Kanchan Panjabi

"Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas" - Kanchan Panjabi

Personally, I've always associated Couture Fashion as unwearable and over-the-top. However when I took a look-see at Kanchan Panjabi's collection, Kanchan Couture, I was surprised at the wearability and the fun factor associated with her clothing. Kanch, as she is popularly known as, has very quickly created a niche for herself as perhaps on of the first South Asian designers who frankly declares her Indian roots in her fabrics but yet manages to keep her pieces relatively modern. A quick look at her work and you can be almost certain that her clothing will eventually land up on the vintage racks because of its unique and individual style. And the best is yet to come. Her various collections are catered for the young and glam to the veteran fashionista's. The fashion diva returned from fashion hub New York with a degree in Economics and French in tow only to hit London, work under fashion designer Amanda Wakeley, attain an MA in fashion design and swiftly head home to Hong Kong to embark on her own adventure. Her workshop L'atelier de Kanch, not only juts out fabulous clothing but luxurious accessories too. Ambitious and savvy, this young and pretty entrepreneur gives Roshni Magazine the fashionable lowdown on Kanchan Couture and how to make high-fashion wearable. 

"It all began with a photograph.” That is your quote as to how your career began. But you’ve always been interested in fashion. Tell us all about it.
My soul has always been yelling creativity in the form of fashion but I chose not to listen till recently. My background is in economics and French after which I moved to fashion.  I have been designing and working in the fashion industry for close to 4 years now. I created my first full collection in 2004 and had my first exhibition in London in 2006 eventually launching my own line in 2007.

What is your background in fashion?
I worked in London with fashion designer, Amanda Wakeley and embarked upon a MA in fashion design and enterprise. I was lucky enough to have had great mentors such as Zowie Broach from Boudicca and Shelly Fox. During my short stint in London I worked back stage at shows for many brands and designer such as Anne Valarie Hash and Swarovski.

You’ve explained your fashion as “hybrid.” Explain that idea.
It is the idea of taking two different concepts and mixing them in a creative way. My collections transform classic shapes from a bygone era in combination with opulent Indian textiles creating a wearable modernity. Avant-garde with clean powerful lines visibly depicts the influence of two different worlds. Bold, audacious prints contribute to an integral part of a women’s identity. Effortlessly beautiful, each garment is an intricate dance between cultures and times.

Define fashion. What is the difference between fashion and high fashion?

Fashion is about expressing who you are to the world and adding value to people’s lives. Fashion is being in love. As Coco Channel put it “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” High fashion is what you seen on the run ways in London, Paris and Milan as opposed to fashion which is all around us!

What is Kanchan Couture all about?
Its about making beautiful cloths for women, its about being Inspired and inspiring others, its about being enthusiastic, its about creating creating creating!I live my life by only doing what I am inspired to because I have learnt that when there is resistance to an occurrence then it is not where I should be or what I should be doing. I need to be in my natural flow. Enthusiastic because I believe this is how every second should be lived in order to live life to the fullest. It is important to be present to the notion that I am very fortunate to be where I am and all the blessed opportunities I have.

What are some of your inspirations and influences used in your clothes?
Everything around me, life itself is intoxicating. Often inspiration is not in a complicated concept but is drawn from the everyday. To me it is really about making the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Just this afternoon I was browsing through a magazine which was talking of the concept of money and how they analyzed it finding a wide range of substances that penetrate money as it changes hands. Each section of the magazine tell in an interesting manner about cocaine, oil, blood, metals and many other substances that are bartered as forms of money, this really obvious concept had my mind racing with ideas for a potential new collection.

How do you use your Indian roots and implement them into your designs?
Through my eyes there are Indian influences in the collection through the use of opulent Indian textiles, which are all sourced from Bangalore and Delhi. The prints that I design have an Indian touch to them and the vibrant colors used remind me of India and its beauty.

The word “Couture” has been associated with European, namely Italian clothing. How does it apply to your fashion which is influenced by India and sold in Hong Kong?
The real meaning of Haute couture (French for "high sewing" or "high dressmaking"; pronounced [oːt kutyʁ]) refers to the creation of exclusive custom-fitted clothing. Haute couture is made to order for a specific customer, and it is usually made from high-quality, expensive fabric and sewn with extreme attention to detail and finish, often using time-consuming, hand-executed techniques. My collections are all limited edition pieces made with attention to detail, luxe fabrics and fitted.

How wearable are high-fashion clothing?
It is not really about how wearable clothing is it is more about people’s personality and what you feel comfortable wearing. All high fashion is wearable and not wearable at the same time.

Do you think you would ever consider creating a couture sari?
Not for now as it does not inspire me but this might change tomorrow…who knows.

What are some upcoming trends and materials that will be in style this fall and winter?
Revive - Camel, leather, rust, walnut and pumpkin satisfy the need for cocooning proximity.
Reflect – Think art deco, silky pastels and the dark shades of the colour range.
Preserve - Vegetal and mineral shades modulate olive green, khaki and fango tones to icy blue nuances.
Construct  - Intensity of urban colors.

How can someone incorporate accessories so it’s not overdone?
Keep it simple, less is more!

Keep the current recession in mind, how can women stay fashionable without burning major holes in their pockets?
Be innovative. Add prints. Mix and Match high street pieces with designer - THINK LIKE A FASHION EDITOR! Look through magazines for inspiration, art books, etc. Dress something you would dress up, down and vice versa. Use accessories and make-up – the power of accessories has high impact. Look at how you can make piece multi-purpose. Every time you buy something, you should think about what you will wear it with and where. Something that can be worn with many items in your closet and easily transitions from work to weekend or a night out is a wise investment. Layering! Wearing colors you would not normally wear. Grab that black piece. Focus on classic pieces - season-less item. Savvy shoppers know that well-rounded wardrobes begin with a core set of basics that easily ride the fickle fashion waves from season to season.

What are some fashion trends that never go out of style?
I believe anything high waited is a timeless piece and off course the little black dress or for this season the little white dress.

Who are some of your favorite designers?
Jill Sander. Lovely minimalism style. Has mastered the basic garment. The Germans have great skill in pattern cutting and this shine though in the brand. John Galliano. His couture is utterly beautiful in a very precise way. Prada. Intellect meets beauty- She is truly inspiring.

Who are some celebrities you would like to design for?
I'm not really much into celebrities but if I had to pick it would be Penelope Cruz, she is beautiful. However, I would really like to dress Zowie Broach- a Fashion Designer based in London.  Zowie is a senior lecturer on the MA Course I graduated from. I have never met anyone who is as passionate about what she does and kind in sharing her knowledge. The world needs more great people like her- truly beautiful. It would be an honor.  

How can someone get in touch with you?
Call me at +852 2117 1782 or Email: info@kanchancouture.com Or come visit my studio: 108 – 110 Wellington Street, Room 2C, Central Hong Kong  Visit  for more details!

~ Roshni M.
(July 2009)

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