By Rituparna Sengupta Basu
Ashima S Couture as a label started 3-4 years ago. It is a start-up apparel brand founded by Ms Ashima Sharma, a young and internationally acclaimed designer & entrepreneur.
Ms Ashima Sharma is a well-travelled individual whose quest for designing led her to receive various laurels in a very short span of time. Ashima holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Design and Fashion Technology from FIDM – Los Angeles, USA. Her passion for design got her enrolled in various intensive courses in some of the most prestigious designing schools in the world.
Ashima is quickly making a mark in the designing business. She is an expert in Pret and Western Wear Drapes which she classifies as her strength area. She has been nominated for an award in Pret Category at the International Apparel Federation Students Awards. In a quick chat with Expresso, she expresses and shares her love of fashion.
Expresso : Describe your collection in three words?
Ashima: Glitter, metallic and bling have forever been a signature style of the brand. I generally curate all the style that has glitter, bling, metallic work and shimmer
Expresso: What sparked your interest in fashion?
Ashima: Fashion has always been a part of the aesthetic work we do. I was always a creative person with a creative streak. Art was my passion initially and I was painting since the age of 7 and I had a keen interest in designing due to arts. As a kid, I use to dress up my dolls and that got me the interest of dressing other people and making the best come out of them. This passion made me suggest people on what to wear and what will suit their style and how to drape a saree or dupatta in a certain way to make them look different. This is how my interest in fashion sparkled. The style I do has nothing to do with my personal style.
Expresso: How did Label Ashima Sharma come about? Did you always want to have a fashion brand of your own?
Ashima: I never thought of having a fashion brand. My dream was to be a fashion designer or something to do with fashion. Establishing a brand was never really the plan but when I started up I realized that in India if you are a fashion designer you need to have a label of your own. Hence, the brand came into the picture. A designer should have a collective style, signature collections, themes that speak for your signature style. With time, I realized that a fashion brand has to be a must.
Expresso: You operating your own online retail brand, do you have any plan to come up with physical stores to cater to the needs of customers?
Ashima: A store has to be a future plan for a designer but with the work module I am following in terms of sales, designing, retail, freelancing etc, I am not in a frame of mind to start a store of my own. A store will require my physical presence and my schedule doesn’t allow me to plan for a store in the coming days. But I am not closing any options for myself because a retail store is good for direct retail sales. Since my module is all fixed right now, therefore, no store right now.
Expresso: Tell us about your design? What is the inspiration behind the line?
Ashima: My design draws inspiration from each and everything around like a plant, a flower, everything around gives inspiration and that’s what fashion is all about. You need to know what is working, what is not working, what are the trends, what people like? So, I can infuse inspiration from everything and everybody around.
Everyone has their own style statement, so, if you need to sell a product in the market you need to see what is trending. Talking about my design, I incorporate a lot of bling, metallic shimmer and a lot of all that glitter because I find them catchy and I really like to work on them. Moreover, my collections generally deal with party wear or special occasion in western wear. Last year, the dream catcher was a trend in décor and I was inspired by that and was keen to incorporate in my collections and come up with the painted collection.
Expresso: What drives your passion for sustainable fashion? Why is sustainable fashion important to you?
Ashima: Sustainable fashion is all about eco-friendly fashion. Therefore, we try to incorporate eco-friendly fabrics, because after a while you will get tired of wearing the same outfits or if you keeping an outfit for a certain occasion, you cannot repeat it n number of times. Therefore, fashion is discarded after some time. At that time the problem arises. If we discard the fashion, what will happen to the eco-system? Therefore, I believe sustainable fashion is a must in today’s time. Keeping in mind various issues like global warming, spices getting extinct, landfills and other nature-related issues, sustainable fashion has become the latest trend. In fact, I try to curate looks for others and myself with eco-friendly fabrics.
Expresso: Which one is your favourite fabric and apparel?
