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A perfect blend – PRAGYA CHITRAKAR
Text by: Mannat Shrestha
Pragya Chitrakar intertwines art and fashion with inspiring creativity. She intersperses contemporary aesthetics in local fabrics using traditional hand-executed techniques which makes each design a piece of art. WOW talks to the fashion designer about her journey, her latest collection and more.
What sparked your interest in fashion?
While learning art and design in high school, a magazine fashion spread caught my eye. I noticed that the outfits featured were very different from the ones we usually see; it had a storyline and theme. This made me realise that clothes and art can go together and I wanted to explore further. Also the same year, I attended a fashion show organised by Handicraft Association of Nepal, this again enhanced my interest in fashion.
What made you take on a career in fashion?
While pursuing my Diploma in Fashion, I made my very first gown for a beauty pageant: Miss Teen Nepal. Back then I had very little knowledge about pattern making, creating an evening gown was a very big deal for me. I even took help from a local tailor to make it. Then it so happened that the participant who was wearing the gown became the winner. I was appreciated by so many people and thus motivated to pursue a career in fashion designing.
How did Simrik Design Studio come about?
I always wanted to have my own brand where I could create all ‘made in Nepal’ products. Working with companies that dealt with local products helped me gain insight on textiles, production processes and acquiring local resources. In 2015, I decided to leave my job and set up a small home based company. There were a lot of trial and errors. Few designs became successful and many were pointless endeavours. But, by the end of 2015, I came up with a few designs that have now become my signature designs.
You come from a family of artists, how has this influenced your work?
It has always influenced my work. My work always carries a hint of Newari art and culture, be it in the colour combinations or silhouette. Poubha art is very close to my heart as I grew up seeing these paintings in my father’s gallery and at home. I always make sure my designs carry some story not just aesthetically but with certain cultural value.
You displayed your latest collection at the Nepal Fashion Week 2018, what was the feedback?
The feedback was overwhelming. The audience understood my style and the story behind my collection. I got a lot of praise for my selection of fabrics and colours. I was able to promote Newari art and culture through fashion. I wanted to showcase that Nepali products can have variations and quality which can match up to international standards. I somehow feel I achieved this at the Nepal Fashion Week.
What is your top pick from your latest collection?
The top pick would be the drape skirt since its very versatile and figure flattering.
What goes into producing your garments?
I try to use mostly local textiles and resources. My team consists of local weavers who develop the fabrics. Then a group of women help me out with the manufacturing process from the stitching to the final finishing.
I love Nepali raw silk and cotton the most. The matte texture and the versatile nature of these fabrics are beautiful. Besides that, I use bamboo fabric because of its fluidity.
What are some of the biggest challenges when it comes to marketing your work?
It is still unacceptable for people to wear anti-fit styles and neutral colours in Nepal. Hence, there are a limited number of people who understand my fabrics and colours. A lot of people do not understand the essence of hand-woven techniques and it’s difficult to explain it to them.
What are you currently working on?
I am working on my 2019 collection. The collection will have hand painted and hand embroidered details derived from Newari prints.
Many people only see the glamorous side of fashion … what should new designers be wary of?
The fashion field is perceived as a glamorous industry but that’s far from reality. It can get very stressful. Upcoming designers should be dedicated and open towards working under pressure and challenging circumstances. Also, being talented is not enough as no job will land at your feet. Networking is very important so one needs to be professional and carry the right attitude.
Your life lessons…
The first lesson I learned is patience. Nothing is achievable overnight. Second is to experiment and explore. No designer is successful without experimenting; if you have something in mind, try it irrespective of success or failure. Also, it is important to be updated. Research the latest trends worldwide. You never know what is going to inspire you.