Kalki Koechlin wearing Shift for Grazia India
Mumbai based fashion designer and London College of Fashion alumnus Nimish Shah has made quite the name for himself with his innovative approach to create sustainable fashion products and bagging the “Fashioning the Future” award for materials innovation at The Center for Sustainable Fashion summit in London.
His contribution to conscious clothing with his fashion label Shift has ushered an environmental consciousness in the fashion industry and has gained critical appreciation with a celebrity fan following. His sustainable approach towards each of his collections involves working with organic fair trade natural fibres, artisanal Indian textiles and manufacturing units with high environmental and labour standards.
He currently took charge as Creative Director of streetwear clothing brand Bhaane and his work has been featured in Grazia, Elle, Femina, Vogue, GQ, Marie Claire and Verve. We were lucky enough to take a moment of Nimish's time to chat about his fashion label Shift, sustainability, slow fashion and his new role at Bhaane.
Alia Bhatt debuting Shift's summer collection in hand screen printed skirt and frill brassieres
Can you tell us what led you to launch your own fashion label Shift?
I started Shift in 2011 where I was dabbling into a couple of ideas of having a creative agency or mastering one basic product which we need for an everyday consumption. I wanted to start a conscious clothing company with subtle, beautiful clothes with the idea of something like a white t-shirt, a perfect pair of denim, a jacket or a cardigan or a beautiful sweater.
All of those ideas came about and I started sampling and looking at what raw materials to explore and just one thing led to other. I had a range of fashion forward looking clothing and we decided to do a fashion show with some basic feedback. It was very well received as there was nothing like that in the market which is very simple and sophisticated. Everything else was over the top or mass produced. So there was insight at every stage that gave me enough confidence to go into it full time.
How’s Bhaane different from Shift in terms of aesthetics and design philosophy?
Aesthetics is an evolving pattern and I think all brands go through an aesthetic change overall. The whole notion of Bhaane is basics and it has always been about building a core wardrobe and not making it super fashion. But over a period of time, even Bhaane needs to explore fashion to stay relevant in the market.
Also with Shift and Bhaane, the fundamentals are different. Shift is a boutique business, it is far more niche and explores a lot more opulent materials. Bhaane is a lot more accessible in terms of price points and also from a manufacturing perspective. So the constructions are far more simpler, the technique is a lot more easy to adapt and it’s available for everybody to buy. So there is that edge for Bhaane over Shift and the other way around with people who are purveyors of quality and enjoy craftsmanship will indulge in Shift. Bhaane certainly has essence of all those things as well but not completely.
"I wanted to start a conscious clothing company with subtle, beautiful clothes with the idea of something like a white t-shirt, a perfect pair of denim, a jacket or a cardigan or a beautiful sweater."
How do you see the look of our wardrobes changing over the next few years?
Over the next few years, hopefully people will get more conscious and will keep a capsule wardrobe. They will consume less, consume smarter and make sure everything they buy gives them a lift in the spirit along with a sense of satisfaction of buying a quality product at reasonable prices and not necessarily cheap or ridiculously expensive.
What responsibility do brands have in terms of bringing a cultural and visual change among the masses?
Brands have to become market leaders. That is how they stay relevant, they have to stay ahead of the curve, they have to educate customers on what they want next.
It also depends on the type of brands and the audience they are catering to. Luxury brands focus on loyalty and heritage while upcoming brands focus on modernity to attract their target audience.
"I think sustainability is an internal brief that all design makers should adhere to and an unsustainable design is a wasted effort."
How can we make sustainability more appealing and accessible to the Indian audience?
I think sustainability is an internal brief that all design makers should adhere to and an unsustainable design is a wasted effort. So sustainable design will become a combination of governance where there are strict regulations on prohibiting unsustainable design and eventually desirability plays a vital factor in any thing we manufacture. Nobody needs more clothes, there has to a desirability factor if you have to excite somebody.
Sustainability can be addressed through creating desirable designs and being a little more smarter about how you create these designs. Accessibility will come by better governance, better availability of raw materials and more manufacturers getting into sustainable textiles.
What should be the most important aspect for a brand in their pursuit towards sustainability?
Common sense I feel. There is no formula for sustainable design, it all has to be relative and it all has to make sense for your immediate cycle with obviously a broader mindset and plan in place.
Brands should be careful about the type of fabrics to make sure they are durable and last for a long time. They should take one key aspect of sustainability and educate their audience around that. It’s also important for brands to see if that aspect of sustainability is not infringing on cultural or social norms.
There is no hundred per cent sustainable design, there is only an attempt to sustainability.
"Brands should be careful about the type of fabrics to make sure they are durable and last for a long time. They should take one key aspect of sustainability and educate their audience around that."
How do you fuse Indian elements with Scandinavian design in your collections?
It is a very personal thing as I have always inclined towards more minimalistic and scandinavian design aesthetics and I’ve always found those elements within Indian origin as well. Even in the most ornate textile, there is a control element and you could alter few details for it to become a lot more Scandinavian. So it’s a personal choice and I try to merge the two wherever I can.
Architectural Digest in Jodhpur celebrating Indigo Natural Dye with Shift's field jacket in cotton drill
The narrative of slow fashion is fast catching up globally. How do you see that evolving in our country?
We have always acknowledged slow fashion and it’s only in the last five to ten years we have seen global consumption with emergence of social media. Infact, Indians have always been conscious shoppers, they have always bought best and they have always bought it when it’s required. It has nothing to do with availability of money or lack of. So, I don’t think for us it’s a full circle and our consumption is not like America or Europe. But we have to be careful so we don’t make the same mistakes which the West did.
"Indians have always been conscious shoppers, they have always bought the best and they have always bought it when it’s required."
Can you tell us about any upcoming collections or projects you’ve been working on?
The next collection comes out in August-September which I’ve been working on for Bhaane for the longest time. So that’ll be the next reveal happening in August.
Where can we find about what you’re upto with Shift and Bhaane?
We are on Instagram @nimishshift and @bhane.