We think we can tell Aparna Chandra’s designs at a glance — a soft palette, flowing pieces paired with more structured silhouettes, and the tiniest pops of detail. Now, at 47, the designer and stylist is tackling a fresh collection that departs from her usual pared-back aesthetic, while staying very true to her core ideals.
Perched beside a bust of Frida Kahlo, one (of only two) of her style icons, Chandra explains, “I have never followed trends.” When Chandra designed an all-white collection for her graduation assignment at NIFT in 1992 her professors made their apprehensions heard, calling the line “too plain,” but she stood by it and even today professes, “It’s my favourite collection till date.”
Over the years, Chandra has oscillated between designing and styling, giving up the former for a good few years in between, attributing it to a lack of the business acumen that one needs as an independent designer. “In 1998 when I launched my label people wanted embroidery and excessive detail, which was totally contrary to my style”, she recalls, “and all I wanted to do was concentrate on the aspect of design, rather than sell my idea of design to people.”
She did, in a sense, develop a feel for the business of fashion when she worked as a stylist from 2007 to 2014, following briefs and putting together looks that she didn’t always believe in as a designer but were exactly what was needed to nail the project as a stylist. “This is exciting stuff too — to figure someone else’s vision and to do it well, even if it clashes with your style.” From then to now, Chandra’s style has stayed fairly constant, save for her frequent bouts of experimentation, to which she adds, “What I’d do then, I do now, but with much more confidence.”
In 2018, she’s gone back to her roots as an independent designer (while staying on as lead designer at Nicobar) with a new launch collection for Nicobar that is all handcrafted celebration, and strikes the perfect balance between pared-back and glam — something, possibly, to tease her NIFT professors with.
Titled Midnight Wonderland, the launch collection of this new line feels like an amalgam of her past and the people she’s met along the way. During her days styling for ads and editorials, close friend and well-known photographer, Prabuddha Dasgupta would chide her for “wasting her days as a stylist”, urging her to concentrate on designing clothes instead. Today, as her new collection as an independent stylist comes to fruition, she wistfully surrenders, “I miss him like crazy because he’d always been telling me to go back to designing and when I finally have, he isn’t around anymore.”
Aparna Chandra for Nicobar launches on September 15 and you’ll find her new line in our stores across the country, and in a special five-day pop-up at Good Earth, Khan Market from September 15 – 19.