Fabric of freedom and fashion

76

by Anisha Mehta

Are khadi kurtis and organic cotton drawpants your style statement? Khadi has come a long way — from Gandhiji and his charkha to actors Vidya Balan and Aishwarya Rai flaunting it in their movies Paa and Raavan, respectively. Having said that, many still feel khadi is anything but fashion garb.

“I disagree. The reason I chose to work with the fabric is because it has a texture like no other. What also makes khadi so beautiful is that it can be worn in all seasons and has the inherent characteristics of comfort and fit,” says Mini Shibu.

The NID graduate says she always wanted to create garments that defy trends and seasons, and are functional. So she chose to use khadi and organic cotton in her clothes.

Khadi and other eco-friendly fabrics have found vocal supporters in top notch designers like Manish Malhotra, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Rohit Bal and Digvijay Singh.

As for Mini, she too wants to bring about a change in the way people perceive khadi. “It has to become an aspiration fabric,” she remarks. After working with various retail clothing brands, in 2006, she decided to turn entrepreneur and a year later, MINC was born.

A store that caters to women and young girls, MINC aims to promote eco-friendly fashion using khadi, vegetable-dyed fabrics and organic cotton.

“At first I just set up a design consultancy, but after sometime I realized that it wasn’t satisfying enough. I floated the brand’s first store on Cunnigham Road in Bangalore in 2007. MINC is based on the F3 concept — fit, functional and fashionable. The idea was the give Indian women Indo-Western wear that fits well and is functional, starting with a small pocket for the mobile phone to work clothes that promise style and comfort.”

MINC’s target age group is women between 18 and 30 years, though a recent addition on the racks is a collection for the tween segment.

Sittilingi to Gandhigram and back, the store supports a chain of cotton farmers, weavers and dyers. But the synergy took a while to build. For the research, Mini says she traveled extensively across India. She also visited the world’s fashion capitals.

Then came the next challenge — sourcing organic cotton. She found it at Sittilingi in Tamil Nadu, grown by progressive organic farmers. Since then, she has been sending the cotton to Gandhigram for weaving and dyeing.

Mini says she faced her share of lows as an entrepreneur when, in 2008, she was forced to shut one of her stores. But her feisty spirit refused to accept defeat. This year she set up a new store in Malleswaram, where she took charge of everything from the design and layout to the lighting. “Almost every aspect of my training at NID has been put to practice in the last two years,” she says.

Her store at Malleswaram has a good selection of knit wear, silk and khadi kurtis, kurtas and pants in kalamkari prints, pleated churidars, printed shirts, cotton dresses, jackets, denims and a lot more.

Tweens can choose from a range of nightwear, denim pants and skirts, and drawstring pants. What will definitely catch your eye are the embroidered khadi kurtis, pleated churidars and drawstring pants with elaborate detailing.

If you are a bling person, there are cotton tops and dresses embellished with sequins.

Mini’s style icons are Giorgio Armani and Roberto Cavalli. “Their garments are elegant, the lines are clean and the effect is classy,” she says.

Although MINC mostly offers affordable clothes, some pieces like an embroidered khadi kurti at Rs. 1,200 may seem pricey. Woven wear is priced from Rs. 650 to Rs. 1,800 while the knits start at Rs. 350 and go up to Rs. 700 and more.

For the approaching winter, Mini is coming up with a line of woolen wear. She also wants to design formal wear and party wear for working women.

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