Cutwork Couture: Shriya Bhupal

Gracing our cover this month is Shriya Bhupal, whose line ‘Shriya Som’ has created a niche for itself in no time. The designer has just come back from a showcase at the Lakme Fashion Week, that got her raving reviews for her collection ‘Vignette’. The garments have strong silhouettes adorned the fragile embroidery in multiple patterns and techniques that depict a unique balance of comfort with style. In a tete-a-tale with Shriya, we found out more about her life as a designer and this efflorescent affair with her collection on the runway…

Text: Anahita Ahuja

“While the others had six weeks, I had three to finish my entire collection!”

You recently collaborated with Ananya Malhotra Reddy for a private show…

Yes, Ananya and I have known each other since we were pursuing our education, and also do have a very similar aesthetic sense. Working together was something the two of us had been wanting to do, and with ‘Botanical Illusions’ it has happened. 

Let’s now talk about your latest collection ‘Vignette’…

The collection comprises of evening dresses, gowns and full volume skirts with crop tops. It’s rendered with an intricate beading technique in droopy wilted dark colours progressing from pastel hues like ivory, nude, blush pink and tones of grey. There is an edgy vibe to the evening wear with its fringing details adorned with ostrich features, bugle and minute beads, stones, sequins, crystals, tone-on-tone colour qualities and textural contrasts. The fit and finish are exemplary of the heritage of couture.

We see a lot of cutwork…

Yes, there have been complex cutwork techniques that were developed into intricate lace that was carefully constructed created a vintage poetical vibe. The garments are conventional yet trendy; and range from body-con creations, shifts, and midi dresses with ruffle detail to cropped top, power suits, exaggerated gowns, power-shoulder top teamed with a fish tail skirt, faux fur jackets. This labour of love has been developed with sheer silk and tulle fabrics that are known for their feminine and gentle appeal.

How stressful are fashion weeks?
Oh! Very! Fashion shows are a lot of stress but definitely work every bit of it. I am blessed with an amazing team and it is because of them that my stress factor was in control. Especially for this show, I survived the whole thing only because of my team. If it wasn’t for them, I would have been dying as a one woman team.

What was this season’s process like?
Extremely hectic. By the time I got a response from Lakme Fashion Week, I had been given the date of my show! They ended up sending me the mail late – by about three weeks. The other designers had received the confirmation mail three weeks prior to me, so while the others had six weeks, I was left with three to finish my entire collection. Which meant two and a half weeks for my fittings! I was panicking and fretting when I heard from them.

Then? How did you go about it?
Surprisingly it didn’t take me too long to design the collection, but the show stopper outfit – was challenging. I wanted to do something new this time, as for my last time, it was me designing the entire collection, putting it together and then deciding which one of those could be a show stopper’s look. This time, I decided to work backwards –and that was quite hard as I had never made something like that before.

Tell us about your first ever break?
That was three years ago in 2014, when my first Lakme Fashion Week happened. That was overwhelming! It took me almost a year to figure out my entire collection and once I did, I had so many pieces with me that it got ridiculously difficult to narrow them down to just 16 pieces for the collection. After I finished the show, was when it sunk in and I had an emotional breakdown. I was so happy that I was in tears. That was a moment when I felt like I had finally accomplished something – all the late nights at college, all the black coffees were all worth it.

What is designing to you now?
Now it is about reinventing yourself for every collection – not in the terms of doing something super different, but almost challenging yourself in the next collection. In terms of working at something better while staying in trend. I think some of the older designers, as super amazing as they are, but they tend to not stay in trend and end up working on the same kind of theme that they’ve been doing for the past 20 years. In my opinion, it doesn’t quite go with our generation as we’re living in a fast fashion mindset where things change quickly.

When did you first become aware of fashion?
I think when I was way younger. My mom tells me that when I was a little thing, I used to be obsessed with Barbie dolls – but unlike the other girls, I would never play with one. I used to buy five so that I could take off all their clothes, mix and match all of it and style them. After which I also went through a phase where I would get super bored, and cut up their clothes and do fancy things to them.

Describe your style of work…
I’ll have to ask my team that! I think I am a bit of a nag because I try to be a perfectionist, so there is a lot of looking into things.

How do you usually go about a piece?
It depends on the inspiration as each one comes from a different point of view. For this collection it came from this Paris street stylists’ picture that I saw of this Russian journalist named Miroslava Duma. She wore this Valentino trench coat which was guipure lace, and that’s when I looked at it and felt that I could make something like that with organza cutwork – and that is where the experiment all started.

“As a designer, I hate going shopping because I can always find a fault in things!”

How much of yourself do you see in your creations?
It’s a different persona of me because my style is very casual. But the very reason why I built this brand is because if I could be just one person and wear one thing in the world, I would wear couture all the time! Like 24/7.

What is that one thing that has made you most proud?
The fact that my family has stuck by me throughout the journey – through my thick and thin, throughout the losses and the profits!

Talking of which, how do you balance creativity with commerce?
I recently did Bridal Asia and Lakme Fashion Week. With LFW, I tried to stick true to the brand with more Western wear, while with Bridal Asia, I tried to push myself a little more and brought in some Indian touches. It is harder for me to do Indian, and to my surprise it was commercially very good.

How do you handle criticism?
I actually love it. I feel like it works with my perfectionist part. The more critical you are about a garment, and the more you tell me what is wrong, the harder I challenge myself to work on it.

What is that one simple design that can be used for all seasons?
A bomber jacket. Right now, it is in trend and one can use it in any season and in any way – whether you wear it with jeans or a dress, style it up or dress it down – there is a lot you can do with it. Also, it is my best selling piece! (smiles)

What is your current favourite trend?
Right now what I am really stuck with is Christian Dior’s new look, which is super fitted by the waist and a flattering midi. I love midis, I think right now midi is the new mini!

What is that one thing you like about being a designer?
Quite everything.

What is that one thing you don’t like about being a designer?
I hate going shopping because I can always find a fault in things!

If you could dress up one person, who would it be?
Cate Blanchett

Who according to you is the most stylish person?
Rooney Mara

What inspires your sense of fashion?
I think street style inspires me.

We have an entourage of designers in Hyderabad – how are you different from the others?
The ones here are more into Indian wear, while I have a more western feel to my pieces.