A peek into Malini Muddappa’s workshop in Bengaluru will reveal fabrics from all across India be it Maheshwar in Madhya Pradesh to Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu. Two years ago Malini started her labour of love and called it Krsnah. For her Krsnah is magical as it makes each day a celebration about something she loves – making clothes for women that make them feel cherished, valued and special.
Malini has spent more than two decades in the apparel industry with different brands like Abercombie and Fitch and GAP to name a few. Her last stint was with Levi Strauss & Co. as a Tops Sourcing Head for South Asia. “Each brand and each role has been special and a great learning experience for me,” she says.
But starting on her own has always been a cherished dream. The idea of starting her own label stemmed from her desire to work with indigenous artisans across the country. “The yearning to use traditional dyeing, printing and weaving techniques to come up with a line of suitable clothing line for women,” she shares. Working together with her sister Shobhana Shankar, the dream materialized and the label Krsnah was born.
Malini’s own love for fashion and her sense of style comes from her childhood experiences. Her dad was with the Military Engineering Services, so her family was often on the move. She says,
Our childhood was idyllic and spent in the backs of jeeps and jongas travelling to picturesque places like Kashmir, Assam, Pune. I saw my mom dress up for all the army parties and wanted to grow up looking as beautiful as she was. My love for colour and my style comes from her. She was a classic beauty who believed in herself, so much so that she never followed fashion blindly. I guess my tryst with style started back then.
She describes her own sense of style as, “Traditional with a smart twist. A slight edge that makes you feel confident that you are dressed your best.” As a child she had experimented with design and patterns—cut up sarees to sew skirts for herself and her sister. While in college and out of the school uniform Malini realised that she needed clothes and somehow nothing that was available appealed to her. She would buy Bombay dyeing fabric and sew clothes for herself.
My favourite was a pair of dungarees I had stitched using a floral curtain fabric from an upholstery store. Soon friends and acquaintances wanted something made for them. I would do that in my spare time, and make a neat sum, supplementing my pocket money. I realised early enough that there was something in the use of colour, the way I cut fabric, the neatness or finish I gave the garment — it looked good and made a person feel good.
In fact she did her first exhibition at the age of 21 where she stitched all the clothes herself. While on the subject of fashion, Malini says, “It is to me an often misused word. Anything that is ‘in’ is called fashion.
To me something that says something about you as an individual is fashion. Today I see, internationally as well as in India that women have grown more comfortable with their self. They are not dictated by what is on the ramp. Today’s woman is more in control and calls the shots. So as long as you are comfortable with what you are wearing and it defines you- that is fashion.”On the periphery of e-commerce, Malini’s team comprises of a small team of six where she doubles up as a pattern maker and sourcing/design head. “My sister manages the facebook communications, and keeping the pulse ticking so to say. I also have a master cutter and three tailors.”
The passion evident in her voice, Malini talks about what makes her line of clothing novel and different, “There is something for everyone at Krsnah. It is meant for real people who do not have ‘perfect bodies.’ Each garment has an origin, a story. The fabric is sourced from weavers and artists; garments are painstakingly constructed to give it an internationally acceptable finish. We customize and tweak styles and designs to suit a person.”
She seeks to retain cultural ethnicity, and use traditional arts from different parts of the country and bring them together in a garment.
A mill finished laser print is not exciting to me. An indigo Ajrakh from Gujrat or Khann from Maharashtra or Ikat from Orissa and Andhra would evoke emotions. I mix and match these fabrics in our garments. A cotton saree or kurta from Kanjeevaram would be brought to lambanis in Bellary and embroidered. Classic cuts with a slight edge are our forte. The boldness also comes from usage of colour that we never shy away from. We have experimented with the humble jumpsuit using Ajrakh fabric. The fall and fit of the garment is incredibly beautiful.
Her own experience in the garment industry for so many years and working with the top brands has set her standards very high. Very particular about precision and neatness, Malini is critical to the point that she does not ship a garment unless it’s been personally checked for quality by her.
One of her biggest challenges has been, “To train the tailors and cutters to adhere to this standard. It was an uphill task. But now I am confident they have their own inbuilt checks and measures, and don’t need to be monitored.”
Her love for what she does keeps her going but it is also the response that she receives each day from her customers and the love and joy that her creations bring them that ignites the fire in her to do better each time.