Combining Indian craftsmanship with Western Goth sensibilities is what flavors Nitin Bal Chauhan’s work. The journey of the label began right after Nitin graduated NIFT, Delhi in the year 2002. After his graduation, he vanished from the city life. He took refuge in the laps of Himalayas, for the next 4 years! There, this eccentric artist turned fashion designer worked for the upliftment of the crafts of Himachal Pradesh, resulting in the formation of an NGO, Sewa Himalaya. He then designed a collection called ‘Lust for Life’ of which the craftsmen were an integral part.
Here, we sit with Nitin Bal Chauhan and talk about his journey through life as a designer, what his aesthetics and views are in a world of today along with some really insightful advice he provides to the youngsters of today!
I was actually looking for a creative field to get into, where I could express myself well. I had an aesthetic element in me, maybe because of my parents. In fact I used to win awards for painting competitions in school. I used to feel the happiest and content when I was drawing.
So when I got the opportunity to go to NIFT, Delhi. I witnessed how students studied there in such a wonderful environment. All these students that I saw working steadily in fashion, they used to be in their zone. They were really happy! This is how I wanted my life to be and that’s how I indulged myself into- the fashion world.
I remember I graduated from NIFT and I won the award for the best design collection. My faculty told me not to sit for any interview since they saw me preparing for my final collection. It was them who advised me to travel!
I explored a lot of places in my travel and ended up in Himachal and Chamba where I hail from. When I went back to Chamba though, I had my eyes and ears all open to the world and this usually happens after design school. Crafts in Chamba influenced my perspective.
I started my NGO soon after as well as my first collection, working with weavers, documented 10 different craft varieties and more and stayed for almost 4 years in Chamba and got offered a scholarship at Domus Academy, Milan. The best way to go about it was to just present collections in the college and guidance from my faculty, somehow that would have been my masters right there!
My label is my name, Nitin Bal Chauhan. I distinctly remember during my orientation Prasad Bidapa was speaking and he was talking about various things, one of them being where many designers choose difficult names and how it gets difficult to figure out the meaning of the name. But he believed that the best way is to put your name there, keeping it simple. That always stuck with me! And that’s why I called it Nitin Bal Chauhan.
I believe it’s the process. It’s the journey where you explore and see different things and possess a completely different eye to it. My perspective would be entirely different from yours and that’s how I think it's very important to me. Whatever I design, be it luxury pret or streetwear, all of them have one single element to it which is diverse and consistent.
I believe all my collections are like that! I try to give my best to every collection I make. As I said, it’s the process that makes it all the more worthwhile. It's very difficult to fall in love again and again with something you do. You can only fall in love once and that’s how it is with my process. Honestly, I go into a depression when my collection show is over. So, my graduation collection was on Kargil War and my debut collection at Lakme in 2007 was on Syria War Prisoners in Afghanistan so I have to feel very strongly with every collection I make. I’d say every collection holds some meaning for me.
As far as brands are concerned, I don’t think we’ve really made a mark in the world. There are names which are doing really well in India itself but as a country, it's still at a nascent stage and has to grow further on from here. India is still growing and booming. They have to go a long way in terms of addressing global design needs. How much and in what direction you’re growing is also very important so that you can maintain its purity rather than getting patronized for it.
Q7. What exactly is the vision for your label?
I want to work on a larger goal of fashion. I’m still looking for that role and I’m in search of that contentment when it comes to your vision in life, it has to have a purpose to it. Since I’m looking through the eyes of fashion, I see the future of fashion in terms of technology where it plays a huge role. And when that futuristic day comes, I should be able to design something useful for everybody out of that.
Q8. Where are all your collections available as of now?
Online, you can find my collections at AZA, Pernia’s Pop Up Shop, in 2-3 other portals as well. Offline, you can find them in Kolkata, Mumbai, Amritsar, Hyderabad, Kanpur, PAN India most probably. We also do pop-ups and exhibitions frequently all over India.
Q9. Is there anything in fashion education that you would like to change in the education of today, especially being a designer now?
I feel that I struggled only because I wanted to become an entrepreneur, I did not know what it takes to make a label. Like I did not know what GST is, how it needs to be filed, I need to learn business and management. See, when you’re studying design, I feel that we need to have a basic understanding of these things and it should be taught in today’s curriculum. Also, I see the lack of soul and passion in an eye for things in youngsters since everything is readily available on the internet. In our time, since we didn’t have smartphones or any fancy gadgets, the key step to create a collection started by taking pictures from a digital camera, exploring, focusing in-depth, scouting for resources and creating mood boards accordingly. I sense the need for doing all that in the generation of today!
Q10. After the collection 'Dementia', what’s next for you?
We’re already working on our couture and fusion line for now. I’m just looking for inspiration for our luxury pret lines as of now, sampling is going on as well. Since we work in advance for our collections, it isn’t necessary that everything pans out as a lot of concepts are executed and some are not. I usually brainstorm with my previous season collections and concepts as well because you may never know what brilliant idea can come into place for the next season from those past ideas.
Fashion is just like any other field that you work in, it's just that you can express yourself well here. So, it’s nice to be thorough with yourself and try to find a purpose rather than just looking at fashion as a medium to earn your bread. Look at fashion as an art and expression, a medium of self-exploration and self-realization. Fashion will make you aware of so many things from a different perspective, it’ll help you in finding your own self!