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Interview: Little Shilpa

Our next designer is Mumbai born milliner Shilpa Chavan whose hats seamlessly blend an inherently sculptural quality with functionality to create wearable statement pieces. Taking inspiration from her Indian heritage with its use of vibrant colours, her brand Little Shilpa is a definitive blend of East meets West and everything in between. Her work has gained her followers worldwide, most notable Lady Gaga has been a wearer of her creations since their conception in 2009. We caught up with her to talk about her design process and bridging the gap between art and fashion.

PlanetNotion: What led you into designing such unique and exciting pieces?
Little Shilpa: This gnawing desire to always push the boundaries and look at things around me from a different perspective. A desire to be mesmerised by the magnanimity of the pieces to create another world, almost a fairy tale out of all my pieces. The need to really push boundaries, to be able to create more than what I can imagine – if it can be imagined it can be done. My designs are a representation of how I feel or what influences me at that point. It’s never driven by any trend forecast or norms that I need to follow. I like my pieces to be individualistic as they carry their own story; the end result of which are one-off pieces that have no twin.

PN: What do you do/ where you go to find inspiration?
LS: My inspiration comes from all that they call street and having worked as a fashion stylist helps to manifest that image in a more realistic and edited form. My pieces are like a canvas as they personify an aspect of my visual influence from observation to execution.

PN: Does London rather than your native India change your approach to design?
LS: I am very influenced by my surroundings and where I am at a point in my life. I love London for how it engulfs you – the energy on the streets make me want to run home and start making some pieces! London is the perfect platform for my work as it has always supported the fashion / art movement especially for emerging designers with radical ideas.


PN: How would you describe your style in three words?
LS: romantic science .. melancholy decadence.. post-modern present.

PN: What’s the most ambitious piece you’ve ever made?
LS: I am attached to all my work. Each piece I do has its individual story so its hard to say which was the most ambitious. We are always experimenting and finding new ways to put the pieces together so it is always a challenge.

PN: What’s your favourite material to work with?
LS: Perspex! Perspex! Perspex!

PN: You were part of London Fashion Week in 2009 – does that make any designer feel like they’ve cracked the industry or is there still a long way to go do you think?
LS: I started LFW with ‘Headonism ‘ the opening show at LFW to celebrate 25 years! I have evolved as a designer since then, moving from larger dramatic pieces to also including scaled down versions for retail. It has been an organic process and I think I have a long long way to go. Being part of LFW was a stamp of approval for the work that I do but one has to take that and move forward from that point cause at the end of the day fashion is still a business beyond all its fantasy .


PS: Fashion or art; where do you think you fit?
LS: My collections and pieces are actually a smaller version of my larger art installations. My work is being categorised as fashion-art. I have always been in this in-between space. There are small collections but there are a lot more art related exhibits, be it installations or photography or even customised dramatic headpieces for a show or a shoot – anything that allows my work to follow no rules and be sculptural. I always think of my pieces as a whole, as an installation or a complete picture when I’m designing them. I don’t really think of myself in a space whether art or fashion as that stagnates you, gives you too many rules to follow or even acknowledge. I endeavour to just create rather than define.

PN: If you could collaborate with or design for anybody in the future, who would be your number one?
LS: Tilda Swinton!!

PN: What’s next for you?
LS: I love the space that I’m in now, it’s in between art and fashion. I’d like to continue doing my installation pieces as I think that these are a starting point towards scaling down the sizes into a wearable piece. I’m working on a label called “LSD” – little shilpa design , creating party accessories for the boys!!

To see more of Shilpa’s stunning creations, check her out online.

- Allana Isaacs

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