CHENNAI: Models in outfits that can only be tagged as minimalistic-yet-elegant walked the ramp, almost as if they were on a red carpet. The collection, ‘Opulent Elegance’, had monochromatic colours in different fabrics including velvet and georgette with minimal embellishments and accessories. It was a part of the first show at the Brand Avatar Fashion Premium Week- Day 2, Crowne Plaza, Alwarpet.
And that’s where City Express had a chat with Swathi Purushothaman, an architect-cum-designer, who dazzled audiences in a shimmering brown gown with a short golden drape. Fashion designing, she says, happened because she loved to customise her own clothes.
“Since I was six, I would pick and stitch my own clothes. I never bought from the rack. My grandmom loved to stitch, we would get it done together,” she narrates, and adds that her love for fabrics and designing began when she was in school. “I would scribble designs in my notebooks but I never pursued it as a career path. While studying architecture, I would design clothes for my friends too, work with tailors and embroidery people at home. One day, my mom, frustrated with all the commotion and mess, said ‘Not here anymore, go out and get a work space’. That’s how I set up Studio 149,” she explains.
Swathi also loves architecture. She prefers designing residential boutiques to the commercial buildings. Though she didn’t take a professional fashion designing course, architecture filled in the gaps. “I don’t draw a line between architecture and fashion. Clothes also have movement, proportions, aesthetics...studying architecture helped me get an overall perspective. We need to portray the attitude of a person, and the proportions of the outfit have to complement her body. The grasp of dimensions as an architect has helps me here,” she says and stresses the fact that her clothes are timeless and don’t overpower the person itself.
“No mood collections or ‘in trend’ collections…I aim at making clothes that can be worn even five years later. I remember this one outfit that I made from my grandma’s sari when I was 16. Maybe one day my daughter will wear it,” she grins. Well, maybe that’s the reason she never threw away her old clothes.
Swathi’s experiments with colours and drapes were geared towards the idea of a dancer performing on stage or perhaps for a bride-to-be. The opening outfit — the show starter — was worn by a model who danced a piece of contemporary kathak. It’s hardly a coincidence then that Swathi is a dancer too!
“I have been going for Bharatanatyam classes since I was six. After Class 10, I wanted to go to Kalakshetra but my parents insisted on proper education. I never let go of the art form though. I still go for classes twice a week. I love dancing, and love everything about it – the costumes, the stage, the limelight…play me music and I’ll dance,” she chuckles. As if she hasn’t learned enough from dance and architecture, she draws inspiration from temple architecture too.
Tell her that and she nods her head vigorously, saying, “Have you seen the kind of drapes on the sculptures? They do it on stone and I would love to bring them alive through fabrics.” She designed Bharathanatyam costumes for herself and her partner for a dance recital and Swathi is keen on making clothes for a period film involving dancers.