Nimish Shah is creating ensembles that will not only last you years, but is also paving the runway with innovative textile inventions and improvised production methods.
Continuing to set the bar high for social and environmental sustainability in the fashion industry, Nimish has been reshaping fashion since the launch of his brand in 2011. Known for creating modern silhouettes, that exude confidence, the luxury designer from the London College of Fashion, is forward enough, who has collaborated with environmental conservation initiatives, and have empowered artisans. With his recent appointment as the creative director of Bhaane, Nimish has a lot on his plate. Yet, the young designer is ready to stay relevant with the times and change. In his recent conversation with L’Officiel India, he discusses about his career in fashion, juggling between the two brands and what his next five year goal looks like.
How did the idea of Shift come into being?
We started in about 2011, when the market was only flooded with designer wear and there wasn’t much happening with the premier category of day dressing. There were international brands and then there were high-street brands. There were no indigenous brands working in this space. When I started, I started with basic t-shirts and denims, I really wanted to get the basics in order. It spiraled down from that, then we did a capsule collection that was styled beautifully and that’s how Shift picked up into the designer space. It did bounce about for six months in terms of finding an identity but we eventually found a niche market, acceptance critically and customers started to understand what this kind of dressing meant.
What would you say has been the driving force behind your creativity all these years?
As an individual I am always soaking up inspiration from the things around me whether it is architecture, home furniture or even what other brands or designers are doing. Inspiration is an ongoing thing. There is no specific formula to be inspired. It is like a writer’s block. You may be a great writer but if you hit a block you just have to season it out.
What are the few lessons you have learnt over the years since the inception of the brand?
The biggest lesson was understanding our customer. Today’s customer is well aware and well travelled; they are exposed to the ideas of the west, the east and the entire country; so you cannot take the customers for granted. It is a far more challenging audience because the body types are so different. They do not necessarily fit into a certain size bracket. In a country like India, sizes start from petite or medium to a large person. With such variations in size, you have to be conscious of what styles fit a certain size. You can’t do oversized clothing for small size because then they are just floating and can’t make a fitted silhouette for a bigger size. So it is all about relevance in design.
Shift stands apart from its contemporaries in terms of its dedication towards sustainable practice? Is that something you were always determined towards?
The idea of setting up Shift was to do something that has not been done; every single idea has to be well designed. My approach to sustainability is not only about using khadi, organic material or artisanal textiles; I have always wanted to explore technology driven aspects of sustainability and not your traditional, primitive modes. For me, it was more about smart design than just sustainability.
Having worked with international brands like Burberry, what difference do you see in the Indian design industry?
You can’t really compare the two. I have worked with fashion houses that have been like 150 years old in countries which have a culture of fashion from the 15th century with a very sterilized fashion business system. So I will not be able to say that they are better than us. We have our own evolution to go through. But at the end of the day, there is a cross pollination of ideas that happens and then we come up with hybrid knowledge. Worst thing is to become like the West, we have to stay East as well as relevant. It is not about imitating somebody’s superiority; it is about self-superiority.
Shift has always been associated with cool vintage aesthetics that are discreet and minimal. Is that your personal style or something that you see relevant to the times?
It is a very personal taste. I have always followed aesthetics that are very simple. I like things done in a certain way and that’s just my style.
With your appointment as Bhaane’s creative director, what do you plan to bring to the table?
The role at Bhaane is an overhaul identity change and ownership redefining things to be a relevant brand. This is a long term project; Bhaane has very long term goals. So the focus is on being relevant, become a modern voice for the new decade; it is about representing the country and its sensitivity. We are really about building a culture at Bhaane, it is not just about clothes. Clothes are just a commodity to express ourselves with. Bhaane is an emotion and how do we evoke that emotion with other people, make them engage with it.
Is it difficult to juggle your time between both the brands?
Both yes and no. Shift is pretty much a concentrated dose of aesthetic and now we are making it more street via Bhaane, we are making it more approachable. Both brands are different in terms of their visual communication and material application.
Where do you see yourself and the brand in the next five years?
So my next five year goal for Bhaane is to become more available, entering into people’s households and be a household name. Being inclusive and relevant is the answer. The next five years is all about becoming a robust retailer and in terms of emotion- to become a cult.
Any words of inspiration for young designers and entrepreneurs who look up to you for inspiration?
I think the most important thing for young designers is to get more industry experience. I mean work experience teaches you far more than a college or university can teach. It is better to get experience in several countries if possible, to understand the market. That really brings out the person in you. Be more hands-on and keep your ears open to what the ecosystem is of your industry.