Keen on creating ‘global clothing with an Indian connect’, Ishanee Mukherjee and Anirudh Chawla teamed up three years ago to launch Poochki Designs
Ishanee, why were you inclined to create your own textiles?
I have had a keen interest in design since an early age. After studying Textile Design, it was an obvious choice to create my own textiles. I have always enjoyed prints on textile.
Anirudh, why did a hotelier by profession decide to pursue art?
I studied Tourism Studies at the graduate level and went on to do post graduation in International Hospitality. However, as a hotelier I always enjoyed art and craft – in fact I am passionate about Indian art and crafts. I am interested in textile crafts and enjoy drawing, especially animals, and decided to combine the two!
How did Poochki come about?
We both studied at the same school and have seen each other grow up as our parents have been good friends. Sharing a lot in common along with a deep rooted love for art, we were always enamored by the idea of a craft/design based business. We thought that with Ishanee’s textile know-how and Anirudh’s management skills we could perhaps start a business venture. Poochki is the result of the realization that the consumer is slowly shifting from wearing labor intensive arts to more commercial options. With the motive of adding a new flavor to the art of hand-block printing and the desire to present Indian craft in a contemporary manner, we started developing sets of prints and this urged us to pursue our passion. Poochki, an au courant apparel label, was officially established in New Delhi in 2015.
What’s the story behind the name?
Poochki is Ishanee’s pet cat who was born without a tail. When Ishanee adopted the cat, her mother asked, “Why have you got this pooch-kati (Hindi for tail-less) cat home?” She was thereafter named Poochki! We felt it had a nice ring to it, in terms of a brand name and must we add, most times when someone crosses our exhibition stalls/ store, they read the name out loud and smile!
What makes Poochki stand apart in a crowded space?
At Poochki, we believe in taking time to create a quality and well designed product. Motifs and patterns are designed at the studio, which noticeably set us apart. The idea is to avoid a pursuit!
Describe the ‘Poochki woman’.
The ‘Poochki woman’ is strong and fearless. Her style is bright, bold and feminine.
Why do you have a preference for hand-block printing?
Prints have always been Ishanee’s forte. Hand-block printing has so many possibilities. We love exploring the various ways of printing in our country. We work with master craftsman Bherulal Chippa and his family. They specialize in Dabu hand-block print, which is a mud resist printing technique, where the block is stamped using mud and then the fabric is over dyed; the mud prevents the dye from seeping in, leaving behind a beautiful pattern, unique each time. The Black Cloud collection, where we explored hand painting along with hand-block printing, was showcased at Lakme Fashion Week, Mumbai and at the Symphony of Weaves Show at Textiles India Summit, Gandhinagar. We have also explored Ajrakh block printing in the past.
What is your approach to designing a collection?
The approach to designing/building a collection is unique to each. The process usually begins with thoughts and ideas being tossed around, leading to a concept. We sketch around the chosen theme and select four to five final motifs. These motifs are then put into a repeat pattern via digital means. Once satisfied with the result, the design is forwarded to the block carver, who then hand carves our patterns onto wooden blocks. After this, samples are printed with the new blocks to decide color combinations and placements. For The Black Cloud collection, Ishanee also hand painted the textiles. This sort of engagement is what keeps us motivated and charged!
Share your experience of working with artisans.
One doesn’t give artisans enough credit for their amazing eye for detail! More often than not they have a strong sense of quality control and we have been lucky to work with artisans who treat their craft as their religion. Quality is bound to follow. Often there are cases where quality is secondary. We usually deal with such situations with a lot of patience. We demonstrate the quality we look for and have rarely had cases where an artisan doesn’t comply.
What does it take to create global clothing with an Indian connect?
It is important to us that our clothing has global appeal. We try to steer away from traditional motifs and colors. It is important to edit our collections and narrow them down to concise capsules; this is usually the hard part, because it is heartbreaking to drop ideas and designs sometimes!
Tell us about your roles in the business.
While we don’t have dedicated roles for everything, Anirudh manages tasks like accounting and legalities and Ishanee, as Creative Director, handles the design department along with PR and marketing. Most decisions are made as a team. We come from different schools of thought and our differences allow us to overcome hurdles in innovative ways.
What are the challenges you have faced so far?
Budgeting and marketing are often overlooked with design being an obvious pull, making it tough to set budgets initially. Managing timelines often proves challenging too. Most of our printing relies heavily on a bright sunny day and halts on rainy days. That combined with the laborious processes makes it tough to set deadlines. However, knowing that we love doing this and are always brimming with ideas helps us to keep going. Despite falls, we have never imagined not doing this!
How do you plan to expand your brand?
Currently we plan to continue doing what we do and expand organically. Scaling up the business is without doubt a part of the plan. Innovation is a key driver towards expansion of the brand. We see ourselves experimenting more with crafts to explore their potential. Over the past year we have introduced techniques like hand painting on silks combined with our signature block print.
This article was originally published in POOL 103.
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