One normally associates traditional techniques such as kantha and zardozi with couture, but Chennai-based menswear designer Arnav Malhotra is all set to prove it wrong. For, in his label, No Grey Area (NGA), he gives contemporary streetwear a luxurious spin through ethnic weaves and embroidery, giving it that extra edge and elevating it from everyday to extra special.
“I have grown up around fashion,” he says (his parents run the iconic multi-designer fashion store, Evoluzione, in Chennai, Delhi and Bengaluru). “It always bothered me that as a country with such rich heritage and workmanship, we only see our crafts come alive in Indianwear or elaborate couture. There was nothing in everyday wear that spoke of our fine art. That’s how the primary pillar of No Grey Area was born, in the underlying knit—east meets west. We create everyday alternatives to couture to celebrate our traditional and unique craftsmanship in modern silhouettes that carry a global, contemporary appeal,” says Malhotra, 25.
Sharp, energetic designs and inclusive cuts are the hallmark of this youthful brand that targets buyers in the 18-45 age group. A pandemic baby born in September 2020, the brand has already become a conversation starter because of its individualistic ethos.
Its first collection ‘Phantasm’ focused on dhoti pants, bandhgalas and silk bandi bomber jackets. “Indian menswear is under-represented. Internationally, people would immediately know what a sari is, but not know of a bandhgala or a bandi. With NGA, we are looking to add utility to clothing and modernising silhouettes in a way that makes Indian clothing accessible,” he says.
Sustainability is the brand’s conscious catchword too, so woven fabrics in cotton poplin and recycled nylon make their way into Indo-western silhouettes in T-shirts, sweatshirts, polo necks, bombers, trench coats, gilets, shackets (a hybrid between a Nehru jacket and a shirt jacket), dress shirts, shorts and dhoti pants. His resort shirts, in fact, are crafted from bemberg fabric (a sustainable textile created from cotton seed linters).
Shilpi Madan for The Sunday Standard