Painter and designer Shwetambari Mody’s eponymous, mononymous fashion line exists as a refined blend of New York modernity and generational Mumbai “karigaree” craftsmanship. Raised in an entrepreneurial family, Mody’s independent, creative spirit was nurtured from an early age. Free to explore various forms of expression, she quickly gravitated towards the physicality of painting. “It is the rawness that gets me,” says Mody whose naturalistic approach as a fine artist directly translates into the ethos of Shwetambari’s latest collection titled “Paani (water) Reflective Beauty.” A perpetual early riser, Mody draws much inspiration from seascapes and how light dances across a body of water. Universality is an underlying theme in her practice, as she refers to water as the original source of civilization that “binds us together.”
Experimentation is at the heart of the designer’s process. She begins each collection in India with a resin pour on canvas, with intuition leading her color selection, noting, “I love what the paint does on its own.” After digitally printing her paintings on locally sourced silk, cotton, or cashmere, she works closely with artisans to conceptualize the embroidered detailing. The skill sets of these artisans vary widely depending on their native region, something that has led Mody to “rediscover India through embroidery.”
The brilliance of Shwetambari is Mody’s uncanny ability to seamlessly weave together influences of New York and Mumbai into a blend that is uniquely her own. The Ritz dress is a quintessential piece in the collection: mixing colors and styles, it serves as “an ode to the sari but a little bit modern.” Another striking piece is the Dua cape, which impresses a contemporary take on design whilst rooted in historical influences. The versatility in Mody’s collections is also notable in her application of finer details. The Dua’s long silk necktie can be free-flowing or fashioned into a formal bow under a structured jacket. Mody is enthusiastic about incorporating details “that the wearer only knows.” So fine is this work that one item in the collection required 80 hours to make.
I want to help in any small way to keep [the tradition of embroidery] in the country, to nurture it, so it doesn’t die out,” says Mody, who considers this collection a “love letter from New York to India,” one that puts forth her want to “display the best of my country.” The designer’s attitude in work and life is one of infectious gratitude, paying homage to the places and people that have shaped her. Through experimentation and collaboration, there is a lightness to Mody’s approach to creativity that is refreshing. Shwetambari’s new collection is exceptional in its ability to embrace the quiet beauty of the natural world and preserve Mumbai’s embroidery tradition, all while celebrating the possibilities of a modern woman.