After years of experience working in fashion in New York, Shwetambari Mody set out to create her own collection that married the energy of New York, where she lived, with the unparalleled craftsmanship and material of India, where she was born.
Named Shwetambari, the collection of cashmere and silk garments is full of color, movement, and texture. Mody transferred her own artworks made from poured resin onto silk, creating dynamic patterns that make up scarves, shawls, capes, kaftans, tops, bottoms, and dresses. The designer works with several collaborators throughout India to add details like hand-embroidery or macramé. Made from the finest cashmere and silk in India, the garments are seasonless and meant to be worn with ease.
Whitewall spoke with Mody about how she sees her designs as a love letter from New York to India.
WHITEWALL: What were the beginnings of your collection?
SHWETAMBARI MODY: It’s taken three years for us to get here, but this was something that I’ve always wanted to do. It’s about celebrating art and artists across the world.
I moved to New York to go to FIT. Fashion has been my first love, and it always will be. I did merchandising and design, and I was fortunate to get a job after that. I moved to Paris to get my MBA in luxury brand management and what I learned there a lot of the brands do actually make in India. That was something I wanted to understand more, and later I decided it would be a good time to experiment working in India. I designed the collection, I learned how to work with the artisans, I decided to start my own brand—an amalgamation of my experience and my art.
Everything stems from my painting. I wanted to combine Indian embroidery with it, but in a very subtle and easy way. It is a New York–based brand and the New York audience wants to wear something easy. It’s been a labor of love.
WW: How did you envision your art being translated into the garment?
SM: It happened so organically. I wondered how it would translate onto fabric. So we tried different kinds of fabric to see what worked. For the paintings, I start off with the canvas, I do poured resin, and then scan it into the computer and work with the embroidery.
Each collection is inspired by a certain region of India. In this journey, I’ve been able to travel around India and understand these different regions. I’m amazed with how fascinating my country is. I wanted to show and highlight that. I tell the artists, “This is what I’m thinking, but I want to see what you bring to the table,” and we see how that works with the collection.
India is known for really beautiful handmade macramé techniques, and I wanted to highlight that. I wanted each garment to have a handmade feel to it, even just a little detail here and there so the wearer feels special and the one who is making it feels special, too.
WW: The collection features embroidery and macramé, as you mentioned. Are there other handmade techniques you’re exploring?
SM: For next season, I want to dabble into block printing, but not traditional block printing. We can change the narrative if we do it in a contemporary, modern way. It’s about pushing that a little bit.
We’ve worked on this beautiful cashmere, which I’m so proud of. Everybody thinks cashmere comes from Italy, but it comes from India. The Italians have become so good at it we forget the origins. We worked for two years in developing this cashmere, which is so soft and so beautiful. This is something I’m extremely proud of. And we’ve managed to do digital printing on the cashmere, so you’ll see prints on the cashmere.
WW: Do you see the collection as collaborative?
SM: Yes, I would say it’s a collaboration of artists across the board.