Rimzim Dadu on her steel and leatherite saris and opening her maiden store amid the coronavirus scare

Ektaa Malik

Rimzim Dadu. (Photo: Amit Mehra)

The initial rush and anticipation that Rimzim Dadu had in the run up to the opening of her maiden flagship store has now been replaced by a wry expression. “The first 10 days were exciting, as we did have many walk-ins and people who wanted to come and experience the creations. But suddenly, this whole space has become desolate. Earlier, one would never get a chair in the cafe outside. But today it’s deserted. Coronavirus has made people stay at home,” shares Rimzim Dadu, who opened the doors to her first ever experience store at DLF Emporio, in Delhi’s Vasant Kunj, recently.

It has taken Dadu 12 years to open her first ever store. In the past, she has retailed her creations online; through pop-ups, trunk shows and through multi-designer stores across the globe. That seemed to be working well, so what prompted her to open a physical store at a time when the market is not doing too well? “People need to see and touch our clothes, which is very important for a brand like mine because of the kind of work we do,” explains Dadu, 34. Her store has an almost austere feel when compared to her other heavily gilded neighbours that range from Varun Bahl, Tarun Tahiliani and Kunal Rawal.

Design by Rimzim Dadu.

Dadu and her aesthetics broke into the limelight in 2007, when she presented her maiden collection ‘My Village’ at the Lakme Gen Next show. Structure and creating textures has been her calling card since then. “‘My Village’ was also the label I retailed under till three years ago. I changed it to the eponymous label because there was ample confusion as to who or what was Rimzim. People still confuse me with other designers, many think that Rimzim is a boy. I thought using my own name would help clarify that,” says Dadu, who adds that she has always been fascinated by the texture of a textile and wanted to create her own kind. She worked with cords then. “I work with them now as well, but with a different medium,” says Dadu, who grew up in Delhi, and was surrounded by fabrics as her father was a garment exporter.

Her clothes combine structure and draping. Her pre-draped saris, which resemble an armour, combine chiffon, steel cords and metallic leatherite. “I like breaking down materials and then putting them back together, which, for me, is very craft intrinsic, and one that requires a lot of handwork. The result is often futuristic,” she says.

Design by Rimzim Dadu.

Steel is broken down to become soft and malleable and chiffon is strengthened to be stiff and structured. “While people think that it will be very stiff, it’s soft and malleable. India has a strong draping tradition. But we can create structures out of steel as well. I want to break the myth that we can’t. We don’t give structure much credit, but, as an aesthetic, it enhances everyone’s body type,” she adds.

With sustainability and ethical fashion becoming the buzzword in the industry, is steel the answer for Dadu? “I don’t think there is enough information available on the topic. Many feel it’s the aesthetic that is sustainable, the khaki-handloom wearing sensibility, for instance. But sustainability has to be in the practice, too, even if your aesthetic is retro or futuristic,” asserts Dadu, who, on most days, works out of her workshop in Noida. Sustainability for her is taking small, meaningful steps and creating designs that won’t need an upgrade every season. “Our clothes need special packaging as we ship them overseas. We are trying to develop a new form of bubble wrap, for instance, which is not plastic. Also, we need to develop new ways of pattern making, where we don’t waste any material,” says Dadu, who who graduated from the Pearl Academy of Fashion, Delhi, in 2006.

While many of her contemporaries decry the overdependency on and the onslaught of social media on fashion, Dadu feels that it is a supremely democratic space for creators. “Not all young designers get a Gen Next show or a slot at Fashion Design Council of India Fashion Week. I had many designers who started out with me, but they are nowhere to be seen now. Where do they show their work? Not all have money and capital to start a store. But today Instagram pages are serving as platforms for people to showcase their talent,” she says.