As a child, designer Indrakshi Patnaik was fascinated by anything antique, classic and vintage. She used to collect photographs of costumes and other fashion accessories from old newspapers or magazines. The collages of such photographs were her treasure. This strange hobby was an early indication of what she was going to achieve in the future.
The young Odia stylist received National Award for designing costumes donned by the characters in a Telugu film, ‘Mahanati.’ With her creativity, she recreated an era bygone—from 1940s to 1980s. Her costumes showcased 40 years of fashion evolution in South India.
It was a challenging task to depict the era onscreen in terms of fashion.
Neither a biopic nor any other documentation was readily available to serve as a reference. But, extensive visual research helped Indrakshi and her team gain an idea of how people in Madras dressed up in the past. “We ran a campaign online to source tiny black and white pictures of old Madras. We scanned the photographs to understand the era’s characteristics. It’s not easy to know what a newspaper guy, a milkman or even just a random bystander on the road dressed like in those days. We used these photos as reference points to create the looks,” she said.
While conducting the research for Mahanati, she met old photographers, their sons, visited production houses to collect old video clips of movies — a mammoth task taken up to make a biopic on the most admired actress from South Indian cinema, Savitri. This exercise helped her know how actors or stars styled themselves during those times.
“Interestingly, what we found that unlike the casual dressing style on the film sets today, actors or crew were very disciplined then. There was a proper uniform for all and hair had to be combed neatly. Journalists and photographers were dressed in dhotis, suspenders and bowties,” she revealed.
Indrakshi is a graduate in fashion communication from a Pune-based university. She had assisted stylist Niharika Bhasin Khan for the Bollywood film, Bombay Velvet. She went to Italy for pursuing her post-graduation.
After returning to India in 2013, she started her journey as a freelance stylist.
For the fashionista, sustainable fashion is the need of the hour. “The amount of wastage from high fashion and mass production is killing our environment and abusing cheap labour. For instance, the amount of water required to make a pair of jeans is equivalent to what a man consumes throughout the year. Thus, I endorse vintage fashion, reuse of old clothes and handlooms,” she added.