Kamal Haasan took the world by surprise when he first launched his clothing brand ‘KH House Of Khaddar’ or perhaps this was always meant to happen given his prowess as a fashion icon. Nobody can deny the fact that the Ulaga Nayagan of Indian Cinema has inspired generations with his uber-chic style- and the one person who has witnessed most of it from a very close angle has to be his stylist and designer Amritha Ram.
Amritha has not just styled Kamal Haasan for years but has also worked very closely with the biggest stars down South including Vikram, Jr NTR, and Dulquer Salmaan. But, the same woman who has given us so many iconic looks over the years has a new role to play.
She is the person who is carrying forward Kamal’s vision in terms of the brand and rebranding Khadi as the go-to fabric.
The ace designer launched ‘KH House Of Khaddar alongside Kamal Hassan back in 2021 and in her conversation with News18, she talks about the brand, her journey with Kamal Hassan, working with big stars from the industry and what lies ahead-
1. For starters, it is mandatory that we begin by asking you, how the brand, House of Khaddar came into being.
- Well, whether you call it accident or destiny I do not know but I guess we lucked out with the brand. I was shooting with Shruti Hassan in Hyderabad at that point in time and had Big Boss going on too, so I was doing both at once. While in Hyderabad, I came across a weaving community and got to look at the fabric they were working with and the word outstanding for it would be an understatement.
I got excited and even though the person who actually makes all the jackets for Kamal Sir was on leave, I asked the rest of the team to start working with it. With Kamal Sir, it is like he will never approve of more than two designs at one go so I kind of set up things that way but this around I was a little sceptical and ombre dyed the fabric.
So one day, I showed him the fabric and told him that this was Khadi and he was in awe and immediately gave me a go-ahead to make a suit for him out of it. There was no turning back after that, he wanted me to design and style him for the next couple of weeks with the same fabric. Sir, found the material to be so versatile that we literally jumped onto the idea of having a brand that would work with such a gorgeous fabric.
2. Paris Fashion Week completely worked out in the brand’s favour. So did you see that happening well in advance, were you ready for it?
-I don’t want to sound too pompous or whatever, but at the expense of sounding so, we had a plan sorted out for Kamal Haasan’s House Of Khaddar (KHHK). We always wanted to take it global which is why we had the launch in Chicago. Kamal Sir always told us that we need to try out more variations such as denim and stretch, denim really worked out and the day we did the fittings followed by the show in Paris, I remember everyone coming up to us and feeling the fabric. It felt so good that fabric was finally the star of the show and getting all the love it deserved.
When you think of Khadi you think of muted undertones which is exactly why we decided to do the pop collection as a mentor and brand owner there was so much support from Sir which boosted our morale and yes the world got to see the collection and appreciate it.
3. You are experimenting with kadhi so much, which is an Indian handloom at its core- Did you always want to do something like this as a designer and a stylist?
- Of course, when I was a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York my first project collection was called East Meets West and with that, I got to explore various kinds of handlooms but Khadi was really undecided, I did not know that there would be a time somewhere down the future where I will be working so much with it.
4. We now see that the brand has also tapped into Denim, kind of a major shift from Khadi wouldn’t you say? And, there has been so much that has already been done with denim what is it that you are doing differently?
- We have tapped into the varsity or the Letterman, to begin with. Letterman has been there for so long, but then, we thought of bringing in letterman jackets. We have also done boho pants with denim, which went huge- we’ve added a bohemian touch to the denim without distressing it, or taking the sheen away from the natural fabric. We have added printed khadi fabrics along with the denim which gives it a great look. KHHK will keep working with khadi but at the same time we would also like to explore other fabrics too yes like I said khadi will be our main focus.
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5. Moving on, you are still styling for films and handling the brand, what are the differences or similarities when it comes to doing these and how are you managing the two? And, are there any films in the pipeline that we should be looking forward to?
- Yes, I will continue to style for films because that is really my jam but I will have to be a little choosy when it comes to choosing projects because I have the brand too now. I have two films in the pipeline, one of them has been produced by Vetrimaaran and yes we are going to start shooting for Indian 2 which is directed by S. Shankar.
Talking about the similarities and differences, the first point definitely is that my brand is based on who we are but when I am working for films it depends on the director and the cinematographer. The only two things similar between the two are your aesthetics and hard work. My journey has been awesome and I would not have it any other way.
6. You got a lot of praises for ‘Vada Chennai’, a period drama film that you did with Dhanush. Can you talk to us a little about the entire process?
- ‘Vada Chennai’ was a journey in itself and all of us were in it together it was a crazy process to be very honest. I created a dress bible for Vetrimaaran Sir with fabric cuttings and images. I would go into old photo studios to source these reference images, I went by myself to Kasimedu to understand the differentiation of clothing and the thought process that lies behind it. It was a very constructive process, 90’s was a very tricky period because so much was happening and to present that on-screen and find apt clothing was really challenging. My ‘thank god’ moment from the shoot was when we asked Dhanush to wear a purple t-shirt and he loved it to bits. The film is really close to my heart!
7. You have successfully worked with all the big stars from the Tamil, Telegu and Malayalam film industries- would you say the stars are willing to experiment with themselves even behind the cameras?
- Oh yes, absolutely they are always trying to do something new and I must share this, somebody like Dulquer is obsessed with something as small as experimenting with caps. With the number of caps and shoes he owns, the world will be surprised. All the celebrities I have worked with have an eye for what they love and they insist on picking up their own stuff which is fantastic. Shruti Haasan for instance is big into experimenting whether that’s for films or her personal life, she adds her own charm and quirks to everything she does- people love it, don’t they?
8. Do you have a bucket list of people that you would like to work with in the future?
- I am a director’s designer so I think I would really like to work with Sanjay Leela Bhansali for sure and of course Karan Johar. Also, my goal is to style Deepika and Ranveer in Kamal Haasan’s brand House Of Khaddar. They are so amazing and I truly feel they are going to totally nail the look, I cannot wait to see them in our new collection.
9. Lastly, going back to House Of Khaddar what lies in the future for the brand?
- So many things lie in the future, it was not easy to launch a brand on foreign soil and we were the only Indian brand in the trade exchange in the US, so we have it in us to do it and we will. We will definitely experiment with more Indian fabrics and create fusions that are going to be diverse in nature. And, not to forget you can look forward to the festive collection from KHHK. Kamal Sir is known to do the things that have been termed as impossible before and his brand will too.
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