Ashima: When you are working on western wear, there are a lot of fabrics one will end up liking. I love sequins and all those metallic and shimmers. I like scuba, it has a very different consistency, even though it is not metallic, it gives a very different look. In fact, scuba fabric was a part of my show stopper outfit for my first fashion week. It’s a great fabric. I have created many outfits with scuba fabric, not as a part of my collections, but as a single outfit. Besides, I like georgette. It is a very versatile material.
It is one fabric which is very easy to drape and you can go around in many styles like western wear, a skirt, a bohemian theme. There are varieties of georgette available in the market. Another favourite is cotton. Though it has its own limitations, you can style it any way you want. In comparison, linen is a better buy. Then all the synthetic fabrics comprising of western wear and synthetic lycra are also good. You can wear them for some time and won’t sweat easily.
Though they are man-made, they have a natural consistency that you will not have sweat pads. But talking about natural fabric then georgette and scuba would be the ones.
Expresso: What do you hope will be the next step for you?
Ashima: Next step in designing and fashion, I am always looking forward to new things and I am always wanting to experiment with new things. Having said experiment doesn’t mean that I will create something that people are uncomfortable to wear it.
In my fashion sense, all my clothing line has been a wearable fashion. I am not saying that people who go unconventional in their dressing sense are wrong, but if you are looking at the retail sales or the commercial value of the product you need to create something that is wearable. The public will get attracted to something which is stylish and wearable and even celebs would like to look good on the red carpet or any other events.
Talking about my next step, I will be making more of long dresses because earlier, I have been experimenting with a lot of short dresses, short silhouettes, or the lesser draped ones.
Expresso: What does fashion means to you?
Ashima: Each one of us has a different definition of fashion. For me, fashion is something I am comfortable with and I won’t be doing anything out of the box just to look very classy and artsy. So, if I have to go somewhere, then I will choose something very casual, easy and comfortable for me because that is my style statement.
But when I design for others, I want to make it very artsy and classy and very sophisticated as it could be. I make sure my looks are very eye catchy and people should go out and compliment. It should make you feel that when you are out, you are out like a star.
Expresso: Would you please share your experiences working with celebrities?
Ashima: Each one of them has a different body type. So, when I am working with celebrities, I have to understand their body types, their requirements, and their silhouettes that will go well for them. For instance, a very skinny person will look normal on the camera whereas a medium size person will look medium to large size on the camera that is how the camera does. So, understanding that the person will look a little extra on the camera, I work on their body types to make them look normal. If someone is very skinny I give them flowing silhouettes or something which is in skater one. If someone has a medium size, I will give them body contoured that will not enlarge their look and will not maximize their lower area. Even celebrities are very particular about their style and what they wear.
Therefore, even if you know what will look good for them you still need to have options ready and also make sure that everything is perfect and not even a single thing has to go amiss because they have to face a crowd and the cameras will capture them in all the angles. I have to be very careful while designing for celebrities. Some celebrities are moody, some are good but it is the experience of working with each one of them that I have enjoyed the most.
Expresso: Would you like to share some achievements or recognitions so far?
Ashima: In terms of fashion and arts, I have been recognized for the work I have done. A few of the awards I received are the National excellence award, Women excellence achievement award, 19thranked LACMA award. Recently, I got award from Amisha Patel for excellence in fashion and arts. Besides, there are some nominations as well. I am really grateful for all the accolades at all the levels and I couldn’t have asked for more.
Expresso: Any piece of advice who would like to follow your footprints.
Ashima: Anybody who wants to follow my footprints, I would like to tell them that follow your heart but always put calculative thinking in that. Retail without aesthetic value will not work. Similarly, aesthetic value without retail will not work. You need to try and strike a balance between the two.
You can’t go amiss with them. So, put retail and aesthetic value should be there in equal proportion. Also, be curious to learn more from your surroundings and never think that you have arrived else there will be no growth. Life is about getting somewhere, and you have to keep learning to make the journey going. Use your mind, use your heart and choose your companions wisely.