Having had a demonstrated history of working in the fashion academia and costume-designing space with sartorial bigwigs like Neeta Lulla and Wendell Rodricks, Fashion Designer and Illustrator Belinda Bawa’s artistic ponderings have metamorphosed into successful endeavours ever since. On the other hand, Karen Mascarenhas has always had a penchant for experimenting with art, be it in any form. Having gained an elaborate education in Fashion Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), New York, she now dabbles into accessories and design which only shapes her ingenuity further. Bringing to the table substantial artistic insights from the beautifully reticent deserts of Kuwait, her explorations in art now reflect a different kind of aesthetic. Collective Costumes is the brainchild of Belinda and Karen, the conception of which was a ‘cosmic connection’ of sorts.
In its entirety, it is a democratic brand fuelled by a myriad of experiences peppered with a tinge of adventure. Drawing inspiration from travel, lifestyle and the art of living itself, their products reverberate through space and time, hence underlining the strong current of their individualism as well as their innovative demeanour. Belinda’s latest stint with Verve where she designed a seminal black headgear with arresting grapevine detail for Sridevi has also been turning heads two-fold. Their online store which is yet quite nascent, is already being admired for its avant-garde product line which reeks of zeal and colour. Read along as Belinda fills us in on her creative as well as entrepreneurial journey so far:
1. Can you briefly tell us how your career has been like?
I began by teaching History of Design at multiple fashion colleges since 1998 and producing accessories for designers and customers alike for 15 years. I was also involved in designing movie illustrations since ’99 to eventually naming my brand Madame B. in 2015. My most recent collaboration is that of Madame B. with Karen Mascarenhas for Collective Costumes as the new initiative.
2. How did you conceive the idea of Collective Costumes and what were your and Karen’s role in it?
The idea was born from a combination of youth and vigour with maturity and experience. We are harmonious because we are compatible in nature and have a similarity in design and style. Our collaboration is symbiotic – the millennial and the classic. During a connection made over brownies one day was the fruition of Collective Costumes.
3. As you have said, you fuse art, design and fashion to create extraordinary works, how do you ensure to balance them out so that one does not overpower the other?
The criterion is not just financial growth, but creative growth as well. A great amount of recycling goes into my materials to promote environmental growth, whereas our company tries to lessen carbon footprint as well.
4. Who is your target consumer and how do you determine them?
We cater to varied groups of targeted consumers. One is the fashion week clientele. The other is the experimentative youth aged 15 – 28 which encompasses a rebel element. The third is the childrenswear market category aged 7 -14. And lastly, the exclusive consumers whose age is not determined but who enjoy any range of our myriad products.
5. What are the factors that you keep in mind when you price your products? Can you talk about a few best-selling ones?
We always ensure that there is enough uniqueness and comfort in all our products before we price them. Our headgears, fascinators and face masks are a hit. Our clients enjoy unusual elements in our designs of fascinators and costumes such as automobile parts, natural dried leaves, and some of our hardware resources that we convert from liquid to solid.
6. Be it your art installations or avant-garde accessories like headgears, brooches or masks – you seem to follow a strong design aesthetic comprising a lot of colours, textures and bold materials. Why is it so?
We believe in strategy beyond monotony and mass production. For us, fashion represents individual identity and uniqueness. Hence, we provide our customers with the same to express themselves in the best possible way. In a world without colour, I shall provide colour. I’m not a minimalist by nature. I am creative and expressive in every sense of the word.
7. In today’s time when fashion e-commerce websites like Myntra and KOOVS, and even independent brands that have a strong digital presence are cropping up every now and then, how do you make sure that your brand is noticed online as well as off?
Firstly, we strive to maintain our presence aware online and off through a unique product range, targeting customers worldwide through our online store which is in its developing stages. One of our strategies is to go at it all at once, i.e. to not focus on a single consumer market, but to target all age groups by providing a wide array of product lines at various price-points.
8. What is the USP of your brand?
All our products are handmade. There is no mass production and we assure couture-quality and finesse. We promise one-of-a-kind pieces to most of our clients. Our products are tailored exclusively for our niche clients and we ensure custom-made designs for fashion weeks as well.
9. Do you have an international clientele as well? What is the business strategy that you adopt for the same?
Yes, we do. However, most of them are unique collections in design and art on commissioned basis.
10. Would you like to share any advice to aspiring artists and designers about how to take their brand forward with respect to business and logistics?
Develop a knack for the digital world. Digitisation is now at the forefront of the millennial generation. There is a high need for collaborations, digital marketing and maintaining an online presence.