How Suket Dhir won the International Woolmark Prize using Indian weaves

  • Praachi Raniwala, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jan 21, 2016 18:00 IST
Suket Dhir’s designs employed Indian traditional weaves with an element of surprise and playfulness.

It is 1pm when we dial in for a telephonic interview with Delhi-based designer Suket Dhir. He is currently the fashion industry’s man of the moment, having won the top honours at the Menswear International Woolmark Prize 2015-16, Florence, Italy earlier this month. The win brings with it AU$100,000 (Rs 46,61,800 approx) for the development of Dhir’s label, industry mentor support, as well as retail space at stores like Saks Fifth Avenue (New York) and 10 Corso Como (Milan), among others.

Dhir’s exploration of the trans-seasonal quality of Merino wool won over the judging panel, that included industry bigwigs like Haider Ackermann (designer), Imran Amed (founder and editor-in-chief, The Business of Fashion) and Suzy Menkes (noted fashion critic), among others. “For me, Suket is a person with a dream to tell. The rest [the business] will follow,” Ackermann was quoted saying.

Not surprisingly then, the designer was in an introspective mood during our conversation. “I am currently in Rome, recharging my system and reflecting on the way forward for both my brand and my life,” he says.

Excerpts from an interview:

Q) Tell us about your award-winning collection.

Since this is a summer collection, we developed extremely supple and breathable wool using handlooms — created with weavers in Telangana and West Bengal. Layering was a mainstay of this collection — palazzo pants, flowy jackets and the long kurta shirt were key silhouettes. I developed my own ombré ikat patterns for the collection, which was a move from the traditional take on this print.

Q) What were the core values of the collection you presented?

I think this collection is the representation of a man irrespective of his age. Stereotypically, men generally maintain a strict and serious exterior but are at their goofy best when they are in their comfort zone or with their peers. My collection, too, though seemingly straightforward on the outside, was extremely playful on the inside. Ensembles with emotion, honesty and a surprise element are at the heart of my brand.

Q) Is there a particular memory from the awards that really stands out?

The entire collection was simple yet packaged with several surprise elements. For instance, the jackets featured block-print lining with fine hand finishing and I had requested the models to present these to the judges when I was giving my closing talk, in order to allow them a closer look at this detailing. The collective gasp the judges let out when they saw this lining was incredible.

Models sport designs from Suket Dhir’s award-winning collection

Q) Was working with Indian weavers a conscious decision to empower them?

I believe in action and not activism to empower weavers. Which is why I promoted the Make in India initiative through several interactions in Florence. Sustainability and empowerment is a collateral effect of my association with the weavers, not its driving purpose. Weaving is considered a poor man’s job in India, whereas internationally, it is associated with luxury. A redirection of the weavers’ efforts is the need of the hour. Encouraging international players to create in India will bring about real upliftment.

Q) Is there anyone in particular you would want to see your creations on?

I would love to see Shekhar Kapur and Ranveer Singh wearing this collection. It would be great to see Narendra Modi, Anil Kapoor and AD Singh sporting my designs as well.

Tracing the International Woolmark Prize

The International Woolmark Prize is an initiative by The Woolmark Company (a subsidiary of Australian Wool Innovation) — the global authority on wool. Its prime focus is to display the beauty and versatility of Merino wool through fashion design.

The International Wool Secretariat first launched this initiative in 1953, and its early winners include legends like Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent. The International Woolmark Prize was relaunched in 2012 and menswear was added as an independent category in 2015. current roster of winners:

* 2012/13: Belgian designer Christian Wijnants for his hand-knitted and hand-dyed wool collection.

* 2014: Indian designer Rahul Mishra for his unique collection of evening wear using handwoven wool.

* 2014/15: American brand M.Patmos for its utilitarian streetwear take on Merino wool.

* 2015: New York brand PUBLIC SCHOOL became the first winner of the menswear category with a collection that mixed traditional and contemporary styles.

* 2015/16: Indian designer Suket Dhir for a menswear collection that made wool relevant for the summer.

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