Bagging the title of Lakmé Fashion Week’s Gen-Next Designers and further winning the collaborative programme by Coca Cola’s smartwater, IMG Reliance and Lakmé Fashion Week’s ‘The Platform’, SWGT is now on the radar of several fashion enthusiasts and stakeholders. This recognition is well-deserved owing to the unique set of techniques that the brand imbibes in its design language, beautifully championing slow craft of hand-weaving while promoting the artisans who form the core of the label.
Team Apparel Online talks to Shweta Gupta about her journey where she assimilates her roots and travels into a unique design language that is slowly becoming an inspiration for many aspiring designers looking to establish their own sustainable space. “SWGT is the interaction of self with the surroundings, and the surroundings being mountains for me, as I love to travel to mountains, where I grew up, to find inspiration and create designs stemming from these escapades. This is my motto – to strike balance between the planes of creativity and inspiration,” she shares.
Gupta recognised her alma mater, NIFT, Gandhinagar, as a home that moulded, inspired and pushed her to start a design journey with SWGT. Exploration in textiles and pattern manipulation intrigued her the most, and she translated this interest into capability, achieving several awards in the field. A stellar career also contributed to her success, as she worked with stalwarts of the industry right from Gaurav Gupta to Varun Bahl and finally with Tarun Tahiliani for a period of five years before she went on for a freelancing career.
The brand serves for real women, not just in terms of sizes, but in patterns as well. Gupta identifies the modern woman as someone who is bold but not without insecurities and this is what she targets, a brand that understands that all women are different with different shapes, sizes and diversified preferences.
“SWGT is the interaction of self with the surroundings, and the surroundings being mountains for me, as I love to explore mountains, where I grew up, to find inspiration and create designs stemming from my escapades.”
SWGT: The Inception
While going through the streets of Jhansi, Gupta came across the iconic Chanderi village, where she instantly fell in love with Chanderi, the fabric and the place. “Only the creations made in Chanderi can be called Chanderi; people need to realise the geographical identity of Chanderi,” she says. Gupta created her first collection of ten styles with this fabric, and they instantly caught the eye of buyers from Amethyst, marking the start of SWGT’s early success. She went back to the village to learn extensively about the textile, and today she is working with 16 families who weave fabric for her. Her next collection was then recognised at Gen-Next for the construction techniques, textile excellence and design language she had showcased through her work.
She avers, “The Gen-Next collection, inspired by Madhya Pradesh’s identity as a mining state, had a colour story that took cues India | AUGUST 16-31, 2019 | www.apparelresources.com from mined stones – grey, sand, pink, etc. Eventually, Ogaan and Ensemble started stocking us and we received a whooping response.” Gupta further explained how Lakmé Fashion Week served as a booster for SWGT, calling it critical in launching the careers of the designers who come without a family background in the industry or a strong backing.
“I’ve witnessed Lakmé boosting the careers of so many talented designers, be it Rahul Mishra, Aneeth and now, me. We champion slow fashion and I don’t want to rush the process; this is the studio’s ethos. With Gen- Next, people could see what we are actually doing, as not many knew our strengths. Further, I applied for smartwater again and as per the #MadeDifferently theme, I was already doing things differently, and I translated that to them. Lakmé and IMG Reliance are doing great things, especially the mentorship programmes are highly enlightening,” says Gupta, who will be showcasing her collection at the Winter/Festive 2019 edition of Lakmé Fashion Week shortly.
The brand’s ethos revolves around adding value to the garment right at the yarn level, and this aim is achieved with the help of the local artisans, who, with Gupta, imbibe innovative techniques to elevate the rich handwoven textiles. Speaking about the abundance of skills in India, Gupta asserts, “Privilege of being in India is that we can weave our own fabric like a canvas, and mould it the way we want. Since past two years, I am just weaving in Chanderi, which is traditional, but I am finding ways to capture innovation through the yarn, or maybe a difference in the motifs. I also want to make sure that this cluster of artisans have work. I don’t have intermediaries, I sit with them to be a part of the process, they trust me. I provide them with what they need and what I am trying to do is sustain the people I have, the women that I teach, the techniques that we do.”
Gupta has collaborated with women who excel in the technique of crotchet based out of Khatauli, where small Muslim communities crotchet bed sheets, cushions, round doilies and the fabric as a whole. The cluster is tremendously skilled and constantly provides good design inputs to the processes, and they have done projects with Ikea too.
Adding to the employment she is generating for these cluster groups, Gupta incorporates sustainability in her patterns as well. Before applying techniques such as knotting, tucking and pleating over the finished fabric, Gupta pattern engineers right at the loom as per the end-product, effectively achieving zero or minimal waste patterns. She explains, “At SWGT, we enjoy monopoly even on the yarn of the fabric, so we can mix and match and dye these yarns as per the end garment. Not every handwoven fabric is ideal, you can’t use it for maybe jackets to be worn in London, so this is what we are trying to do with the techniques we use – changing the patterns to suit the needs. We made minimal waste patterns for smartwater and now it is becoming our brand language.”
A PROMISING FUTURE
Having garnered recognition from the top industry bigwigs after her recent awards, Gupta plans to strengthen her roots in India and slowly take her work across borders. One of the smaller segment of the label, SWGT Imprints, has already been a hit in the Singapore market, known for eco-dyeing techniques done using leaves and petals Gupta collects during her travels. She also retails via Indian stores such as Ensemble, Ogaan Malcha Marg (Delhi) and Ogaan Hyderabad, Atosa Bombay, Elahe Hyderabad, Clove Bombay, Evoluzione Qutub and ogaan.com, which builds international customer demands for the label.
“India enables us to weave our own fabric like a canvas, and mould it the way we want. Design solves problems and I use my skills in pattern engineering and garment construction to create zero-waste patterns.”
Moving forward, Gupta plans to create a brand that creates silhouettes that can be worn by any woman, while being sustainable in all its aspects. Gupta worships the power design holds and believes that the design process is actually a craft to solve problems. She concludes, “Initially I felt that dealing with hand woven fabrics is a risk, but now it’s about having monopoly over the textile, making my own fabric. SWGT’s products are unique; I feel like I’m in the right direction and making true products. My dream is to take my artisans’ community to Almora, my hometown, and create my own eco-village. Sustainability is important and should be ingrained in the design process, but that is not our signature, that is something we just do. Our signature is beautiful clothes for the real women. And I will elucidate this signature with my travels – the most important part of my design journey.”