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The old fashion week — where seemingly every brand that sold clothes placed on a blow-out runway show or presentation, irrespective of that brand's size — is dead. a minimum of here in ny, because the previous few seasons have brought us the likes of "see now, buy now," calendar shuffles and a now-nearly resolved Parisian exodus. But with all that change also came a significantly downsized schedule; by no means do editors, buyers and influencers expect for a label to host a show to physically "show" its latest collection.
Many brands, like Sachin & Babi, have embraced their newly autonomous presentation format (or lack thereof, actually) with aplomb. The New York-based womenswear label founded by husband-and-wife designers Sachin and Babi Ahluwalia did away with the standard runway format last season to higher allocate resources toward matters that hold more importance to the designers personally, in addition on the brand as a full.
This season, that's all matters of inclusivity. it is a hot-button buzzword, for sure, and it is also one that no shortage of designers have either embraced wholeheartedly or blatantly capitalized upon to maneuver product. except for Sachin and Babi, the inclusivity they're looking to spotlight for Spring 2019 — that of Indian and South Asian heritage — is acutely personal. When Sachin and Babi moved to the U.S. from India (Sachin from Mumbai; Babi from New Delhi) to attend New York's Fashion Institute of Technology in 1994, they searched high and low for his or her racial background to be represented within the American and European fashion markets. It wasn't.
"We were very lucky that we found one another," Babi tells me from the set of the brand's Spring 2019 photo shoot at the Brooklyn naval shipyard. "We built our careers together as atiny low design service brand for giant design houses. But we never really found a representation folks within the society. It did matter and it didn't. We were very busy building our business, so these troubles weren't that giant. But as you grow as an adult, you shop around and say, 'In this beautiful chaos of fashion, who else seems like me?'"
While at FIT, Sachin studied fashion design while Babi studied textiles. After graduation, they built an embroidery business together, working for top houses like Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera and Jean-Paul Gaultier. Sachin & Babi, their ready-to-wear brand, came after in 2009. it absolutely was during this former period that the couple had a lightbulb moment seeing Ujjwala Raut, a supermodel and former Miss India from Mumbai, get into Yves Saint Laurent by Tom Ford's Fall 2003 show. Babi explains that while modeling was certainly a viable career in India at that point (she herself did it "just for fun" growing up), rarely did models walk major international runways. Raut went on to interrupt that barrier, spending the first aughts on runways for Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Givenchy, Oscar de la Renta, Valentino and also the Sangraal gig that's the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.
Raut is commonly touted as India's first (and to a specific extent, still most successful) international supermodel. Babi says that after Raut, she began to note more Indian and South Asian models, including Bhumika Arora and Pooja Mor, gaining industry success. But when both Sachin and Babi visited cast Indian models to showcase their Spring 2019 line, they hit a roadblock: Where are all the Indian models?
Babi says that well-known industry faces like Arora or Mor are currently contracted by bigger brands and thus unavailable for other smaller-scale projects; Mor, for instance, is currently a face of H&M. ("These girls are huge today," says Babi.) So, Sachin and Babi looked to their own history and cast Raut herself, shooting her alongside up-and-coming model Kiran Kandola, a British native of Indian heritage. Kandola, who is repped by Muse Management here in the big apple and Storm Management in her native U.K., is also at the beginning of her career, but she's already appeared in editorials for cool-kid glossy Dazed and walked for Ashish last February. "And she's fabulous," says Babi, after a dramatic pause.
"We just can't design in an exceedingly vacuum and expect the consumers to attach with us," she says. "You need to live, love and connect with the consumers. That's when you are going to be a darling brand, because this whole business of, 'I'm visiting make it for this girl...'No. Fashion must mean something. Otherwise, she will be able to go anywhere and shop."
Since Sachin & Babi exited the standard fashion calendar earlier this year, the brand has put a brand new priority on what it calls "narratives," which it tells through a digital lookbook. For the primary post-runway show initiative, the label focused on age inclusivity and cast Maye Musk, model, dietician and mother of Elon Musk; last September, at the age of 69, she was named one amongst the latest faces of CoverGirl. Later, for Sachin & Babi's Resort 2018 collection, they cast '90s icon Helena Christensen, who is now 49.
"People within the business actually told me, 'Have you lost your mind? Maye's 70!’ and that i was like, 'Well, she's the face of CoverGirl!'" recalls Babi. "If she's 70 and she's fabulous and she's a size 8, 10 or 12, what does it matter? If she will buy your clothes, and she or he can look good in them, isn't that our job as dressmakers to form everybody shine?"
Sachin & Babi also recently built out its digital arm, relaunching its website this month after nearly 10 months in development. While the new platform is sleeker and more user-friendly, its most essential capability is an updated ability to ship internationally, including to India where the brand encompasses a wide fanbase. ("We get plenty of affection from Bollywood," says Babi.) The revamped e-commerce platform also allows users to filter the looks supported somatotype, like "Full Bust," "Hour Glass," "Pear," "Petite," "Straight & Narrow" and Babi's personal favorite, "Rather Tall." at once, the brand ships up to a size 20.
"Everybody is made differently," says Babi, who herself is 5 feet 10.5 inches tall and between a size 6 and eight. "In the top, this product needs to be placed on a true person. Otherwise, what is the point people making it?"
The brand has also become a mainstay on Hollywood's red carpets, often cropping au fait a various swath women who aren't all, say, 18-year-old, size-0 starlets: Just this past awards season, they dressed Chrissy Metz at the Golden Globes, Laurie Metcalf at the SAG Awards and Anna Chlumsky at the Emmys.
At the tip of our conversation, I ask Babi about how the brand has gone about embracing inclusivity with authenticity — and what others may well be able to learn from their expertise. While both Sachin and Babi are especially dedicated to increasing the visibility of Indian and South Asian figures within fashion, they're also looking to their consumers via friends of friends, intimate soirées and in-store events at their Upper side location.
"It's my job to place customers comfy and have deep, meaningful conversations with women who enjoy the brand, who think it can do better," says Babi. "That's why fashion is fun. Number one, she must afford it. She needs to reuse it a pair of times. Then she'll start having fun with it."