THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Sakhi Thomas was in for a shock when she came back home with her NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology) certificate and enough experience in the garment industry, having worked in Delhi, Ahmedabad and Mumbai. Honestly, the fashion sense of the majority in Kerala disheartened her. She had to do the opposite of what she had learnt.
However, the 30-year-old has surprised herself by adapting herself to the trend and in the last 1 ½ years or so she has made a name for herself as a fashion designer, especially in the tinseltown. She started off with Shyamaprasad’s ‘Off-Season’ (part of the portmanteau film ‘Kerala Cafe’), then came T K Rajeev Kumar’s ‘Oru Naal Varum’ which saw Sakhi dressing up Sameera Reddy and Devayani and then Shyamaprasad’s ‘Elektra’, in which she happily saw Nayanthara and Manisha Koirala wearing the costumes she designed. And the recent addition is Sibi Malayil’s ‘Violin’.
This Commerce graduate wrote the NIFT entrance because one of her cousins told her, “There is an entrance in which you can paint! I was more than happy to appear for the same. I had little idea about NIFT then and once I joined, I fell in love with the world of fashion designing. Now, I am thankful to God for making me choose this career,” says Sakhi. And her family, comprising father P C Thomas, mom Chechamma George and brother Tittoo, was fine with her decision.
She has worked as Manager - Design with The Arvindmills Ltd - Export Division, has specialised in knitwear, has done ethnics, casuals as well as formals and have laid hands on men’s, women’s and kids’ wear.
She started off with television, where she had to compromise much on her style of designing. “Television requires exaggeration of all elements, including colour, to catch the slightest attention. Looking back, I am not happy with what I did. On the big screen there is a role reversal; even the slightest flaw gets easily highlighted and textures of fabrics dominate the feel. When you design garments, you are working on a 3D canvas. But when the image is transferred to screen, the third dimension is lost. Hence designing for screen requires a whole new 2D perception, very different from the one a fashion designer is used to.”
The turning point came when film-maker Shyamaprasad appreciated the gown she designed for the anchor for the finale of a reality show and offered her ‘Off-Season’. “Shyam sir could understand my kind of work and that was a huge relief for me.” ‘Oru Naal Varum’ was her first full-length feature film. “While dressing up Sameera Reddy for the film, I had to ensure that Sameera had to get that Malayali look, but in a stylish way”.
‘Elektra’ is one work which has given her immense satisfaction. “The costumes had to be very realistic. I used very intentional textures, shades and fits. We used white, black, grey and biege shades. There were minimal prints and surface ornamentation.”
Sakhi specially mentions Nayanthara’s green dress (tail end) in the movie, besides Manisha’s grey-black saree and green-black saree. “Nayanthara had three different emotional phases in the story and her costumes had to complement these emotions. The dull and revengeful phase were sketched with dull, ill-fitted check shirts and long full-sleeve shirt kurtas; in the soft phases with her father, skirts and tops were used and while with her fiance, she wears simple dresses. She is seen in red when she goes beserk. And she is a glamorous diva in a chiffon little black dress and a crepe red dress,” Sakhi says, adding, “Nayans is a thorough professional.”
For Manisha, she designed “drapeable soft cotton sarees with the most subtle colour palette for her mourning phase. The ageing phase had to be attractive and so I used soft crepe sarees, subtly sequenced, slightly dramatic in colours.”
And her efforts didn’t go unnoticed. She was adjudged the best costume designer by the FEFKA-Amrita Film Award jury for ‘Elektra’. “It was the director’s vision and Sanu John Varghese’s cinematography which helped me come out with good results.”
The costumes of ‘Violin’ have been done according to the taste of the masses. “The movie talks about an Anglo Indian family. I know the designs are not realistic, since the taste of the community has changed a lot. However, we have adhered to their traditional dressing style.” The beautiful gowns worn by Nithya Menon have been appreciated a lot.
Up next is ‘Second Show’, a movie by debutant Sreenath Rajendran, produced by AOPL Productions. “The movie has a whole new crew, with a lot of youngsters. The movie will have a different feel which the Malayalis would like,” Sakhi excitedly shares.
A senior faculty with The Institute of Fashion Technology Kerala, established by Government of Kerala, Sakhi firmly believes that getting a hold on the nuances is the key to excellent screen presentation. “Also, in fashion designing the designers’ instinct is just secondary to the customer’s requirement. But in movies, the director, the cinematographer, the actor, the editor and even the producer contribute. Only when these factors blend in right proportion that a designer’s creativity be judged.”
She stresses that at no point did she think of leaving Kerala in search of greener pastures. “If you want to make it big outside, you ought to have a godfather and enough money. In my case, I strongly believe that we are not inferior to anybody. If more people come into the field, nothing can stop us from reaching the top.”
Sakhi has not yet got a platform to flaunt her signature style. “Once I establish myself, I will come out with it. And I am sure I can do it,” says a confident Sakhi.