For my second post in the Spotlight series, I bring to you the really talented Monika D. Kalra, a London based painter and art designer. What drew me to Monika was her really vibrant and eye-catching designs that looked great on the canvas as well as on textiles. Needless to say, I got curious and started this conversation to know more about her and her work. Don’t forget to check out Monaara if you want to know more about her exquisite designs.
Tell us more about your background and what is your specialty?
My father used to trade and curate fabrics across the Indian sub-continent. Growing up in fashion context, I ended up studying fashion and then worked for around ten years in Delhi with Indian Haute Couture brands like Satya Paul. My specialty is playing with colors and intricate patterns; it sort of comes naturally with Asian lineage. I have experimented with embellishment & surface texturing both manual and with modern machines, and of late I started applying my paintings in the fashion context.
How did an interest in painting and designing develop in you?
I always used to paint as a kid and I continued to do it as a hobby all along. After creating elaborate and detailed designs with skilled artisans & modern machines for many years, I attempted to use my artwork in the fashion context. My current focus is in treating fashion as an extension of art. It’s always been on the back of most of my fashion creations but more focused now.
How did you start your business? And what encouraged you to do so?
Moving to London was the trigger point, I always wanted to create a fashion brand, but London with an eclectic mix of art, fashion & undercurrent of expressing one’s individuality did the trick. And then it was the hard yards of creating the right product with the right quality. I started painting much more and with varied subject. And then spent numerous nights, weeks, months on design and production. I feel very happy with the outcome.
What were the challenges you faced/face and how did you (or do you) overcome them?
Challenge is always finding enough time to do justice to each task. Being a boot-strapped business, where you end up doing everything on your own; it is a learning process day in and day out. But London also provides a very supportive & nourishing environment.
What is the most interesting aspect of your work?
Concoction of colors and patterns on otherwise usual subjects and then making people feel special and delicate with the scarves. Yes its feels good to create something unique especially when people come back with positive feedback.
What about the most challenging part?
The challenging part was product development itself. Each Monaara scarf is a piece of art, an actual piece of my painting. It carries intricate hand drawn (and not digital) patterns and is different at each corner. Getting the colors to come out well on Satin silk took a lot of experimentation at very different type of printing setups. So, we have a specialised QA process and each scarf is done as a sample (in the fashion design context).
What is your vision for Monaara?
It is still early days, and I see the process evolving already. People come and ask for my designs to be done on different type of garments and I get queries from different parts of the world especially from rest of Europe & US. Monaaraa is for those who love art and want to look different & feel special. Next few years, I will look to develop & strength relationships in the UK and in parallel evolve my designs into dresses.
How do you balance work and personal life?
When you have a self-sustained business, work & personal lives pretty much merge. My husband also helps me whenever he gets time from his hectic schedule. And we make sure we have our productive breaks now and then.
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