With sneaker culture and streetwear at an all-time-high in India, this passionate set off to put Mumbai on the world’s streetwear style-map.
It’s official. With outfits no longer restricted to celebrity wardrobes and fashion magazines, the rise of streetwear is no longer incipient in India.
What started out as a conflux of skater, surfer, and hip-hop subcultures from the ‘70s has now evolved into a global multicultural phenomenon, with many of us today adopt streetwear fashion cues without even realizing it, giving the style an organic, fluid quality that’s easy to emulate, and hard to master.
Amruta Behera and Riya Khanna set off on a quest to capture this essence back in 2020, with the launch of ‘Rising Among,’ after a storied history as roommates while at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York.
With a focus on aesthetic freedom, the pair combined their respective talents in design and business — crafting a new conversation in the language of modern streetwear, its proponents, and its constantly-evolving legacy — from New York to New Delhi.
Here’s some selected excerpts from our conversation with the dynamic duo, highlighting their journey as friends, co-founders, and their exciting showcase at Paris Fashion Week 2022.
Riya: We started our brand in 2020, in the middle of the pandemic; that’s when we came up with ‘Rising Among’ together. In the initial days, we started reworking, reusing, or upcycling many of our garments and fabrics, and that’s something we still incorporate today in most of our pieces.
Put simply, we focus on utilitarian, functional clothing customized according to our customers’ preferences. We even keep the tagline ‘Made to Rewear’ in all of our pieces, and try to be as sustainable as possible.
We always wanted to do corporate jobs; this was never our plan. We graduated in May 2020, and simply didn’t want to waste our talents and sit at home! Back then, the pandemic had just begun and nothing was open to us — no vendors, no tailor, nothing.
Everything was a hand-done DIY process for us at first. Strangely, we would have never created ‘Rising Among’ without the pandemic happening.
Amruta: People usually assume that you need to become friends before living together.
We were roommates first — complete strangers who had just met each other online. We met with one of us holding a pack of theplas, the other with a pack of Maggi noodles, and ended up living together in one room in New York.
It was the first time we were living away from our families; so we essentially grew up together, and became best friends. Riya specialized in fashion business, while I specialized in fashion design.
Riya is the one who creates the strategy of the business and it is important to have someone who can complement your thinking and negotiate for fabrics. I would make designs and translate them on paper or even directly to tailors.
Before we started our brand, we had done a few internships in Sri Lanka, India, and the US, and expected to climb the corporate ladder. Then, the pandemic came, and we were forced to come back home. After we came back, we saw a massive surge in streetwear culture in India — sneakerheads and reseller platforms were becoming so big, and that’s the point when we both realized that it’s the perfect time to start.
There were already a few brands to work with, but we really wanted to push forward a women-led label in this industry as most think of it as a male-dominated style. However, being women really gives us an edge.
Amruta: I think our clothes — the street style that we represent — is an amalgamation of everything we’ve seen in New York; but it isn’t even just NYC for us anymore. After going to Europe and presenting at Paris Fashion Week, we realized we can’t just focus on one market. We wanted to create a global fashion house that can be worn across the world.
We aim to try things that aren’t trendy anymore. Even if it’s old, we aim to pull it off in a way that gets customers coming back to us. Paisley, for example, has been around forever but we started making new pieces and the trend saw a revival; it’s been the same with tie-dye trends too.
Riya: This suddenly happened when we both were sick with Covid, which happened at the same time. We shut down shop for a month in the middle as we had to socially distance ourselves. Luckily, after this period we received an email from the company that hosted us, Flying Solo.
They host and invite independent designers at Paris Fashion Week, New York Fashion Week, and other similar events around the world. We were a baby brand at the time, suffering from Covid but still decided that we couldn’t afford to lose the opportunity.
We then came up with a new idea, naming our collection ‘UNTAMED’, using different multiple different trends, influences, and also our own personal journeys as inspiration. After Covid, our brains worked much better. We were able to channel our journey and mistakes from the last two years into a platform where we could showcase this creative shift to the world.
Amruta: We didn’t realize it was happening until it was our turn to walk the runway (laughs). I didn’t sleep that night, I was very anxious and still had to get things done — the behind-the-scenes experience at any Fashion Week is pretty insane. We had similar exhibitions earlier in college but we didn’t care that much as all it did was go on our resume.
Here, we had to do everything on our own and showcase our brand — it was crazy, unreal… for me, everything was a blur.
Riya: We took it all in. We gave it our 100 percent.
Riya: In India, it’s understood that if you own Jordans, or can pull off baggy jeans, or wear an oversized shirt, you have a certain level of money and ‘cultural expertise’ to style yourself in streetwear.
For me and Amruta, that’s not how streetwear should be defined. We simply recommend experimenting within your own comfort zone. You don’t need to rely on expensive sneakers; just try in comfortable clothes with an oversized look, and don’t be afraid to try lots of colors.
Also, definitely wear ‘Rising Among’ (laughs). We have plenty of great shirts to try out — the bandana ones are my personal favorite, and are easy to pair with. Good for someone who doesn’t experiment too much.
Riya: Our next collection launches in June, and we’ve named it ‘Anti-Trend.’ We’re hoping to showcase something really new — with a bunch of unseen denims and prints which we know will be instantly recognizable as Rising Among pieces. We’re also working on a summer collection with tie-dyes. They’re a classic part of both summers and our brand, and we’re excited to create some fun pieces in that space.
We’re also looking to launch a jewelry collection in April, so stay tuned!
You can browse through ‘Rising Among’s’ latest apparel on their website, here.
(Featured Image Credits: Rising Among)