles and exploring ourselves.

Each of the creations aims to portray this shift. The rigid box structures in my designs give way to fluid accordion pleats, while the monotony of blacks and greys is broken by bright colours. Even the formal creations are interrupted with casual prints.

I have also taken influences from digital cubism and the cubist architecture of Prague, using geometric forms with sharp cuts emphasising the construction of the pieces.

What are the highs and lows of a career as a young designer?

As a designer, the biggest high is that you are independent and own a label. At least that's what I was most happy about when I started off. There is no better feeling in the world than seeing your name on a piece of clothing you so lovingly created.

Being young in the industry helps you learn, even if it means learning from your own mistakes. Also, in the initial stages, you can afford to make mistakes and get away with it.

The good thing is that people have slowly started acknowledging new talent. So when you receive encouragement from the industry, it gives you a new high.

You must not forget that when you are getting ready to do something new, you are bound to face challenges. They are not really lows. You just need to learn how to tackle them better.

Who according to you is a fashion icon and why?

Carine Roitfeld (ex-editor, Vogue Paris) is a style icon to me because of her strong fashion sensibilities, bold attitude and free-spirited sense of dressing.

Who are your favourite designers and labels?

Well, I admire the sensibilities of a lot of designers, but of them all, Hussein Chalayan has been my all-time favourite. I love the drama he brings to the ramp, the sharpness in his cuts and the way he goes wild with his ideas.

Your favourite quote:

It's not going to be easy, but it's going to be worth it: Nicholas Sparks