The Indian fashion industry is prodigious and has witnessed what one would call a sea-change over the years. Much asculture-critics pin ours to be a western-influenced fashion scenario,truth is, we take immense pride in being levelled byour ethnicity (read: style). This is evident when we meet couturiers, Monica Shah and Karishma Swali, best known for their label Jade by Monica and Karishma. Been in the business for about five years now, the duo debuted at Lakme Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2014, where they show cased their collection 'Bohemian Princess'.
Karishma's is not exactly a tale of a starry-eyed wishcoming true; it was more, as she puts it, "a natural calling". Daughter of abusinessman, who has been exporting garments to fashion houses in Europe foralmost a decade, she always knew that this is where she belongs. Having doneher schooling in Villa Theresa and then graduated from HR College, she went onto complete her education in NIFT. Later, after gaining hands-on experience ofthe industry by working for a year with none other than Italian fashion designer Alberta Ferretti, she was certain that it was time to create herown label. Monica, on the other hand, is an alumnus of New Era High School and Jai Hind College. She says, "I had no fashion background but Ihave been a furniture designer. But once you have a creative flair, it does notmatter which stream you are into." To study fashion, Monica joined St Martin's,London. The friends cum sisters-in-law "comfortably" joined hands to establishJade—a designer label that blends heritage influences and cutting-edge, new-agefeel.
If you have been to Peddar Road, there is not a chancethat you have missed the Jade store. But having had the option of settling inany part of the world (especially Milan) to catapult their fashion careers, itis rather surprising that Mumbai was the city this duo chose for the inceptionof their label. Monica says, "Eventually we do want to go global, but our rootsare in Bombay. Also, India has so much art and craftsmanship, we just had tostart domestic." Karishma simply adds, "There is no other place like Mumbai forus."
Karishma, who lived on Carmichael Road, a place shedescribes as "quaint", tells us about growing up there, "I do not know anyother way of growing up. I loved it. All my memories are of walking down the road;the place is the very core of who I am." Monica says, "I have been born andbrought up at Haji Ali; no matter where one goes, I think a SoBo-ite willalways remain a SoBo-ite. South Bombay has its own charm." And has this SoBo-charm influenced their career? Karishma says, "Our influences are global,not just SoBo. But it is SoBo that has made us so open-minded. It is socosmopolitan and there is so much going on, the chaos helps you to be centredand calm. It has influenced us like that but at a largely subtle and subconscious level, it has moulded us into who we are." Monica adds, "Bombay isso multicultural. For instance, walk down Colaba and you will see so many different kinds of people. When you grow up in such a place, these are but influences you are naturally drawn to."
City fashion scene
Talking to us about how different Mumbai is from therest of the world in terms of fashion, Monica says, "Fashion has evolved in Bombay over the decade. I think a major change factor is how self-sufficient and well-travelled women are now. It impacts their style tremendously."Karishma remarks, "To be honest, I think until recently, there was little awareness. Global trends in the city were always an aftereffect of the Milan/Paris Fashion Week. It was not overtly fashion-conscious. But now, withthe city getting younger, I think it is clearly gaining an identity of its own."Apart from Jade that was launched in 2008, the duo also owns Innana (western-wear line) and they plan to open a bridal studio in August.