'I will never make someone look ridiculous', Astik speaks
KATHMANDU, Feb 8: Astik Sherchan has been the name that most of us have come to recognize. One of the few well known designers in Nepal, where the fashion industry is slowly finding its feet, Astik says that fashion was an instinct for him. His store, Astik Designs, celebrates its first year of inception in a few days. The soft spoken designer talks eloquently and passionately about his life that is so intricately bound with his work.
What is your signature style?
It’s indefinable; it’s a mystery even to me. I believe in timeless elegance. The most important thing is that the customer should look good in my clothes. I will never make someone look ridiculous. For example, a designer could tell his clients to wear a plastic bag because it’s art. I would never do that. I don’t believe in sloppy dressing. There’s a certain discipline to my work, a certain structure to it and I pay attention to the tailoring. Dare I say my designs are minimalistic! Yet, they’re not black or white or boring. The part that comes from me is in the small details; something that people will not notice and I don’t expect them to.
Astik Designs is not necessarily limited to women’s wear: we’ve already done a few designs for men and it’s just a matter of time before we have a full fledged men’s line. I like to design the way I dress, which is unisex. I believe that clothing shouldn’t be limited to gender, or be stereotyped. It will be great to have a unisex approach to clothing and I think my men’s wear, if I do that, will blend seamlessly with my women’s wear. I don’t think of it as a distinct category.
There are many things in my women’s line that can be worn by men, they just don’t know it! (Laughs)
There are so many things in fashion that one can explore. Fashion is a very diverse field. It’s not limited to one thing. I would love to do bags, shoes and prints. I would love to do different kinds of clothing as well. I don’t have a niche product yet, so I’m experimenting with all kinds of clothing. I’m very happy that I’ve so many things to play with. I don’t think I’ll ever run out of ideas. If you’re really passionate about your job, you’ll always know what you want to do next. What’s more, I like to challenge myself. That’s how I stay interested in my job.
How would you define your work ethic?
A lot of people underestimate how workaholic designers can be. It’s a continuous process for me. I’m not just talking fashion, but it’s the arts as a whole I’m referring to here. There is no such thing as putting in enough effort for arts. There’s always so much to do that it’s unrelenting. Sometimes it becomes an obsession, it’s all consuming. My whole life, my thoughts, everything is somehow connected to what I do. It’s an all encompassing, all consuming life and profession. I’m always open to meeting people, discussing ideas.
Are you saying that you’re always in the work mode?
Yes, and whatever I do translates into my work. All my experiences combine to influence my work. Even Saturdays are not a holiday. I’ve realized that an employee can call in sick, but it’s not the same for an employer. If I don’t come in to work for a day, everything stops. Maybe I choose to be so stressed and busy. I think being a workaholic and having all this responsibility is a good thing, at the end of the day. It’s keeping me sane, its keeping me focused and giving my life a purpose, a meaning.
How competitive is the industry?
At the risk of sounding cliché, I’ll say that I compete with myself. Maybe when one is younger, you tend to envy other people’s work but as you grow older you realize that everybody is good in their own way. There is no need to feel competitive. It only adds to anxiety. I think the important thing is to stay updated and to know what’s going on in the rest of the world.
Every designer has their strength. And right now the market is really small. Whatever money we’re making today is so small that we can only have sympathy for each other. Ultimately, it’s about how good you are at what you do. There will always be people who are willing to buy your work if it’s made with passion.
As a designer, I’m still discovering myself and the process of discovery is so visible in my line of work. My work is literally a reflection of my progress as a designer and that’s how I stay true to myself.
Everything requires study and practice. Most of the times, things work out and we pull through. But there are many times when things don’t go well. For example, when you’re using a material you haven’t used before, you can end up destroying it because it isn’t the right one for your design. It’s a waste of money and effort. It’s really sad to see how the effort put on a shirt or a dress is wasted because the material was wrong, or the choice of design was wrong and you have a sad looking product. And my daily mood depends on how successful my designs have been that day.
What characteristics in the fashion industry need to improve?
It’s not easy to start something in Kathmandu as there are a lot of challenges, especially in the technical area, and not everybody has the expertise that you want. Also, professionalism is not something that exists in our country. We are quite laidback; we have that approach to life. The system might not be very efficient and very organized but you can work your way around it. And I think the chaos itself is very creatively challenging. It’s invigorating in a way.
Nepal is yet to come to terms with the concept of designer wear. Apparently, designers are either European or American. So it is frustrating, but I’m optimistic about the future. If not today, people will soon realize that you can buy designer