Rina Singh On The Story Behind Eka's New Collection & How The Coveted Uniqlo Partnership Came To Be

A new collection inspired, amongst other things, by the beauty of Kashmir, a partnership with Japanese retail giant Uniqlo, and an outstanding customer base are only a few of the many things one could count when talking about Rina Singh and her brainchild, Eka.

What one cannot depict is done by the breezy, relaxed offerings by the designer, whose Autumn/Winter collection titled ARU-an unsaid fairy tale, is a sight to behold. We caught up with the woman of the moment as she celebrates all of this and more.

Luxeva: Tell us about your inspiration behind the collection.

Rina Singh: "The inspiration behind it is a story that I wrote myself. We were travelling to Kashmir where we met three girls. We were in their house, spending the day with them and while I was there, I couldn’t stop thinking: What if they were to wear the clothes I made? When I told them I was a designer, they were fascinated by the term. Enveloped by the idea, I went ahead to make clothes that were a part of their setting as well as mine—a part of Eka, with Kashmir in the backdrop."

Luxeva: What are the main design elements, motifs or silhouettes at play?

Rina Singh: "When we were in their house, we saw a lot of these big traditional booties within the furnishings and the clothes they were wearing. To be honest, doing big patterns in prints and embroidery is not me. But I have dabbled in it by working on placements of it, so one could wear a contemporary, colour-blocked dress with a jacket on top, without compromising on their style. The little bit of embroidery sitting in the corner somewhere will not change your aesthetics; it is still you with a bit of influence from wherever you are, maybe inspiration you picked up while travelling."

Luxeva: How important would you say textiles are in your design process? 

Rina Singh: "Extremely. In terms of textiles, a lot of work starts even before the collection has begun. When you are working on the same silhouettes and shapes, you tend to start improvising on fabrics. Working with natural fibres for me is like second nature; I don't think I can work with anything that’s not biodegradable. Besides the natural part, which is of utmost importance, the fall, drape and overall aesthetic they give is phenomenal. For me, it’s about the same Eka woman who, when travelling during the summer, was maybe wearing a pair of linen pants, her look accessorised with a scarf around her neck. So the question that arises is: What is she going to pick if she's travelling to Kashmir? It’s the kind of woman who progresses with me from one season to the other. This season, we've given her more elegance; think a look where she is getting ready for the evening. "

Luxeva: What would you say is the ideal way to style this collection? 

Rina Singh: "I love to layer; I think it goes really well with our body form. Secondly, my clothes are prêt; you can know what works according to you, can wear them straight from the rack, and it’s you. Layering, I feel, adds a hint of mystery, for the clothes are not right in front of you and still, you can wear them in the way you want. And I think I have really found an audience like that, who would want to experiment a little but at the end of the day, are completely themselves." 

Luxeva: Fashion is ephemeral, which is perhaps why the market is so trend-driven. What’s your take on the scenario? 

Rina Singh: "I don’t abide by it while designing. For me, exploration would be bringing in a new line and doing something I haven’t done yet. I see a lot of people around me and they are who you may call a ‘muse’, who I design for. I think trends work out for people till the time they help you experiment and figure out your personality. But I think once you have matured and identified your personal style, whether you shop from a local market, a high-street brand or a designer, you will know what you wish to buy. Why would you then blindly follow trends just for the sake of participating?"

Luxeva: Do you feel that the way fashion is consumed has changed over time, and how?

Rina Singh: "Essentially, the Eka collections don’t change much because largely it’s the same customers who like wearing it. I don’t think they are people who I have changed because my sensibility and the brand’s storytelling over the years has been in one direction. It has become a tribe—people come back to try and wear and that’s how we have grown. I don’t think I can convert anyone; somebody who is not an Eka customer perhaps wouldn’t want to wear it and on the other hand, people who do, for them, it wouldn’t make sense to ethically consume something that is not mindful of the surroundings."

Luxeva: You also recently unveiled a partnership with Uniqlo. How did that come about?

Rina Singh: "It began with Uniqlo approaching me to work with them. The ‘how’ of it wasn’t yet decided but I think they were looking at India as a prospective market. In one of my presentations to their creative head, we happened to discuss what I was wearing, which was essentially a kurta, something that a number of Indian women wear on a daily basis. From there, the partnership just came to be; to reimagine it, to reinterpret it, and to reengineer it in terms of newer fabrics was what came next."

Luxeva: How did you manage to amalgamate the aesthetics of both?

Rina Singh: "I may be based out of India and work with textiles but I am not very ethnic in my approach towards design, and neither am I very traditional. I retain the essential element of Indian design but in contemporary silhouettes and shapes. Where Uniqlo comes from is that they are very minimal and very democratic, which is also what I value and so I would say the familiarity helped. Of course, they are dealing with the whole world whilst I am dealing with a small population. But I think with respect to how our mindsets are, it was a very good front. I learnt a lot in terms of systems and processes."

Luxeva: What made you choose the kurta as the principal garment of the RinaSinghXUniqlo collection? 

Rina Singh: "In terms of democratic design, there is only one stitched garment across the length and breadth of the country; a kurta. I was very sure that I wanted it to be center stage in the collection. To the largest and greatest extent, the maximum work that I do can be styled as a kurta or a dress but, in the end, that’s what women wear, except of course for a saree which is unstitched. When it came to stitched garments, obviously this was the first thing I wanted to extensively talk about."

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