‘As designer Rina Singh journeys through Aru Valley in Kashmir, she tells Ishita Goel how she tailored her latest collection around the pristine landscape’
It is not possible that you go and live in Kashmir and not write a book about it or create a collection around it,” says designer Rina Singh, as she walks me through her autumn-winter collection of ensembles, inspired from the picturesque Aru Valley in Jammu and Kashmir.
“I visited the valley this summer and I regretted not having visited the region earlier,” she says, wistfully recalling its natural grandeur. “The landscape is so pristine and untouched that everything – from snow-capped mountains and rolling green meadows to lush valleys – is sheer poetry in nature. The artist in me just couldn’t wait to give them an expression through clothes.” And thus was born Singh’s latest line, inspired by the colours and textures of the valley.
Kashmir in clothes
Interestingly, Singh hasn’t borrowed from the popular patterns of Kashmiri shawls or carpets. Instead, she has tried to imbibe the essence of the region in her clothing. “The idea to draw inspiration from Aru Valley struck me when I stayed with a local woman. She had three lovely daughters – Zeenat, Aabu and Sairat – whose grace and poise charmed me. They were extremely warm and kept serving me kahwa (Kashmiri flavoured tea with cinnamon, cardamom and saffron),” she laughs. “Eventually, I asked them if they would like to wear my clothes, but they were quite shy and declined my offer. That had me thinking how they would be in the city and what kind of clothes they would like to wear?” Her imagery seems to have materialised in the form of airy tunics, A-line dresses and long robes, much like the winter wardrobe of these girls, embellished with floral motifs in Kashmiri embroidery – all reflecting the rich jewel tones of the valley. “My narrative was inspired by the idea of these girls running around the valley, wild and free,” explains Singh, whose label Eka is known for simple sensibilities.
Beauty in simplicity
“Everything about the Kashmiri culture left an indelible impression on my mind. From the soft-spoken people who live in a land encompassed by the mighty rugged mountains to the drool-worthy cuisine – the canvas of Kashmir is framed by pure, unadulterated beauty,” says the designer. Kashmiri cuisine too is a great inspiration for her and so are the folklore of the region. “Kashmiri food is so simple, yet rich. The most basic of ingredients come together to form delicacies that leave you wanting more,” she says, adding that the dum pukht aloo, which is prepared with a very spicy gravy, is her favourite. “I tasted it with sheermal, a delicious saffron-flavoured bread, and could not have enough,” she adds.
Exclusive and eclectic
Singh is noted for her loose-fitting ensembles that are not demarcated by age, shape or size. She explains, “My clothes speak a language that is based on simple thoughts. And that’s what is reflected in Kashmir’s culture as well. Their deep-rooted culture soothes and does not overwhelm, and I have tried to capture all that in my collection.”A beautiful mix of soft silks and fine wool, the collection talks about a world of folklore and is tinged with nostalgia. The pieces are fashionable but the stories they tell are on a quieter note. “I love to tell stories through my collections. I think the tales help customers connect with the clothes, thereby forging a stronger bond,” she points out.Her eccentric collection with flamboyant combinations of colours and fabrics, and just the perfect amount of Bohemian thrown in, is a beautiful take on the beauty of the Aru Valley and how a vacation through the valley can give you so much more than just memories of a lifetime.