Fresh from being conferred with The Order of the Star of Italy, fashion designer Sanchita Ajjampur hits the right style notes from her journey
Q. What does this honour mean to you?
A. I am humbled and appreciative of being felicitated. It gives me a great sense of humility to receive this accolade from a country that has helped me discover myself and a place where I found love, family and a home.
Sanchita Ajjampur. Fashion designer
Q. Would you have preferred if the recognition had come from the Indian government first?
A. Any recognition is rewarding, be it domestic or international. Over the years, I have been awarded various industry accolades by the Indian media and industry bodies, which I am extremely honoured to receive. I have a long-standing relationship with the Weavers Service Centre (Union Ministry of Textiles) and though not manifested in an award or the like, I am thankful for the opportunities and experiences that opened up through the partnership.
Q. Is there enough room for Indian designers to express themselves freely?
A. Absolutely. India is a country of contrasts and diversity and whatever be your style, you can find your mould and express your creativity.
Q. What was your first brush with fashion?
A. The five senses — touch, hearing, sight, smell, and taste. This began in my childhood. I chose my favourite toys based on how they felt to touch; likewise how clothes feel against the skin was important. Many hours were spent plucking out vintage originals from my mother’s coffers, a Pandora’s box of dazzling garments from beautifully embroidered Indian saris, to contemporary fashion — back then, Talitha Getty’s boho chic was all the rage. Dress-up was my fave, wigs et al.
Q. Is your design sense influenced by where you live and work?
A. Each place one visits, leaves a plethora of impressions and all influence me as a designer and person — the people you meet, things you see and experiences. I have lived in Vienna, Milan and Paris for many years where one can admire some of the finest masterpieces in world-class museums, from every era and artist. The street culture in London or Tokyo, India’s cultural heritage, diversity and vibrancy, heritage architecture in Paris — meaningful travel doesn’t only close geographic distances between people but brings them closer too.
Ajjampur's Spring/Summer 2016 pieces
Q. Many of your designs are inspired from the 1920s or the ’70s. What attracts you to fashion of the past?
A. Both eras are similar in spirit — there was an open-mindedness and non-conformist common ground. In Vienna, I grew up fascinated with the Secession period — loving the restrained opulence of artists like Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. The 1970s left me privy to the hippie and gypsy cultures. This has become a part of my lifestyle and my work.
Q. You have been an advisor to various international labels. What’s the experience been like?
A. In the earliest phase of my career, Romeo Gigli inspired me by his deep appreciation for artistry and heritage as well as his exhaustive research to cocoon the silhouette of women and make them bloom. Likewise, I admire Tom Ford’s capacity, during his Gucci days, to spin the company around with provocative designs that broke the mould.
Q. What’s the key to effortlessly shuttle between cities?
A. Meticulous planning, good luggage and a big wardrobe!
My collections have a contemporary aesthetic combined with traditional Indian handcrafts. Where possible, we use Indian fabrics — jerseys from Tirupur, cotton from Gujarat and silk from Karnataka. I love India for its kaleidoscopic mix of textures, colours, smells, tastes and vibes, its extremes, its magnificent traditions and crafts, its rich mix of culture and history, to some extent this is always evident in my collection.