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Rimzim Dadu On How She Changed The Fashion Industry One Structured Silhouette At A Time

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Priya Kumari Rana

It’s hard to believe that this petite designer, who looks like she’s in her early 20s, is about to celebrate the 15th anniversary of her eponymous brand, Rimzim Dadu. Rimzim (her parents named after the Hindi word for ‘rain’ with a stylish twist) grew up in Delhi, where her father ran a garments export business. She’s come a long way since her ‘my village by Rimzim Dadu’ days (as her label was called at inception in 2007, after she graduated from Pearl Academy). At the time, she was part of the fresh, young generation of fashion, with contemporaries such as Anand Bhushan, Kallol Dutta and Siddartha Tytler.

MORE: Designer Rimzim Dadu At Lakmé Fashion Week 2022

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Today, Rimzim has matured, and how! She’s taken her love of colour and metallic threads to new heights with her sophisticated collections, and pieces that are sculptural and look like poured, coloured molten.

“My father always told me to be unique, to do something that no one has done before and to have a voice that’s all my own,” says Rimzim, during a quiet moment between takes at Andaz Delhi. “Somewhere, this became ingrained in me.”

From the get go, Rimzim was not one to get excited over regular fabrics sourced from stores. She’d trawl hardware markets for inspiration.

“That’s when I discovered my love for materials like steel, leather, acrylic and metal,” she says. “But I was always conscious of the fact that my clothes should be wearable and functional.”

And back when she started, when fashion and fashion weeks came into their own in the mid to late 2000s, there was “no commercial pressure as such”, with designing being more fun and open to experimentation.

“I was trying out different materials and styles, discovering things for the first time, thrust into the world of fashion,” says Rimzim. “There was so much I wanted to do, so many ideas... Those initial years were when I was wild and free with my clothes.”

From those initial years, her minimalist, Western silhouettes that could be at home anywhere on the globe, were always like wearable art, with meticulously detailed cording and metal threads woven into the fabrics, that would create shimmer and add texture to dresses, gowns, pants, and jackets. Her obsession with cording also grew (“I would rip apart fabrics, and twist them and turn them into cords, to reengineer them into something completely different”).

Something as light and fluid as chiffon would be torn and re-engineered into cords, so it looked more grunge. She’s even experimented with paper, textile and zari fashioned into cords.

“This excited me,” says Rimzim, whose kaarigars, too, understood her madness and contributed artistically to it. “They have their own techniques,” she says of the 50-odd artisans she’s been working with at her factory in Noida for the past 15 years.

But there’s a world of difference between the customer of today and the less adventurous customer of 15 years ago. One look at Sonam Kapoor’s cobalt blue saree with the metallic woven structured pallu, which she wore at the Cannes Film Festival in 2016 (it was styled by her sister Rhea Kapoor), makes it clear that Rimzim and her unique aesthetic had arrived on the international stage.

“People had reservations about wearing structured clothes, and that these would make them look large,” explains Rimzim. “But I found structured clothes to be very flattering, and it took me 15 years to establish that. Just look at the steel wire saree that Sonam wore—the pallu is structured. It’s not that it will look good just on a model; I tell people to just try it on and see the magic.”

It’s taken around a decade to hit that sweet spot between what the customer loves and how she can push the creative envelope. Rimzim meets her customers somewhere in the middle and says that people today don’t just want to follow a trend.

“They want to explore their own personality and stand out,” she says. “If they are investing in a piece of clothing, they want to ensure it makes a statement.”

And today, her brand emanates a glamorous, luxurious feel, enhanced by the beauty of the manipulated stainless steel wires—and is perfect for cocktail dressing. Rimzim’s liquid metal look is the result of years of experimentation (“You’re never taught in college to construct with steel!”) and R&D to make it soft and malleable. The craftspersons sew each hair-thin wire by hand, often playing with negative spaces in the material. The wire is coated in nylon in special colours, from blue to fuchsia to gold. Rimzim’s last collection, inspired by the ocean, was her attempt to discover fluidity and movement, just as the ocean creates waves and ripples across the water—structure with hints of fluidity.

When it comes to fashion’s most au courant word today, sustainability, Rimzim says her idea of sustainability is not just the fabrics or materials; it’s how one functions in daily life.

“It’s about our practice, packaging, design, aesthetics, how you pay your kaarigars, how much inventory we build and whether something we made five years ago is still relevant in terms of design and functionality,” she says. “It’s about how long a Rimzim Dadu piece lasts. For example, is the metal saree I designed in 2016 still relevant? The person who wore it then doesn’t have to scrap it, as it’s not based on a trend.”

Rimzim admits that caring for one of her pieces is probably not the easiest, given that each piece must be protected from humidity, hung and stored in a garment bag. It needs to be cared for, much like art.

“I don’t view fashion as different from art,” she says. “I like to create for the forward- thinking, modern woman who doesn’t follow the herd mentality and is confident to stand out in a crowd.”

She’s still trying to position her brand internationally, and her website, hatched during the pandemic, is a “one-stop shop for people around the world”, with constant orders coming in from international clients.

When she meets brides who want to wear a Rimzim Dadu, off-the-rack or custom-designed for their big day, Rimzim accepts that it’s a journey.

“Mine is not a traditional bridal brand,” she says, “And the fact that they’ve chosen to wear a Rimzim Dadu, maybe not for the wedding ceremony, but for the reception or cocktail, it’s still unusual for me. It’s still a challenge to see myself as a bridal brand. But it’s all about understanding their journey up until now. I love doing custom pieces.”

And as we can see from this shoot, Rimzim has now forayed into menswear, so much so that half her store at DLF Emporio will be competing neck and neck with womenswear. There are tuxedoes and bomber jackets, slim-fit pants, shoes, accessories like ties and bowties, with her signature cording and wire weaves.

“I’ve been asked to do menswear for years, to create a matching piece for a groom for example,” says Rimzim. “But I was never confident. I showed five pieces in 2019 and menswear took off. I got so many orders; it’s as though they understood what I was willing to put into it.”

The designer, who is a foodie (she’s a vegetarian), suggests one of her light sarees for dinner or a party, or a sculpted crop top—if one were to have that one Rimzim Dadu piece in one’s wardrobe. She’s working on her next collection that will be seen this October at FDCI x Lakmé Fashion Week, which will be special as it’s her label’s 15th anniversary.

“I will pull out my archives and create something special out of that,” she says.

Always looking at her own personal experiences for inspiration, Rimzim is not easily inspired by static imagery—of nature, or a scenic vista, or even architecture. For her, it’s always been about hardware.

“A jewellery workshop with people twisting and moulding metals with their hands, these are the kinds of offbeat things that excite me rather than places—for me, it’s about experience.”

And when her glistening, gleaming creations come alive when a ray of light hits them, the wearer’s experience just begins...

Photography: Antony Joseph; Creative Direction & Styling: Amber Tikari; Hair & Make-Up: Team Anu Kaushik; Location Courtesy: Andaz Delhi

This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in Hello! India’s August 2022 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!