Ujjawal Dubey talks about his menswear line, Antar-Agni, which has already become a red carpet favourite with the young Bollywood set.
The Lakme Fashion Week Winter/Festive 2016 brings together the most prominent names of the fashion industry, from around the world. This five day affair comprises scintillating sessions that redefine fashion and style. So here is our story with Ujjawal Dubey, who talks about his menswear line, Antar-Agni, which has already become a red carpet favourite with the young Bollywood set.
The first time I saw Ujjawal Dubey’s works at Lakme Fashion Week, a few seasons ago, it was refreshing to see so much thought being put into menswear in this country. Most menswear pieces are afterthoughts in India, in order to not lose out on the husband who walks into the store to shop with his wife. Other than formal and wedding wear, most designers do not concentrate on dressing up men in this country — but Ujjawal does.
“I never decided to be a fashion designer, or even a designer,” he says, when we talk about inspirations and beginnings. “It was like a gradual flow of things that led me into the field. As a student (at NIFT, Kolkata), inspirations were all around me, mostly in the form of other people’s work, the way they lived their lives and the approach they had towards the world around them. But, gradually, as you grow, your interests and inspirations change.” This perspective of weaving philosophy and lifestyle into a clothing line is something that every designer wants to achieve, but many fail to do so — or waver, at the very least. It doesn’t seem like Ujjawal lives from one season to another; he talks like an artist would while describing a sculpture he has been busy with recently.
Ujjawal’s brand, Antar-Agni, works with raw and unabashedly Indian textiles, and the colour palette stays restricted to pastels, dirty linen, grays and blacks. The silhouettes are an astute marriage of Indian and western construction, making his pieces wearable across occasions. There is no amped-up glamour in what he creates, but rather a suave, laidback confidence — try to imagine Ghalib set to Louis Armstrong. According to him, Antar-Agni is “strongly non-conformist, fluid and unrestricted.”
This makes him very topical, because as a society, we are going through a phase of easy-breezy, as far as fashion is concerned — restaurants are stressing on crowd favourites and casual banter, “hipster” is the go-to word for every young adult and indie is the new mainstream. Ujjawal fits right in. “I think the Indian fashion scene has changed drastically in the last few years. The approach has become more individualistic, the attention from only event wear has also moved on to everyday style. Also, the realisation of the potential of Indian craft and textiles has definitely given a new direction to Indian fashion.”
What does he love about this Indo-western fusion? “Indian textiles are full of character and a good retreat from the fast-paced lives we lead. Hence, unrestricted cuts and fits complement these textiles. At Antar- Agni, the focus is on individuality. The Antar-Agni man is non-hesitant, unbothered and confident. I would define him as more stylish than fashionable.” Of the young bunch of up and coming designers in the country today, Ujjawal is an independent voice who has an astute understanding of human nature, as well as of what the market needs. He strikes the right balance between art and product — and does a damn fine job of it.