After completing her design studies at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Melbourne Australia, Bambi Kevichusa has been in the design field for more than a decade. She started her design label “Bambi K”, specialising in bridal couture with clean and understated elegance. Recently she has also launched her “ready to wear” line of clothing. As Creative Head of ‘Windfall’, a quaint little concept store in the leafy suburb of Dimapur, Bambi considers herself more than just a fashion designer but also an artist of home décor. This is pretty evident by the creative appearance in her store.
How was your childhood and how did you get into fashion designing?
I believe that I’ve been called to be a designer. As a child I remember playing weddings with my cousin sisters and I would take all the old lace curtains to make gowns and use the cherry blossoms and plum blossoms as headgear for them to make them look like brides. By the time I was in standard five, I was sure that designing was the only thing I wanted to do. I would be sitting in class drawing dresses and gowns on my notebooks while the teachers were teaching in class, so yeah I believe that I’ve been called to be a designer.
Where did you study fashion designing?
I did my fashion designing course very late in life. It took me a long time to get the courage to pursue it. The perception in those days towards designing was very different, but now it’s changing. Earlier my parents could not understand why I was interested to do designing. They wanted me to pursue for government job or to become a physician. They insisted on completing my graduation and by that time I was not even sure whether I wanted to be a designer anymore. Yes I went through that phase. And so after a lot of soul searching, I finally got the courage to go to fashion school and pursue my passion. I first did an intensive tailoring course in Mumbai and then left for Australia and studied fashion designing at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) for 2 year course.
What was the first outfit that you made as a design student?
Our initial part of the program was a lot more of patterns making, but I remember making an outfit. It was a Blue Coat, an inspiration from Christian Dior; because I love Dior and I still love his work. The coat had a much fitted, narrow waist with a little flare at the hip, and of a very vibrant blue colour.
How long have you been in fashion designing and what was the reaction of people at that time?
After I passed out of fashion school in 2001, I came back home and have been in this field only. However at that time I have to confess that I didn’t take it very seriously. Although people considered me as a designer and saw as one, I think in a way I was ashamed and scared of being a designer. I hesitated even to write “Designer” when I was asked to state my profession. Maybe because during those days, it was not a profession that one considered “respectable”. I remember one incident when a distant relative, an uncle said “What are you going to do as a designer? Are you going to make undergarments?” so you know I think I was little embarrassed about my calling. At that time Fashion Industry in Nagaland was still looked down upon. People didn’t take fashion seriously that time, but now the perception has changed. I would like to believe that designers like Atsu, Asa and Imcha have helped change the perspective of Naga people towards Fashion Designing.
But now are you proud of your job?
Yes I am totally proud of my job. It was only six years ago that I really took it up seriously and also embrace who I am. And this is who I am. One day when my son’s friends and others asked him “What does your mamma do?” he eagerly said, “My Mama is a “DESIGNER”. When I asked him if he was proud that his Mama is a designer, he said with a big smile, “Yes!’. Hearing him say that, has brought me full circle, I feel. And now I can confidently say that I have become who I am.
What advice would you give, to the young Bambi K who just graduated from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) in 2001?
I think I would just tell her to embrace who she was and not to be afraid to step out and take hold of what she has been called to do, to have courage and pursue her dreams.
You have come a long way as a fashion designer so in these 18 years what are the challenges you had faced in Nagaland?
A major challenge would be sourcing: Fabrics and raw materials required for garment construction. Like for instance, almost everything that we use in the construction of our Bridal Wear is sourced from outside, I source from Bangkok, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and even Honkong. Another major challenge in manufacturing is the constant power cuts. It’s not easy to run our machines constantly on generators. That makes our work doubly challenging. But I’m hoping that things will improve.
Today the Naga customers are reaching out to Naga designer so I’m sure these challenges will be changed?
Yes, so far our Naga customers are actually very happy and proud to wear clothes made by Naga designers. Many years ago, we tried manufacturing ready to wear garments, but the response was not as great as we expected. I think it was a matter of timing. People were not yet ready to embrace Naga designers. But this has changed now.
Who are your clients?
Earlier my clients were mostly Brides, as that is what we specialize in. However this year, in order to make our clothes more accessible, we started manufacturing ready to wear clothing, and the response has been great. We have now entered the third month of making ready to wear garments, and I am happy with the response of our customers.
There are very few designers who are into slow fashion or loin-loom clothing, what’s your opinion about it?
I love the whole idea of slow fashion, and I wish I had more time and the resources to do slow fashion. For us also to keep our business running, we need to constantly get the clothes out. Slow-fashion takes a longer process and more time. I do believe that if we have something unique to give to the world it’s our slow fashion, where we imbibe our Naga culture, Naga motifs into the costumes/outfits into the garments that we make, I have tried slow-fashion and I will continue to do so. Of course, there are some challenges in sourcing our woven products, and weavers as well and in reasonable prices; because ultimately, it’s the customer who ends up paying the price. I believe that in time, hopefully it will become easier and accessible to source and that people also go into weaving. This will be a big bonus for designers.
Loin-loom art is practiced by our Nagas and the tribal of Northeast and it is also a gift for a girl child from her grand-mother and mother however UNESCO has said that loin-loom is a dying art what’s your opinion about it?
It is a dying art. I don’t want to say it, and I feel very reluctant to say so, but it is a dying art, I wish I could in some way contribute even a little bit to save it. In the olden days, it was the women who stayed at home, weaving the fabrics and looking after the home while the men went to war. The roles were very defined then. Now times are changing.
