Little Shilpa-Big Accessories
Shilpa Chavan, the designer behind the ornate accessories label Little Shilpa, is like the little engine that could. She has chuffed her way all the way from her hometown, Mumbai, where she studied design and manufacturing, all the way to the runways of London fashion week and the gallery halls of the Victoria and Albert Museum. This journey has had a stop over at London’s Central Saint Martins Fashion College and with famed milliner, Philip Treacy. No boring detours there.
Here we should mention that the queen of eccentric head gear, Lady Gaga, has also donned two of Little Shilpa’s Swarovski helmets for an interview with Flare magazine, where she fittingly described Shipla’s work as, “ creating shapes and balancing outfits like paintings,” a sentence that fairly accurately sums up the work of Little Shilpa as well.
Little Shilpa’s handcrafted headpieces and accessories are wearable artworks, which juxtapose the traditional aesthetics of India’s exaggerated adornment with its overnight modernization. Her headpieces and accessory collections incorporate an array of bright coloured found objects and industrial materials such as Perspex into intricate sculptural shapes.
Her headgear has graced the runways of designers including Manish Aurora; where kitsch materials were collected from the New Delhi markets to compliment the Indian inspired clothes. She has also collaborated with, Unconditional, where she referenced traditional tribal themes, creating wood and bone neck pieces and feathered headpieces. Little Shilpa’s often over sized, statement headgear and accessories could easily steal the show every time, but somehow she manages to maintain equilibrium, elaborately framing the whole picture instead.
This is one of the elements that sets Shilpa apart from other accessories designers, her pieces successfully manage to navigate their way between the worlds of art and fashion, creating their own little settlement right on the border, where they can cross from one world to the other whenever they please. And they often do.
Shilpa has also participated in the Hedonism art exhibition, which opened the SS10 collection shows in London; here Little Shilpa’s installation rang true to the life of its designer; materializing the visual aspects of an amalgamation between India and London by contrasting found items from each culture.
Little Shilpa’s work, be it art or fashion, always has a cultural reference and more often than not it is from her own Indian up bringing. Her installation at the Victoria and Albert Museum literally brought the streets of India to London. Back bones and head and shoulder pieces were constructed from Indian street sourced materials and styled into images as abstract, almost body parts.
Shilpa not only pays homage to our multicultural society though, she reflects our modern multitasking society as well. Swapping between the hats of designer, stylist and artist in an average working day.
Tangent caught up with her to find out exactly what the inner workings of each of her own figurative headpieces looks like.
TM: Did you always want to be an accessories designer?
Little Shilpa: No it was unplanned, it all happened by chance. I used to design clothes, then I started working as a fashion stylist and I was always making pieces for my shoots. My model friends then told me I should do my own collections. So I did a small collection, packed my bags and came with it to London.
TM: Do you always try to link the different avenues of your work together somehow?
Little Shilpa: Yes my accessories are really a scaled down version of my installations.
TM: How do your sale collections differ from your couture collaborations?
Little Shilpa: They are less complicated, easier to wear and lighter weight.
TM: Can you talk me through how your headpieces and accessories develop?
Little Shilpa: They develop through shapes. I work as a fashion stylist as well so I always think of my pieces as pictures first. If it makes a good picture in my head, then it will be a good piece.
TM: How would you describe your runway shows?
Little Shilpa: I think that shows are a great canvas to show your complete inspiration…the various layers of one complete look. To be able to tell the complete story is the reason why I do accessories in addition to my headpieces.
TM: You have had a whirlwind of great collaborations so far which has been your favourite?
Little Shilpa: My apprenticeship with Philip Treacy!
TM: What did you learn from working with a millinery master like Philip Treacy?
Little Shilpa: I learnt how to finish my pieces inside – out, but most importantly I learnt what humility was in the face of so much talent. To be so unbelievably creative and so unbelievably humble, that is Philip Treacy.
TM: What drives your passion for accessories
Little Shilpa: I feel that a garment is incomplete without an accessory. Almost like it is missing its better half!
TM: How would describe Little Shilpa in three words?
Little Shilpa: Vibrant, nostalgic, individual.
TM: If you could collaborate with one person in the future who would it be?
Little Shilpa: John Galliano.
TM: What are you currently working on?
Little Shilpa: My new collection for India and London fashion week.
TM: Where do you see Little Shilpa in five years time?
Little Shilpa: In a space between fashion and art doing a lot of experimental works.