How does one move from law—a profession with a clinical approach—to a creative vocation such as fashion design? “Law never caught my fancy…I was always looking for something more to do,” shares Anugrah Chandra (33) quite matter-of-factly, underlining that the fervent kind can never dodge the need to follow their passion. Chandra, who is the creative director and founder of KoAi, a city-based fashion brand with a store in The Dhan Mill, Chhatarpur, continues, “I believe I have an eye for design and being ahead of trends. So, I thought I’d give it [fashion] a go. Creating my own brand was actually Plan B—I didn’t leave law completely in 2019. But after my debut at the Lakmé Fashion Week that year, I received a great response. That is when I thought, ‘I see myself doing this happily for life’.”
A product of love
Derived from the Japanese word ‘aiko’, which translates to ‘love child’, Chandra’s brand name KoAi, he shares, has a lot to do with how mesmerised he is by the culture of Japan. “There are a lot of similarities between them and us. Also, I don’t have a child, but a lot of love and attention has been given to this brand (laughs). Á lot of hard work’s gone into making this a reality. Thus, the name KoAi.”
The brand, however, draws direct inspiration from the Indian process of Dabu printing—a mud resist hand-block printing technique that originated in Rajasthan. Detailed Dabu prints are imprinted digitally on fabrics. Reiterating his thoughts about the resemblance in cultures and design, Chandra adds, “If you look at printing techniques such as Shibori or Dabu… civilisations across the world have been doing the same thing; they’re just geographically placed separately. I was reading a book my mother bought years ago, and that is where I read about Dabu. I thought ‘what if I take this work and blend it with the new’. That was the idea.”
An Indian take on modest wear—it’s quite the rage in the Middle East (this brand has a loyal clientele in the region) and African countries—silhouettes in Chandra’s label include maxi, midi, short dresses, jumpsuits and co-ords. He shares that soon, the brand will have a festive edit featuring saris and kurtas, a winter wear line “that’s been a long time coming”, and menswear because “men are 50 per cent of the market; someone’s got to represent them”.
Hues and more
Chandra’s latest fall/winter collection is unnamed, but it is based on “abstraction and emancipation”. Talking about it, he shares, “Abstract prints enable us to perceive beyond the tangible and to extract the infinite out of the finite. Basically, everybody will see a certain print and think differently about it. That is the USP.” This line features pussy bow-style maxi dresses and jumpsuits, floor-grazing dresses, co-ords, and more, with a focus on a mix of dark hues with red, orange, pink, violet, indigo, purple, etc. “We have used silk, chiffon, heavy cotton silk, and poplin to create about 25 pieces,” he adds.
Ask him what’s next, and he says, “I am totally new to this. The company and I, we’re both growing organically and evolving.” Just like his creative process, his plans, too, are all about savouring the moment. “I want to keep my mind open to new experiences. Inspiration is all around us; something can catch your eye in a blink. As a business, I want to slow down, take my time and do things,” he concludes.
Starts at I4,500