A recent graduate from NIFT Kolkata, currently working as a content and copywriter for a design studio. Has an eye for design and aesthetics and a flair for writing pieces that deal with contemporary fashion news and trends.
A Journey of Sustainability – The Simple Way
At a time when the industry has been buzzing with the concept of sustainability, local designers
of India have gradually realised, that they’ve ben sustainable all throughout their careers. I sat
down to have a chat with one such Chandigarh-based couturier, Simple Kaur. In this interview,
Simple recounts her first encounters with creativity, establishing her showroom, and how she
took her label and her life forward thereon.
What was your first exposure to fashion design?
Simple: Coming from a Punjabi family, much like cooking, learning to stitch was the norm for
young girls. I grew up in a joint family watching my grandmother make clothes for me and my
sister – cute little tops, tunics, and frocks. She was a talented weaver, crocheting scarves,
tablecloths and bed covers. My aunt was also a creative influence of mine. She used to stitch
frocks with peplums and aprons for us. She used to buy fabric, copy designs from magazines
and add frills and embellishments. My sister and I were always asked in school where we
bought our clothes from. Teachers even asked for patterns to recreate them.
From a very young age, getting clothes designed and custom-made was something that came
naturally to me, but at the time I didn’t know I would be going down the path of a designer.
Apart from your family, who were your professional influences?
Simple: When I was a young adult, fashion design was still an up-and-coming field. I used to
love watching the shows of designers like Rohit Bal and JJ Valaya. Listening to their
interviews, I felt like I organically connected with them, and they became my gurus over time.
What did the beginning of your fashion journey look like?
Simple: I grew up in a small town in Rourkela, Odisha, where I was lucky enough to have
witnessed different cultures, interacted with local artisans, and gotten inspired by the rich
handloom heritage. When I got married, I moved to the fashion-forward city of Chandigarh. I
completed my diploma in Fashion Design from INIFD Chandigarh and that was where my
journey began. I opened my showroom in 2003, catering to the ethnic and bridal wear market.
How would you describe the clientele of Chandigarh?
Simple: When I first moved to the city, I was adored the way people took care of themselves
and their dressing. Even when they were going grocery shopping, they were dressed stylish.
I connected with the clientele because they found something unique in my designs. They
became an instant success. I was always told my ensembles were unlike what the rest of the
boutiques were selling, and that’s what had them coming back. They also really liked my name
You’ve been in the industry for 19 years, what are the changes you’ve witnessed?
Simple: I primarily started my studio as a bridalwear label, catering to the typical Punjabi
crowd. My business was slow and ethical with a steady clientele. But with the coming in of
fast fashion, social media, and platforms like Amazon and Myntra, the whole landscape of
fashion changed. Brands were overproducing and underpaying their workers. Things were
being sold at a very competitive rate, online and elsewhere. As a designer it was baffling,
saddening and disappointing to me but at the same time I was challenged. I figured out all ways
of cost cutting but it was still impossible to compete with those prices because I was running
an ethical business and making nothing of inferior quality.
Over the last few years, I had been hearing about this buzzword in fashion, ‘sustainability’. All
the big cornerstones of fashion were talking about it, and I decided to find out what exactly it
meant. I read blogs and followed tastemakers of fashion. That gave me all the answers, ‘Why
are brands like Zara so successful?’ ‘How do they make money?’ ‘Why am I struggling with
What did this understanding of sustainability lead to?
Simple: It led me to realise that I as a designer have always been sustainable. Indians have the
habit of making the best out of waste, we believe in saving. I have never sold cheap and inferior
quality stuff or underpaid my artisans. Sustainability and ethics have been the core values of
my business, years before they were trending. I also realised that to overcome these hardships
and for the sake of my mental health, I had to close my showroom.
What inspired you to get back up?
Simple: My clients. They were the ones who came looking for me, telling me how they couldn’t
throw away my pieces. They said my pieces were evergreen and stood the test of time, never
going out of style. That inspired me to get back up again.
I had also always been taking students under my wing for training and summer/winter
internships. They always told me how I was able to simplify their learning and stimulated me
to take up teaching full time.
And now you’ve taken up the position of a professor at Chandigarh University. Tell us more
Simple: I am teaching Design Concept and Portfolio Designing at the University. I also offer
private coaching for students after they have completed their course on how to take fashion
forward. I act as a mentor to them, teaching them about business plans, brand building and how
they can establish themselves in this field.
Lastly, what do you believe is the best way to save fashion from this culture of social media
and unethical practices?
Simple: If you ask me, the saving grace for fashion as an industry is creativity. Anyone who is
a creative artist, anyone who can express themselves through their art can be successful.
Fashion is not just about designs, fabrics, and trims, it is wearable art. If you are creative, you
enjoy yourself and use it as a mode to express yourself, your work will be evergreen. Thus,
fashion will go on forever and there will be room for everyone in the industry to learn and grow