WHITE CHAMPA White Champa is a distinctive women wear brand cherished by a growing clientele of sophisticated Indian and foreign women living in India. The collection is completely handcrafted in the brand’s own manufacturing unit in New Delhi by a small team of dedicated and specially trained tailors and embroiderers, ensuring that each piece is completely unique and of the highest quality standard.
Read about Anjana's dreams and all the hard work done to achieve her brand label - White Champa...
Describe your work in 3 words.
Pure, versatile and stylish
How would you describe yourself
I would describe myself as a global nomad. Born and raised in Germany to Bengali parents, I was always keen to explore the world. Educated to be open to new experiences, seeking exciting encounters led me to travel the world, extensively. I have lived for many years in Southeast Asia and India. Before that I had lived and worked in Europe. At the moment I divide my time between Berlin, London, New Delhi and Manila.
White Champa, my clothing label, is situated in New Delhi (India), and to me it feels like the source that I am always returning to from my wanderings and where my creative inspirations come together to find a form. There I have a team of tailors and hand-embroiderers headed by my longstanding master tailor and my trusted and wonderful assistant and store manager.
When did you decide to start your brand?
White Champa was started in 2006 in New Delhi , India. Earlier, I had been working for the French embroiderer Jean Francois Lesage. I had been designing for him and represented him in Germany and Thailand. My work with Lesage has taught me a lot about embroidery and the translation of historical embroidery techniques to a more contemporary use. With him I had worked mainly in the field of interior design.
After some years with Lesage, eventually, I wanted to use my ideas for clothes and this is when I started White Champa.
Are you into creating a new niche in crafts with new technologies and textiles?
I am convinced that one of the challenges of fashion design in India today is to build a bridge between the incredible skill in the manual craft sector and the demands that women of the 21st century have on the aesthetics, functionality and technology of garments. Issey Miyake said it beautifully, ''The joint power of technology and manual work enables us to revive the warmth of the human hand''.
A lot of the craft sector in India today resembles industrial production insofar as craftspeople often have to mass-produce craft items. At the same time many of these craft products have lost their functional meaning and use. This leads to detachment. From my point of view, crafts should work more in the way that we do – keep the value of crafts and it’s artisan character! At the same time the product must mirror our time and lifestyle and should offer what a client is looking for in this day and age.
Someone looking at our clothes does not have to know exactly which techniques were used and how traditional designs of ways of working were modified. However, the garment should evoke emotion and communicate with the person who is looking at it or wearing it. It is a silent dialogue between the person making the clothes and the one wearing them...
Are you in some ways reviving any art/technique/craft that might die soon?
The danger of the fast pace and growth of fashion collections is that more time consuming complex techniques are abandoned for quick and cheaper solutions. As much as I am for growth in the business I am convinced that we want to keep to these techniques and hence am all for a slower pace and quality versus fastness. The mere fact that we are still working with the age old techniques of Indian embroidery and other tailoring techniques is keeping the art form alive for us and our workers.
What is the ratio of hand v/s machine work do u prefer?
At White Champa we only work with hand-embroidery and the finishing of the clothes and a lot of the surface ornamentation as well is also done by hand. Of course the main stitching is done with machines. You feel the difference between hand and machine embroidery for example, even if you don’t know anything about the techniques. The touch of a hand creates a special signature on a garment that the wearer ideally should feel when wearing the piece.
Who are your clients.
Our showrooms are in Delhi and Berlin but clients come from New York, Paris, Berlin, New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Jaipur or Tokyo…….
White Champa clients are women of all nationalities and ages. If I should describe a representative customer I would say that ''she is an educated, working woman who wants to be stylish but is not a fashion victim''.... She likes to wear beautiful yet comfortable clothes that subtly reflect her originality and discreetly say something about her. Often, she is slightly bohemian and interested in art and the world around her. She is conscious of the environment and prefers ethically traded products.
White Champa does not advertise, White Champa needs to be found. Our customers are adventurous and like to discover for themselves.
I love to design for people who are having a strong sense of their own individual style and so I have done stage costumes for people like Susheela Raman and Sonam Kalra. They are women who epitomize the essence of our work.
What kind of people do you want to work with/ creative collaborations?
A very lively, honest and harmonious team spirit is one of the the most important aspects of success. In order to get to the best results you need to listen to the ideas of your team members, be able to give and take criticism and also offer solutions for problems.
Of ultimate importance for me is the fact that we all share a spirit of curiosity, humour and pleasure in our work together. In the people that I like to work with, it is these characteristics that I’m looking for.
I cherish team work with strong and confident individuals and so have started a series of creative collaborations to expand my vision.