And as a Naga designer I feel I should not just talk but try to incorporate our designs into my clothes, and contribute and save the dying art.
You have rightly said that loin loom weaving has been the source of income for a family in the olden days but now it is slowly vanishing. If you walk into any village across our states you will hardly find any weavers. How can you, as a designer contribute to save this dying art?
Our ways of contribution as a designer is to make garments with our Naga textile and sourcing out. Reach out to the weavers, encourage and make them aware about this dying art and the urgency and need for them to revive it. However there is a big ‘but’, how will they run the business if there is no market? We as a designer can start promoting them by encouraging them to weave according to the designs required by the designers and purchase the finished products and then as I have mentioned earlier we should try to incorporate our designs into our clothes.
In world biggest fashion summits and conferences big brands and established designers are coming back to slow fashion because it is sustainable and it creates a circular economy as well, so is your label “Bambi K” ready to do a mash-up production?
For me, I have, and I will continue to design and make “mash-up’ clothes; clothes that have Naga influence and yet designed in modern lines.
Tell us about the recently held “Christmas in July” and what’s the concept behind and when was this started?
Christmas in July was started in 2014, and it is now an ongoing Windfall tradition now.
My joy is when on our Christmas in July day; our customers walk into Windfall, and get the things they love at discounted prices. This discount party is just for a few hours, on a single day. So I invite my client, treat them to a nice tea and food, and let them pick up the stuff they love. I know that it’s a crazy and novel idea, celebrating Christmas in July, but it’s not my original idea. When I studied my fashion design from Australia I saw that people celebrated Christmas in July too, so I was inspired to do the same for a day even at Windfall. It also works for us. We clear out our stock and bring in new ones. I guess “necessity is the mother of invention”.
How is social media platform helping your label “Bambi K” and “Windfall”?
For Bambi K and Windfall, social media has really contributed in a massive way; it has made us bigger than who we are actually! And so I am really thankful for that. Till today I have never advertised in any print media or anywhere else. Social media has helped us reach out to a wider audience. If there was no social media, I do not think we would be where we are today!
And for me I would like to add that although Bambi K is my name, it is bigger than who I am. It includes everyone on my team. So whenever I talk about Bambi K, I refer to it as “we”.
Who are your favorite designers internationally and nationally?
International designers are Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino and Balenciaga.
National designer is Tarun Tahiliani.
Three good traits of yourself?
I am optimist, hardworking and don’t take myself too seriously.
What are your advices to the upcoming designers and which institute you suggest?
I believe education helps and matters a lot and especially as a designer you are handicapped when you don’t know the rudiments of garment construction. It is very important to go to a proper institute and learn from the best, and also to intern under some established designer to learn, it is a privilege to intern and learn under a renowned designer.
In Nagaland there are some good institutes. I would suggest institutes like The Global Open University (TGNOU) and Government Polytechnic, Kohima as they provide solid education. Beyond Nagaland, I would suggest NIFT, NID and Pearl Academy.
Why is it important for young design students to intern under an established designer?
It is important to intern under someone established as you will learn the intricacies of the fashion world and business, and avoid making costly mistakes. You can also build your contacts through them, as their clients will get to know you.
Any advice to textile designer?
I would give advice to textile designer to explore more of Naga textile so that we can source from them, and collaborate with them.
What are your favorite colours?
White, black, pink and blue, as they describe a lot of my personality.
Tell us about your rock band and its experience.
When I was in high school and college I spent a lot of time and years in Rock Bands. I was also a full time musician in a rock band in Chennai. The experience was a mixture of struggle and joy. I remember wearing a lot of leather jackets and sunglasses for sure!
A lot of my inspiration comes through music, so music plays a big part in designing.
So are you planning on producing leather outfits?
Yes I would love to. I don’t know how people will receive it, but I would like to try. I heard a song from Slash and I saw an entire collection on my mind and I would love to make this collection; a special onetime collection. I’m primarily a bridal designer but I want to be spontaneous and I believe that nothing should stop us from creating something in which we find joy doing it.
Any favorite song from your two bands?
Don’t you cry by Blood and Fire. The song was written by Theja Meru.
Any celebrity or bands wearing your customized outfits?
Nise Meruno and Clement Imsong , the Lords of Rock vocalist are my two main musician clients. Music and Fashion go hand in hand so it’s a joy making clothes for them.
Who is your dream boy right now?
My son, I call him my soul mate. For me it’s very strange because I felt complete when he came into my life. When people talk about soul mates, I believe it is not just a romantic soul mate it could be your brother, parent, best-friend or a son. My son inspires me and he is just a source of happiness to me. Even in terms of my work a lot of my decisions are made with him in mind.
Any wishes from Bambi K to your fans?
I want to thank those people who buy our clothes. It is because of them that we can keep going and we are encouraged to do better. I also want to tell them to keep supporting us.
And one main thing that I want to say is: Don’t be afraid to pursue your dreams however small it may be or how big it is. Pursue your dreams because we live only once! And it is not worth wasting our life and time doing something that we are not meant to do, or we don’t find joy in doing.
Wishes to the Northeast Window Magazine?
I’m so glad that you are concentrating on Fashion, and making that as a priority because I think that this is what will make you distinct. I’m so excited to see the magazine going into a new phase. I know that you all will go a long way no matter the challenges. And I wish you the very best!