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Chennai: Beyond A City, An Inspiration

Heritage over the years has been a source of inspiration and discussion among people and it continues to be. From temples with deteriorated sculptural motifs to magnificent heritage monuments that are faced with the question of existence, heritage encompasses a lot of changing times that should be manoeuvred in a positive direction. While heritage inspires a lot of creative individuals, artists, filmmakers, and so on, there is one person in particular who has drawn her inspiration from the heritage buildings of Chennai, and the recent floods of 2015 to design a fashion line that has walked international shows. Through her sustainable fashion brand Vino Supraja that involves local artisans, Vino Supraja talks about how heritage, architecture, and Chennai inspired her to make the shift. Apart from our love for Chennai, the other thing that we have in common is that we both graduated from the same college.

Vino Supraja graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Architecture from the School of Architecture and Interior Design, SRM University. She joined a short course in Animation in which she was exposed to the field of media which piqued her interest in the same. She became a breakfast RJ for Radio One. Apart from this she worked with Jaya TV and started a production house along with her friends that worked on ad films. Post her marriage she moved to Shanghai and pursued her Bachelor's in Fashion Design at the Shanghai campus of International Fashion Academy (IFA) Paris. During her final year, her collection won 2 international awards and walked the Shanghai Fashion Week.

Our tete-a-tete began with my fascination for her designs and patterns, the 'Buoyancy' collection, in particular. Post her graduation from IFA Paris, she moved to Detroit and started her own studio. From there she designed her 'Buoyancy' collections which took strong inspirations from the floods that plagued Chennai during 2015, and the heritage buildings in the city, such as the Central Railway Station, Napier Bridge, Uzhaipalar Silai, to name a few. To her, these buildings aren't just documents of a grand historical past, but documents of architectural value that spanned over several centuries, boasting of a sense of colour, elements, and proportion. Digital illustrations of the heritage buildings were made which were then translated onto the fabric. This was made in such a way that the entire apparel consisted of parts of different heritage buildings in Chennai as fabric patches. These were put together into a puzzle-like arrangement. To highlight the floods, blue piping was done to tie these patches and the concept of 'Buoyancy' was arrived at. This signified the message that "The floods tried to break us, but we stood together". The 'Buoyancy' collection walked the Brooklyn fashion week in 2016 and the New York Fashion Week and the concept was and is widely spoken thus.

After the success of the Brooklyn and New York fashion weeks, she moved to Dubai where she pursued a Postgraduate course in Fashion Marketing and learned about Sustainability in Fashion. The experience and inspiration gained, propelled her to kick start the brand Vino Supraja that dealt with sustainable fashion in a collaboration with a number of weavers from Chennimalai, in Erode. "Artisans are the people who make the art relevant," she says. She believes that the art produced by them must be given directly to the buyer without any intervention. To her, creativity is an amalgamation of the old and new, meaning that traditional techniques can be fused with ideas of the new world to produce art that carries the essence of both and bridges the past, present, and future.

Speaking about Chennai as her inspiration she points out how she, as a girl from Vandavasi, came to Chennai with the dream of being an architect and shared how the city and its people helped her become who she is today. She says "There is a certain warmth when it comes to the people of Chennai which I miss the most. People apart from the ones we know, who lend you a helping hand to make it big. New York and Chennai are similar in terms of its diversity in population, but what makes Chennai a class apart are the people and their warmth". Her idea of Chennai is an amalgamation of different areas with their own identities that represent a larger emotion, called 'Chennai' or, much better, 'Madras'.

About the Author:

M Lakshmi Supriya is an architect, artist, and self-published author of two books 'Musings by a Spearhead' and 'Petals and Thorns-Love and a little heartbreak'. She started writing in the year 2010 and published her first book in the year 2018. She has been a contributor to Genre: Urban Arts, New York and is a blogger with blogs, one on poetry and the other on miscellaneous observations. You can check out her work at @spearheadpoetry and @_stroked.

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