Fashion designer Samant Chauhan pays tribute to his railway memories by showcasing his collection titled, ‘The Eye has to Travel’, in Muga silk at the National Rail Museum
As a part of the Amazon India Fashion Week Autumn Winter 2017, Delhi-based fashion designer Samant Chauhan chose to showcase his collection at the National Rail Museum. The innovative off-site show held against the backdrop of the rail heritage was a befitting ode to Chauhan’s growing up years in Jamalpur in Bihar, and much like the ringing, roaring, rattling railway workshops in that nondescript town, his collection too made the right noises for being ‘unadulteratedly’ railways.
A native of Bihar, Chauhan comes from a family of railwaymen. His grandfather, father and uncles, almost everyone served in the railways, and he spent his childhood in Jamalpur, “the station entirely made by, and devoted to, the use of those untiring servants of the public, the railway folk,” as noted by eminent author Rudyard Kipling in Among the Railway Folk. But like Kipling’s observation of how “a father who has worked for the line expects the line to do something for the son, and the line is not backwards in meeting his wishes where responsible for his son’s success. “My father taught me to dream, and dream big and beyond the ordinary,” says Chauhan. In 2002, after completing his Bachelor’s degree in Physics from Bhagalpur University, he came to Delhi to join the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) for a postgrad course in Textile & Fashion Designing. The burden of nostalgia remains a dominant force, and the weaves and crafts of his native place find prominence in all his collections.
A CUT ABOVE THE REST
At NIFT’s graduating show, Chauhan bagged the coveted awards for the Most Innovative Fabric Development and Best Design Collection. It was followed by the ‘Best Design Collection’ award amongst all centers. He made a stunning debut in the international arena by winning the Asian Young Designer Contest for his collection ‘Changing Patterns of Buddhism along the Silk Route’, at the Singapore Fashion Week in 2005. Since then, there has been no looking back. In 2007, he participated in the London Fashion Week, and presented his Spring Summer ’09 collection as a solo show at Carrousel Du Louvre in Paris in 2008. Passionately working for the cause of his native Bhagalpur master weavers, he received the Young Entrepreneur Award by the British Council in 2009. A regular at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week since 2005, he penetrated into the Indian wear market in a grand way by launching his Rajputana collection at WIFW’s Spring Summer ’12. His biggest reward till date is the one bestowed upon him by his alma mater — he is one among the 12 selected star alumni of NIFT.
His line seems simple, clean-cut, and basic. “However, each and every garment’s look goes back to yarn stage with multiple treatments given not only to the garment but also yarns and fabric to add uniqueness,” the designer says. Fashion to him is not just a popular trend, but a very basic form of representation that is always conceptual. A strong believer in the versatility of Bhagalpur weaving techniques and skilled craftsmanship, Chauhan gives credit to the Bhagalpur craftsmen for his ever evolving and innovative fabrics. The colours remain earthy and have a rustic charm capturing the nature and its beauty. His label, ‘Samant Chauhan’ has come a long way and is globally available. “The USP of my label is its use of handloom silks that is produced without harming any silkworm. It is known for the use of silk fabrics and keeping it in its natural and raw state,” he adds.
THE EYE HAS TO TRAVEL
Chauhan has borrowed the title of his collection from a documentary ‘The Eye has to Travel’ on the life and work of an influential fashion editor, Diana Vreeland.
Text: Shillpi A Singh