She recycles memories

Sep 09, 2011, 11:13 IST | Amrita Bose

Don't throw away your old clothes yet. City-based designer Namrata Narula might just give it a new lease of life under her label New Improved

Don't throw away your old clothes yet. City-based designer Namrata Narula might just give it a new lease of life under her label New Improved

The word jugaad holds magic for designer Namrata Narula. Roughly translated from Hindi, it means creative improvisation or ingenuity. For Namrata, the word is deeply rooted in her design philosophy through which she upcycles old clothes or odds and ends and gives them an edgy spin by converting them into bags, accessories, home furnishings and clothing under her label New Improved.

Bag made out of a pair of old jeans

Started in January 2011, New Improved also has a special service up its sleeves. If you are worried about piles of unworn and old clothes taking up space in your wardrobe, then just courier them off to Namrata and she will upcycle them into handy bags, multipurpose stole and bottle holders. "The idea behind the label is that there is still use and value left in fabrics considered old or useless. By creating something new out of it, I also like to preserve the sentimental value attached to the fabric or piece of clothing," says 25-year-old Namrata.

Namrata Narula

Her obsession with working with old clothes began when she started working on her graduation project while at the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology where she was studying Textile Design. "It started with my fascination for textiles and clothing being transformed into something new. I love old, vintage, messy and torn stuff. The appearance of material, which is worn out, faded and old change as they age. They carry with them so many stories and experiences that give them a new character which no  brand can. Those fabrics represent us and the material still has potential to go on. The life cycle doesn't end there," says Namrata.

She started out by collecting old clothes from friends and family and even strangers, basically anybody who would want to share clothes with her for her project. Once she had a whole lot of clothing to work with, she started deconstructing them. "I began with cutting up the clothes and tried to make new compositions. After much trial and error, I decided to make bags," she says. No two products are alike under New Improved, claims Namrata. Each product is designed using a spontaneous process. "Since the material I get to work with is not something that I can plan, the design process is always unique for every product. The material itself becomes the inspiration for each product that I make," says Namrata

Old is gold
The design process for New Improved products starts with the material itself first. "I am fascinated by how materials metamorphoses. It ages, giving rise to amazing colours and textures and become different canvases for me to make a new product. Namrata's even had clients sending her their old clothes from different parts of the country. A lady from Delhi once gave her an old set of salwaar kameez along with her daughters' (who now have kids of their own)  school uniforms which were scribbled on on the last day of school. "The uniforms were lying in her cupboard for years till she decided to get them transformed. So, I up- cycled them into bags which she gifted back to her daughters. I have also worked with people's wedding sarees, old jeans too," she says. 

A creative breakdown
Once you get in touch with Namrata, all you need to do is to send her your old clothes and tell her what you would like out of it. "If the client is enthusiastic then I like to involve them in the design process of their product. I encourage them to get those things made which they would use in and around themselves. Since they keep those precious fabrics for many years, to be able to look at them everyday is a joy for them," says Namrata. As an artist, she is interested in the movement of deconstrucion in fashion. So, her process starts with carefully separating the different elements and putting them back together. "There is no hard and fast rule. I am fluid with the way I work and try to keep it as spontaneous as possible," she states.

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