Ikali Sukhalu is a Dimapur-based fashion designer and artist. She is a graduate from the Wigan and Leigh in Mumbai and in Fashion Business from London College of Fashion. Ikali’s Studio was founded in 2015 after she won a NIAPA (North East India Academy of Performing Arts) designers contest, which conferred her the opportunity to show case her collection ‘Tribal Trickle’ at the New York Couture Week, 2014. While many young designers are known to focus on the avant-garde, Ikali builds a modern wear business around a very traditional art called embroidery.
When people think of art, the first thing that comes to mind is probably an image of a painting on canvas, most likely Leonardo Da Vinci’s legendary Mona Lisa. Others would probably think of marble sculptures as an art form. But even before painting on canvas was popularly done, the art of embroidery was already very popular. Embroidery designing is more than just a creative vigor. It involves a lot of painstaking programming, especially when one chooses the traditional way. Ikali’s choice of fabrics and delicate and detailed embroidery bears the mark of a woman whose homegrown approach to fashion and intricate threadworks exude her signature expressions into the clothing. The concepts are carefully detailed; whilst standing as lovely pieces of art that will stay with anyone who dons her creations for as long as they thrive.
What sparked your interest in fashion? How did the journey unfold?
– I have always liked fashion but I didn’t think that I would make a career of it until I finished school and realised that I wanted to be a designer. And then there was no looking back.
What were you like, as a little girl
– From a young age I always liked sewing and doing craft work. Barbie doll dresses were my first take on garments.
Who or what inspires you?
– Coco Chanel – She was practical and epitomised sensible fashion. The practical designs she started for the modern woman are timeless classics. That is my inspiration and aspiration.
You started your line of adorable handmade dolls called “Lil Naga dolls” as well. How did this idea strike you?
– Everyone is always looking for gifts to give people when they come to Nagaland but it’s always the same shawl or stole. So when I saw these Chinese dolls in their traditional attire, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a miniature doll wearing our traditional attire?” And viola the Little Naga was created.
What’s an ideal day at Ikali’s Studio like? What are some of the most difficult parts of your job?
– An ideal day at Ikali’s studio…hmmmm, let’s see – first thing I do when I get to work, I start allocating everyone’s work assignments. As the day progresses I start designing my collection and made to measure orders, then create stencils for hand embroidery. Besides all of this I also meet clients and do the store layout and window display. The hardest part of my job is having to be everywhere.
You were also picked to showcase your collection at New York in 2014, what was the experience like, and how did people receive your collection?
– New York Couture week was hectic and thrilling at the same time. I would say the collection was well received. After the show I started getting a lot of offers to do shows around the globe but I didn’t do them because I wanted to focus on building my team and my brand.
What can we find in your boutique?
– My boutique has an array of things from clothing to accessories to the Little Naga to home. We’ve also started a recycled project where we make pot coasters with leftover fabrics.
Is there a theme that you focus on?
-All the garments that are in the boutique are made in collections based on themes according to the seasons.
What would you say separates your creations from the rest?
-Detailing and hand embroidery.
Something that’s overrated to you?
-Brand Names -whether High street or designers, advertisement doesn’t always equate with quality. I’ve worked in fashion and in retail and I know this is just not true. Don’t be a slave to labels.
What to you is a fashion faux pas?
-To me anything goes in fashion-who is one person to dictate the creativity and tastes of another? But we’ve got to make the trend ours-what we’re comfortable with. And if we’ve got a bigger comfort zone than most others, so be it, but don’t blindly follow trends and look uncomfortable. That isn’t fashion. That’s a fashion faux pas!
What to you is the most inspiring thing happening right now?
– The most inspiring thing happening right now is that people are embracing their creativity.
Something that you’ve learnt throughout your career in this industry
– Your business plan has to keep changing with the demands of the market or else you won’t make it far.
What according to you is the secret of success?
-There is no short cut to success. There’s always a chance of a lucky break in any career but hard work is more reliable.
A motto you live by
-Always give it your 100% or nothing at all.
Who would you thank most, for all that you’ve achieved up until now?
-My family and God – without them I wouldn’t be here.
An advice you would give to young designers?
– Just start up – Don’t overthink it – Problems will always be there.