Interview With Urvashi Kaur: The Glocal Designer

"I've been fortunate to have had an exposure to different ethnicities and diverse cultures across the country, as well as abroad, thanks to my Army upbringing. I attribute my love of travel to my upbringing as well and this has shaped my approach to art, design and life in general! After schooling I dabbled in theatre during college, and this is where I discovered my love of costume. Building on this initial interest, I enrolled at ESMOD in Paris where I truly inculcated my love of fashion. 

Post that I worked in Delhi for a design house, but quickly realised that I wanted a label of my own. Ever since then it has basically been a tremendous learning curve with ups and downs but an incredibly rewarding experience as a whole."

Who is your muse, if you were to pick one?

It is hard to pick a single muse, but its independent, driven and free spirited individuals that have always inspired me. 

As a designer that keeps sustainability in mind while designing, what are some aspects you think that will take time to reach complete circularity?

Achieving complete circularity will take time and currently the emphasis across the world is to primarily educate and devise policy that drives home the utter necessity of a rapid and drastic change in approach. The global economic model has to make the transition towards circularity, and larger businesses have to incorporate indices for making the shift as well as measuring the same. At the moment smaller businesses such as mine are working on internal policies that make the move towards long term sustainability and are trying to do everything possible to reduce our carbon footprint.

The conversation around sustainable clothing being expensive has been stirring for the longest time. How do you make a consumer understand the price point?

Yes there is definitely a cost involved when we talk about a product that's got a greater human input and has been created in a slower, more conscious way. Over the years, several labels, including mine have been pushing for an understanding of the same. Working with retailers that understand this and are committed to the cause as well as various initiatives dispersed through media, etc. have led to a growing awareness of the topic. The consumer has gradually understood ultimately the quality aspect that comes through in this discussion. Other aspects such as conscious living and the greater good of the planet have also now become part of the conversation, and one that more and more people are happy to pay a premium for.

If you were to make a capsule wardrobe, which pieces do you think will be the most essential?

Actually my label does make several capsule collections through the year. Depending on the time of year, these could range from easier separates to more dressy occasion specific items. But ideally most of my capsule collections have some version or the other of comfortable, easy fit lowers, contemporary reworked long shirts and tunics and my signature capes or overlays.

It is important to be conscious while buying, other than longevity and quality, what should you consider?

Apart from longevity and quality, both of which are important (and linked), the third key aspect to keep in mind is versatility. While buying, one should try to collect pieces that can be worn in different ways and through different seasons. This will help extend the lifetime of the garment as well as lead to greater value for the wearer.

Overconsumption has been an issue in India, do you think this pandemic could change the way people shop and consume?

If you look back at the generations earlier, our parents and grandparents and so on, you'll actually find very wise buying patterns and a definite emphasis on longevity and quality. Being a land of handcraft and artisanal practices, we've historically placed the greatest importance on value. It is only in our recent past that we've shifted focus towards accumulation and wasteful consumption. 

Whilst there is already a movement in place that questions these harmful trends, the current pandemic is definitely bringing these factors into focus and I believe everyone is asking tough questions and thinking deeply about the way forward.

At a crucial time like this, how is COVID19 affecting your artisans? What are some measures you’re taking that others should consider too?

COVID19 has absolutely devastated the economic landscape and we are still grappling with the scale of it. It has certainly affected the artisans and communities that rely on craft. We have tried to support our teams and craftspeople to the best of our ability. We have also rallied and connected with fashion bodies, the textile ministry as well as grassroots organisations to formulate an action plan to minimize the fallout of this catastrophe.

Sustaining in post COVID19 will be a difficult task for small fashion businesses. What would your advice be to these young labels?

Post COVID19 will be a changed landscape for us all. Whether small or large all businesses will have to rework their models to survive. Thinking optimistically, in the case of smaller brands it might actually be easier to pivot. Regardless of the outcome the fundamentals of business remain true; adaptability, dynamism and innovation will be the tools to withstand the storm and survive the disaster.

Everyone knows Urvashi Kaur the designer and her work. What is she like outside of work? What do you do to relax and break free from the everyday?

I'm very much a peoples person! I love performance art and am ever-ready to head to a concert or play or music recital. These days of course it's a lot of family time and netflix and chill scenes. It's been lovely to have my whole family together and it's a silver lining that we are spending quality time with each other. It is important also to try and meditate and look at ways of self improvement at a phase such as this. I've been regularly doing techniques that help me calm and center myself so that I can go back to work with total focus once this period is over.