Meet Kartik Kumra, the young fashion designer who learned design from YouTube and books


Born in Delhi, Kartik Kumra has always had a fondness for clothes. As a teenager, he resold clothes online, which over the years fueled his interest in fashion. Kumra, however, says “IIt became pretty clear that there was nothing that seemed to represent my culture at the highest level in the top stores. So he made clothes that could.

Except he wasn’t a fashion designer. He is, in fact, studying economics at the University of Pennsylvania. But, defying the unchallenged norm that fashion design needs formal education, Kumra not only taught design on his own, but also created menswear designs that would catch the attention of major global platforms. fashion retail outlets like SSense, Mr Porter, Selfridges and Calculus, among others. others.

kartik kumra, karu A look from Karu’s Spring-Summer 22 collection. (Photo: Kartik Kumra)

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Asked about its unconventional character fashion educationhe says, “Lots of hours on YouTube. I taught myself the construction of luxury clothing online and through excellent books (Maison) Margiela. In general, being an enthusiast of this genre I knew what the required standards were for these stores. I’m still learning a lot working with our boss. I’m introducing new ideas to him that he hasn’t explored before and I’ve just gained knowledge in it. seeing work.

kartik kumra, karu Making blocks for Karu. (Photo: Kartik Kumra)

Founded during the pandemic, it defines its one-year-old brand – Karu – as “Indian future vintage”. “The idea behind it is to make products of a standard that we can one day find in a large vintage store. In the design process, I refer to vintage military silhouettes and vintage Armani, vintage Margiela, so it’s a nod to that as well. We also work with vintage textiles and fabrics that are meant to age gracefully.

kartik kumra, kantha embroidery A kantha embroidered shirt by Karu. (Photo: Kartik Kumra)

His first collection, which was none other than him “learning to make clothes”, was created during the pandemic“I had nothing to do and I had this idea in mind. I traveled to some craft communities and started reaching out to artisans via Instagram and collected enough textiles to start producing unique pieces with a sewing unit near me. As of now, Karu operates from his bedroom in Delhi.

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This is because Kumra’s vast network of artisans is spread across the country. It works with 40 independent artisans and 10 clusters in Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal and printers in Bagru and Ajrakh in the same way cantha artisans and hand embroiderers in different parts of the country. Kumra says Instagram has been a great resource “because a lot of artisans and NGOs will have accounts documenting things they may have produced five or ten years ago. I’m still learning a lot as Karu continues to increase the number of people who produce fabrics for the brand. It’s cool to be a small brand and to have exclusive fabrics, I feel like that’s pretty rare these days.

kartik kumra, karu A piece from Karu’s Spring-Summer 22 collection. (Photo: Kartik Kumra)

And now her second collection has already caught the world’s attention. Sharing the inspiration behind it, Kumra says it comes from when he “was listening to a lot of The Strokes and 2000s indie rock and wanted to see if India had any history with it.”

“After the The Beatles had visited India and because some colonial-era record labels had retained offices here, an indie rock scene with psychedelic themes began to emerge in India. I found footage from the Simla Beat contest and found a compilation album from that time. The clothes had a casual 70s look with colorful accents. I think young kids who were into punk dressed for government and corporate jobs during the week would wear the same clothes in a looser way for the weekend indie rock gig. So I wanted to capture that essence in this collection through the silhouettes used.

Kumra says her brand has managed to tap into a community of people who are “very invested in their clothes and proud to know what’s new. People of South Asian descent living abroad have also reacted very well to these things, there is something nostalgic about the clothes.

When asked if he intended to enter the Indian market, Kumra shares his desire, but it has been much more difficult. “My guess is that it is because as Indians we can sometimes have quite low self esteem about what we can produce, heritage based products are often devalued compared to international brands. So, to get the message across, there is an education process to overcome the hesitations that don’t really exist with our customers overseas. Even then, Kumra admits that there is a clientele that seeks the type of products Karu makes. He just needs to get better at getting the word out considering Kumra has no more intention of playing the “social media celebrity chasing game than I have to keep the lights on.”

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