Meet 29-year-old Kaushik Velendra, the boy who went from costume design in the South to his first fashion show at London Fashion Week, and achieves what many hope, in just one year.
I’ll say it bluntly, and you can argue, but get me a resume as sharp as Kaushik Velendras. I’ll wait. Every 29 years old, the boy born in Bengaluru who molded and sold candles to earn his bread, moved to Chennai at 16 to become a light boy on film sets, which led to working in the departments of costumes, then became assistant costume designer. No, that’s not all. After becoming a personal stylist for actors like Kamal Haasan, he applied to the fashion mecca, Central St Martins, and became the first Indian designer to do menswear. He made a presentation at London Fashion week within three months of his brand launch and was nominated for the LVMH award within weeks. On and on to dress celebrities like model Alton Mason for the Grammys and our very own Ranveer Singh for the Filmfare Awards. October marks a year of launching his own brand, and he already presented his next collection at LFW in September. As the world battles the pandemic, Velendra has moved into his new studio, Alexander McQueens’ former studio, in Hoxton Square. In an effort to change what Indian fashion represents on the world map, Velendra is here to keep traditions alive, with a twist.
You dressed Ranveer Singh, who is pretty much the hottest experimental actor in India. With celebrities sporting the changing reality of fashion and their fluidity, how do you think the menswear paradigm has changed?
Menswear is constantly changing and evolving, and it is evolving more these days because men have become more aware of how they present themselves and are influenced by art, culture, music, and different movements. But I’m not trying to change or bring fluidity. What I’m trying to do is keep the masculinity of men’s fashion and give it a new direction. The outfits are beautifully masculine, but different in their approach. I built my outfits internally based on sportswear so that they are body centered, no matter who is wearing them, they will take the shape of the person’s body. This is the kind of change I am making in the principles of menswear.
You said your goal was to put India on the global fashion map. How do you plan to do this?
Whatever I have done in the past year, I was the first person born in India to do it. I recently learned that there have been thousands of CSM applications from India, and almost all of them have my name as a reference. This is what I wanted to do to be able to create this channel. I have created a path that people can follow. I was listed in London Fashion Week as the first Indian born menswear designer. When someone talks about any Indian designer, they think of color, embroidery, beads, etc. I try to show a completely different side of the craftsmanship and the quality of work that can come out of our country. This is me, and I represent a whole new version of India, everywhere I go.
Do you think Indian fashion has become more fluid between the sexes? Where do you think the limits of Indian menswear lie here?
I decided to work with Ranveer Singh for this very reason, as the country sees him as a model for men’s extreme fashion. As soon as I put it in an outfit like Filmfare’s, it set a benchmark. The outfit was a non-Indian outfit, but it was rooted and made in the country, and it connects the West to India in a different way. It shows that if Singh can be successful, so can everyone. People are changing the way they think about men’s clothing, and it’s a Bollywood centric market, so that’s what sets the trend.
What is your personal style?
I’m always busy and always running, so I like to wear sports clothes so I make sure I always go to the gym. I like that the center of attraction is my work and my personality. Now I have started to wear my own clothes, my own shirts etc. and this will be my new look for a while.
With the Power Look silhouette from your Fall / Winter show at London Fashion Week, do you think male silhouettes are being explored to their full potential?
A silhouette doesn’t belong in a category, and that’s also my design process. Technically, you dress the human body, and there are a lot of silhouettes for the human body that have developed over the years. Things have gotten exaggerated, or minimal, and it’s an ongoing process. Men’s fashion around the world has witnessed this. In India, however, it is a different subject. Maybe men like to dress up, but when it comes to experimenting, you need to take a broader perspective and break out of stereotypes. Fitness is also a very important factor in defining your figure, to be honest.
With the appearance of the pandemic and the digitalization of fashion weeks, as well as the number of fashion weeks that have multiplied over the years, do you think that fashion weeks are relevant?
Absolutely. It’s your platform to showcase your work, where everyone meets. I agree, maybe we don’t need so many shows. For my part, I want to stick to a collection without season. I want to create a massive collection that can be shown twice a year instead of four times, and make salon salons smaller, like Coco Chanel did.
India had its era of male models, but that kind of diminished with the emergence of Bollywood showstoppers. Do you think that the male model plays an important role in the enhancement of the clothes?
I understand that the concept of showstoppers in India is what sells, but it depends more on who the showstopper is, not the outfit. The face of a fashion show should be the clothes, not the model. I don’t know what top model means, all my models are top models. That’s why each of my looks has a distinct identity. Here the person who starts the show is the strongest look, not the end garment. It is completely different from what is happening in India. All of your models should feel like stars and the culture should shift from showstopper culture to model culture. This affected the model’s life as it then sets the benchmark for the model to be an actor in order to shut down a show.
What were your first influences and how has this evolved into your current aesthetic?
I used to make candles so that I could eat. It taught me how to model the best clothes, and that’s because I’ve worked with so many costume departments, stars and everything since I was a kid. I learned to understand the human body and understand how to build a garment that elevates what a man wants to feel. This is one of my strengths today. Rolling up fabrics and putting them in warehouses was one of my jobs, and there was hardly any electricity, so I understood fabric from its smell and feel. Today if you ask me to close my eyes and touch a tissue, I can tell you exactly what it is. Everything I have experienced has made me who I am.
Do you aspire to present in India in the future?
Well next year I hope if things get better I want to do a show in India. It’s a chance for the western world to interact with the country, so it’s like I’m doing a London Fashion Week show, but in India. Hope I can do it.
Also read: Can You Really Give Up Fast Fashion
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