We have just started a small men’s collection which is designed in tandem with Karan Singh Parmar.
Secondly, I have started a collaboration called HAYATE with German artist Claudia Spielmann. It is a collection of shawls and stoles, uniquely inspired as it seeks to combine and celebrate the eye of the artist with the skills and traditions of textile crafts and through that creates timeless pieces. We use digital printing, hand painting and hand embroidery.
Lastly, I have recently started my latest venture “White Champa traderoutes” with Natasha Mukherjee. This is the accessory part of White Champa and at the moment we are trying to revive the old trade routes between India and the Philippines by creating products that use banana fibre ikat, Indian embroidery and bring them together in new ways.
What kind of places do you show your work ?
• Olive, New Delhi
• Aman Hotel, New Delhi
• Design One in New Delhi and Mumbai
• Several private locations in Delhi, Berlin and London and New York
• Delhi Showroom in Shahpur Jat
• En Inde, New Delhi
• Ogaan, New Delhi
• Melange, Mumbai
• Ensemble, Mumbai and Delhi
• Berlin showroom in Germany
• Benaresstore, Singapore
• Lori Casanelli d’Istria, Nice/France
• Saaya, Tokyo
• Japanese online magazine
What is your main target market?
Our main focus lies in India/Asia for the time being as this is a very vibrant, energetic and growing market.
What is the philosophy behind your brand?
The starting point of my own thought process resulted from an observation that a lot of fashion is very restrictive for the body and does not always allow a woman to be comfortable and does not further the feeling of being at ease with her body. As women go through life they continuously feel the need to “work” on themselves in order to fit the visual image that is created in the fashion world.
If you look in comparison towards traditional Indian, Japanese or Thai clothing for example, they allow for more variation in the bodily form of a woman. They can beautifully drape around any body shape. They don’t necessarily force you to buy new clothes if you loose or gain some weight or are pregnant
However, these forms don’t always meet the needs women have with their current way of life. Clothes also mirror your lifestyle and are representative of changes in society.
When conceptualizing clothes, I incorporate these factors into the designs. We combine elements of European tailoring with the ease and beauty of traditional Indian textiles. The clothes follow the body contours without obstructing movement. In fact the movement of the body should be enabled and enhanced by the garment.
Many of the designs are recalling elements of traditional clothes through the way of draping or touches of embroidery for example. However, their attitude is contemporary.
Another firm belief of mine is that clothing should have it’s own intrinsic aesthetic value and not only be designed to follow ephemeral fashion. When I am designing clothes I often need to go back to the concept of slowness so that we can re-capture the sensuality and spirituality of clothing. Clothes communicate a host of signs and symbols about their wearer; they are a visual language that permits us to communicate with one another before we even speak. The fast pace that fashion has, often, makes it very difficult to live up to that. Slowing down is essential to further the silent dialogue between the creator and wearer of a garment.
What influences your work?
Anything from my surroundings influences my work. It might be the colours around me, art, music, sounds and scents. Also I get very inspired by people that I meet and by conversation. Also, I get inspired by my love for researching architecture, the history of textiles, old costume patterns and historical textiles.
In my last collection I translated architectural patterns into embroideries!
Which other designers do you admire?
Issey Miyake, Dries van Noten, Nagara, Sabyasachi Mukherjee
Outside India, where have you studied and worked?
Studied in London at SOAS and at Goettingen University in Germany, Worked in Thailand, UK, Germany and India
What is your most favourite place in the world for inspiration?
My home which changes location with my nomadic life around the globe provides a lot of inspiration and is a source of calm, energy and dynamism at the same time. Over the last 20 years I have constantly moved around and travelled a lot. These changes of place and journeys I try to bring back to my own space and I surround myself with them depending on my moods. All these things speak to me when I’m sitting in my atelier to conceptualize the next collection.
How would you describe the word ' COLLECTION 'in fashion?
A good collection always tells a story and evokes emotion. Also it should speak for itself. The central theme should be running through it like an invisible ‘red thread’ connecting the individual pieces.
How has the brand grown over time? and Where do you want to see it in the next 3 years?
White Champa has grown very organically over the years. When we started, we gave ourselves the space and time to grow in a way that allowed me to continuously develop and fine-tune the product. I spend a lot of time trying out new things with the master tailor and the head embroiderer. Through this way of working the group of tailors and embroiderers also grew into a consolidated team. Ever since we started working together we only had one embroiderer change his workplace – something that reflects the value and spirit of our work together.
White Champa is growing fast now. We are growing our team, as well as branching out to increase our distribution in India and other Asian countries. However, we will continue to work in our way.
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