Rina Singh of Eka on bringing 2020’s upcyling trend to menswear

Making a case for a trans-seasonal wardrobe for men at a time when ethical design is key

You could say that 2020 is when ‘upcycling’ joined the luxury vocabulary. Last month, when Miu Miu announced a capsule collection of dresses made from refashioned vintage clothing, they were joining a growing list of international luxury brands that were either making sense of excess inventory or sharing plans to be less wasteful.

Rina Singh

For creatives, I think this year was a blessing; a time to introspect and re-align. The past few months of revision also brought about a change in how we, at Eka, plan our collections and design cycles. I spent a lot of quiet, reflective time at home in Gurgaon in the months of March and April, a period when we usually do most of our sales. I realised that owing to the scarcity of resources due to the pandemic, we may not be able to develop as many textiles as we had in the past. It made me turn to our inventory accumulated over the years from our network of weavers in Phulia, Murshidabad, Bhagalpur and elsewhere. We recycled a lot of those textiles imaginatively. We used overdyes, prints and patchwork, and we created menswear.

Rina Singh of Eka on bringing 2020’s upcyling trend to menswear

The suit alternative

With Eka Core, I wanted to make a proposal for men who didn’t want to be confined to suits. Would they, instead, consider easy shapes to work, lounge, travel or holiday in? In the past, I’ve picked up a lot of stuff for my husband, Sandeep, from boutiques in Paris and New York and small labels in Tokyo that offer brilliant collections for men. I was inspired by the workmanship and the easy cuts of these pieces. Sandeep’s individualistic taste has resulted in a wardrobe replete with clean, functional pieces, including trial-and-error coordinates from our sample room. I was inspired by his worn-to-shreds Comme des Garçon garments and the clever finishing inside-out. Then there is Rajesh Pratap, who has always led by example with his cuts, finishes, fabrics and by being sensitive to conscious design. I come from a family of agriculturalists. It is often said that design is evolved or an acquired aesthetic. I feel it is something that must match your philosophy of life. For me, this would be craft, community living, a simple life.

Comfort is paramount to my collections. Breathable textiles are difficult to sew close to the body, thus giving room around the shape and creating silhouettes that are baggy, generous, slouchy. Having a strong hold over indigenous textiles and using them to create comfortable shapes while working with womenswear since 2011 has also been channelised here. Core is an idea that I had seeded last year and it was anyhow due to be launched this year. The pandemic gave it a nudge as daily essentials became a necessity.

A snapshot from the collection

Not a capsule collection

I don’t expect men to buy as women; for instance, if they like the fall of a pair of trousers, they would buy those in three colours whereas women tend to pick a variety. At the same time, I feel menswear is a stronger, more loyal market as seasonal collections don’t need a huge variation. The textiles used in Eka menswear won’t require much surface and design developments. The idea is to add elements that make it work for the segment of men who are evolved in their fashion sensibility. This is not a capsule collection but will be ongoing. In natural textiles like wool, linen and cotton, all recycled and repurposed from Eka collections, they have a timelessness and functionality.

Right now, our real-time access to the world through social media and trade platforms has made the world a smaller place. Clothes are but one medium that demonstrate how the lines are blurring for design identities — transcending country of origin and native design sensibility. They merit through the local craft landscape and expression of personal identity. We can either live in our silos or create a fluid language with clever identity to cross over and merge.

Rina Singh is the founder and designer of Eka and Eka Core. Her début menswear line launches on ogaan.com on December 5.

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