Ketshi Pujara, a stylist and designer from NIFT, talks to Storiyaan about some of her collections and hints at future collections as well. She gives us a sneak-peek into how she chooses the aesthetic for each of her shoots and explains the challenges she’s conquered while establishing her own label at such a young age. She is determined to continue in her fight for body positivity and perseveres until she succeeds.
Questions and answers
What is the one thing you learnt at NIFT that will remain with you for the rest of your life?
Honestly, there isn’t just one thing; my entire journey of NIFT will remain with me for the rest of my life. They have not only taught designing but life skills, business skills that are a must and mainly the sheer necessity of ‘knowing your purpose’ for every step you take ahead, be it life or a new collection. The institute has given me the will to take up each challenge that comes my way. They taught me to present myself along with my work, how to maintain grace under pressure, and it prepared me for the struggles of the real world.
What was the thought process behind your empowering 'women-in-charge' collection?
At the end of every semester, we had to develop a collection as a group based on what we learnt. In 2017 we studied draping cowls and drafting trousers, to inculcate and symbolize the deeper meanings behind those silhouettes we instantly hit off with the idea of celebrating the women-in-charge, who juggle work and their personal life with grace and poise. It was a celebration of women in charge of their own lives, their families and their passion.
How do you find the perfect balance between contemporary and Indian designs?
I feel that balance is actually what best describes my personal style, it is a mélange of both, and I can’t pick sides. When we cater to different target audiences, it is mandatory to balance these aspects. Still, it largely depends on the entire design process, like the occasion you are looking for, the theme, the idea and mood for your look. This helps to decide which elements to pick from contemporary and Indian ideas.
What are some of the challenges you faced while building your own label?
I always knew I wanted to be my own boss, and I’d rather put in all that I have in developing my own name rather than working hard for someone else. I am from Rajkot, Gujarat, and I see a huge emerging potential in the market here. I don’t want to settle for ‘these things don’t work here,’ rather I want to get the masses to accept ‘the new.’ I don’t know what the future holds, but I know it’s going to take a while to change the design process here and to have my own creative embankment.
Since body-shaming is a huge issue in our society, how do you incorporate body positivity in your label?
I have been a victim of body shaming, and it has played a major role in affecting my confidence and my mental health, so much so that I still haven’t gained my confidence back or love myself enough, it’s a work in progress. Therefore, I am immensely sensitive towards it moreover someone’s ‘body’ is never a conversation I even consider having when I choose a model for my shoot. I prefer a look and vision for my label, and the person most suitable for that cuts the mark regardless of their shape. All the outfits that I design contain margins to fit any size and also solutions to alter it further. I recently came across this initiative by Diet Sabya on the issue of ‘fat tax’, and I pledge to stand by it as I develop my own brand.
How do you decide the aesthetic of each photo-shoot?
So when it comes to the aesthetics of my photo-shoot, I like to bring out the story and the mood with which the entire collection began. I like to have rawness, something natural and pure rather than a scripted aesthetic. I want people to know where the idea emerged from and not only see it but create an entire experience for them to be a part of. Talking about my recent festive collection, ‘Genda Phool’, the idea emerged from the small scale intimate celebrations that we are going to have this year. Through my aesthetic, I wanted to connect with people by making them reminisce about hogging on sweets, jamming with your parents on retro Bollywood songs, etc.
What is the inspiration that Kutch has had on your work?
My family hails from Kutch, and the funny part is that 18 years of my life, I never looked at the beauty of craftsmanship in Kutch. I was ignorant about it until after I joined NIFT and learnt about it in depth. Now, I can’t stop going back, each time I visit Kutch, I bring back something with me, I explore a new place and new crafts. Crafts of Kutch are heirloom pieces, and I want to give complete justice to it when I put it in my line of work. Therefore I am researching about it, exploring new artisans and sourcing places in Kutch. I am building new relations until I believe I have the potential to work on it and plan a collection that justifies the beauty of it.
What is the best compliment you have received to date?
The compliment is never the words spoken by people but the joy with which they adore and wear something that I create, it is the smiles, the confidence and how it makes their personality shine, how it makes them feel beautiful and not only look beautiful. That being said, when I think of a personal compliment I have received, it’s how my parent’s eyes shine with happiness when someone accolades my work, I can see I made them proud.