Sudipta Dey
With back-to-back degrees from NIFT Kolkata and Saint Martin’s, London, Kallol Datta has asserted his stamp of individuality in every element of his design process. The edgiest designer of the city has tweaked his aesthetics to suit the Indian taste. Winner of numerous awards, Kallol kick-started his label Kallol Datta 1955 in October 2007 and since then, there has been no looking back.
 
Ever since you graduated from fashion school, you carved a niche for yourself in the industry. What sets you apart?
Well, I bummed around for a year or so, travelling, freelancing, touching base with family etc. On a dare I applied for LFW and was selected by the jury to showcase. Be it me or the clothes I create, both dislike sticking to guidelines or notions. When I started, I had industry people telling me that ‘my London style’ wouldn’t really work in India. But in fashion, having passion translates into one’s garment. It may sound odd, but I try making sure that there is a bit of me reflected in my clothes. Nothing ‘put-on or fake’, no dross whatsoever and no pseudo-intellectualism for me. I guess that is what sets me apart and makes the garments what they are. It is heartening to see people accept my fledgling brand. Ever since its inception five seasons back, we’ve been on the best-collections list in every fashion magazine/ezine consecutively. For that validation and credibility, I am grateful.
 
You are a Grunge and Goth buff, and it reflects in your style. How popular is it in India, especially, when people are a bit conservative about dressing?
I stopped caring about what people thought of me ever since high school. A person not conforming to social ideals unsettles people. I was a punk (literally!) all through school, then went through a grunge phase during my undergrad and went super goth during my post grad. Now am back to being ethno-grunge and trust me when I say I’ve mellowed down a lot! Gone are the multiple piercings and torn clothes (how I miss them!). I’ve had people in Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai look at me with a ‘what spaceship is he on’ expression. Some people turn verbal. Coming from a very liberal (for lack of a better word) family, strangers’ reactions would irk me. And now I see design students as well as industry colleagues channeling my style into their wardrobes in Kolkata!
 
Monopoly is the first store from which you are retailing in Kolkata. Why did you not start your own boutique?
Right now, considering I sell exactly what I show on the runway it makes no sense to have a standalone store. I don’t make trousseau or native-wear which bring in the numbers in Kolkata. Multi-designer stores are hence a blessing. Monopoly opened up at a time when I was willing to start retail in Kolkata.
 
You also opened a multi designer store in Bangalore. Elaborate on that.
It was a brilliant decision until now. I never imagined Bangalore with all its beautiful black dresses would ever embrace my irreverent prints and personality. The bonus being the other designers in the store are colleagues from Delhi and Mumbai who share a common aesthetic vision. Eina Ahluwalia of Breathing Space (Kolkata) is also present in the store via her amazing conceptual jewellery.
 
You have always participated in the Lakme Fashion Weeks, but this time it is the Wills Fashion Week you are going to participate. Any reasons for this change of plan?
I will be participating at Lakme but the terms are under wraps for the moment. I will also be taking the line for a runway showing at Wills Fashion Week. It was primarily to test waters in New Delhi.
 
What would your collection be about for the Wills Fashion Week?
The Spring Summer 2011 line will carry forward the silhouette based, print-centric look that Kallol Datta 1955 is known for. It will attempt at pushing boundaries vis-à-vis the grunge vibe but also retain signature construction and pattern cutting elements, since we will be introducing Kallol Datta 1955 to Delhi for the very first time. People know that the label had started off 3D folds in constructed garments (un-stitched garments like saris always had them) and we’re under pressure to take that story forward.
 
You did a trunk show in NYC. What was the show all about? You would be participating in that also?
We’ve tied up with a fashion agency run by a patron of the label who is NY based. She has started introducing alternative, left-lobe Indian designers to the American
market. Alongwith a London-based accessories label, we had a trunk show organised by the agency, which went off very well. We will be looking at repeating that for next season. There is a whole new exercise of tweaking of existing styles (to suit the markets there) and recalculation of price points, Brand positioning etc. Having an agency really helps.
 
What are your future plans?
I will be collaborating with Eina Ahluwalia of Breathing Space and developing a range of conceptual jewellery. It will be ready for retail by the year end. I have also accepted a Fashion residency with a premier arts organisation which will explore the relation between fashion and art. At present I’m meeting deadlines on articles which have to banked for various publications. I keep myself disconnected from the immediate world around me and remain slightly jaded. That helps me think.

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