Text by Akanksha Pandey. Photographed by Mallika Chandra
The mother-daughter duo at Mishé is focused on getting the mainstream fashion industry and its consumers to make more conscious choices. In an exclusive with Verve, Bhumika Ahluwalia takes us into the DNA of the brand….
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m Bhumika Ahluwalia, co-founder and creative head at Mishé. I co-founded the brand with my mom, Minakshi Ahluwalia, in August 2018.
What is your vision for the brand, and what do you want to communicate with your work?
We started Mishé with the intention of creating a conscious brand that every woman can wear, be it someone my age or my mother’s. We focus mainly on zero or minimal wastage of fabric and use very intricate pattern-making techniques. Our silhouettes are one of a kind, with a lot of shapes juxtaposed into them. For the last two years, we’ve had all kinds of women from every age group wearing Mishé, and we feel great about this. As designers, it’s our duty and privilege to be conscious in our production and make women feel comfortable when they wear our clothes. We really push towards having a clean supply chain.
How do your individual fashion philosophies influence the brand? Is there a special kind of expertise that you bring to the table versus your mother?
I remember my mother dressing up in her beautiful handloom saris while I was growing up, and I used to open her wardrobe to look at her sari collection. She’s always had an eye for good design and fabric, and my interest in fashion grew because of her. My parents have always been very fashion-conscious. When I started fashion school, my mother would help me with ideas, and that’s when I realised how good she is at it. While I was in New York as a student, I was introduced to sustainability. I researched the topic, read various articles and watched documentaries. I stopped buying from fast-fashion brands and only looked out for home-grown labels. After moving to India, my mother and I travelled around the country to meet artisans and look for various alternatives. We first incorporated the conscious living aspect into our lives and then inculcated it in the brand. My mother has always upcycled her mother’s saris, and that’s how I got into it. The way she treasures her clothes, especially her saris, us the idea of creating one-of-kind, timeless and versatile pieces.
What is the textile in focus for this season? What measures do you take to be more sustainable as a design label?
For this season of Lakmé Fashion Week, we’ve explored different fabrics such as banana fabric and orange peel fabric – these are made from fruit extracts, recycled cotton and handwoven cotton. We try to have a clean supply chain, use zero-waste techniques and upcycle the cuttings from leftover fabrics. We keep our team of karigars at the forefront: we tell their stories as we want people to know who made their clothes.
How has studying at Parsons School of Design influenced the way you see design and fashion?
I give all the credit to Parsons for making me the designer I am today. It was definitely a gradual process, and it still is. We never stop learning, but the environment at Parsons was very healthy and uplifting. Our professors never stopped us from exploring and going all out with our creativity, but at the same time, they also taught us how to run a business.
I got into making conscious choices because of studying there. I learnt different pattern-making techniques such as Japanese pattern-making and zero-waste pattern-making. I learnt to be confident and to believe in my work. I realised that unless you believe in your designs, no one else will. I believe in having an individual style and the same applies to my clothes too. Design and fashion are very individualistic, and I believe in telling my story through my clothes. In fact, I took up a sign language class at Parsons and my Gen Next collection is inspired by sign language.
What does it mean to be a “gen-next” label today?
Being conscious! We want to set the example that this is how we have to move forward, especially now that we are in the middle of a pandemic. We don’t do seasons, and we are a slow fashion brand. We want the fashion industry the world over to think about each step during production and post-production as well.