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  • Claire Kalikman


Updated: Jul 30, 2020

IN THE FIRST OF OUR SPOTLIGHTS ON HELSINKI FASHION WEEK DESIGNERS, THIS PARSONS GRADUATE GOES WILD WITH PAINT. BY CLAIRE KALIKMAN. Khadi, or Indian homespun cloth, is best known for its associations with Mahatma Gandhi and the Swadeshi movement against British occupation of India. But for Helena Bajaj Larsen, an emerging designer with Indian and Norwegian heritage, the beauty of khadi is how much it can be changed. She transforms its classic simplicity by layering on hand-painted designs.

Model Neloufar Taheri wearing Helena Bajaj Larsen’s extraordinary fabrics. Photographed by the designer.

A recent Parsons graduate, her senior thesis showcase was inspired by Gandhi, but in her hands, the cloth takes on a different form - multidimensional and elevated. She uses the khadi as a canvas. Her mother was a prominent Indian artist, and “making” was part of Bajaj Larsen’s childhood. She describes her brand as “more of an art textile studio than a fashion label.” The rich rust and jewel tones she favours call are eye-catching and the craftsmanship stops you in your tracks. Hand-painting each piece of fabric - nothing is digitally manipulated or screen printed - means no two pieces are alike. It’s cutting through. She’s been a finalist for a bunch of awards, including the Parsons Future Textiles Award, and YOOXIGEN, and she was selected for the CFDA Fashion Future Graduate Showcase.

So how does all this translate into the digital realm? Helsinki Fashion Week this year is debuting a digital only platform, with models as avatars and sets familiar from the gaming scene. If the other-worldly, cyber-models in Bajaj Larsen’s show didn’t seem quite the perfect match for her analogue aesthetic, no matter. The small-batch textiles shone, and moved intriguingly. For a more personal take, tune into the designer’s livestream talk here. Bajaj Larsen’s handcrafted and mindful approach to fashion and textiles is a harbinger of the future of fashion, an industry that is slowly but surely moving away from fast fashion and towards beautiful and long lasting pieces.

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