A chic calfskin handbag (black or white) pulled together at the top by a drawstring, with a price tag of over ₹49,000. The last thing you expect it to be called is The Garbage. Trash as a luxury trend is not new — five years ago, Alber Elbaz referenced trash bags at Lavin, as did Spanish brand BIIS. But the latest is from Khaore, a young New York-based luxury accessories label. The brand, whose first collection, Roadside, debuted last fall, is set up by Kolkata-born Raiheth Rawla along with fellow designer Wei Hung Chen from Taiwan. The design is sharp and minimal, and the products are made in limited quantities — only 50 pieces of The Garbage were available when the collection launched.
Spotlight on the streets
Like its name indicates, Roadside features a range of bags inspired by street-side staples, from traffic cones to jute baskets. “It is easy to overlook these objects due to the regularity of their presence,” says Rawla. “There is a certain beauty that lies in their mundanity.” It is this perspective that the collection is centred on. The products, as the Khaore website tells us, are meant to be “artistic reinterpretations of the everyday”. Art and utility, in this case, are bridged by using materials like jute and leather. “We use calfskin and split leather, because they can be moulded into structural shapes,” shares Rawla, going on to add: “My family works with jute material; I grew up around it. The end products were always utilitarian — large tote bags, baskets. Jute is an abundantly-available, biodegradable material, and it has endless possibilities when it comes to creating a luxurious sculptural bag.”
Quality is key for Khaore. “As a small company starting out, making a limited quantity gives us the ability to ensure a high standard,” confides Rawla.” The handbags are designed in New York, and take about six to eight months to go from sketch to shelf. The leather bags are made in a factory in Kolkata, while the jute line comes from New York.
Seeking common ground
Rawla and Chen may be from different parts of the world but they have enough in common — and when they do not, they make the most of their differences. The duo, both aged 25, met while studying fashion design at Parsons’ the New School of Design in New York. “During school, we would always work together, bouncing ideas off of one another, always pushing and stimulating each other’s creative capability. When combined, our opposing views and individual aesthetics create a distinctive perspective,” Rawla says. Their designs take inspiration from art movements like Dadaism, surrealism and impressionism. “These movements crafted a completely new perspective of viewing art,” she continues.
Voice of change
Rawla’s own relationship with fashion goes back to when she was four. She remembers painting a scenery that her parents turned into a print for a bag, and when it went to market, it ended up selling really well. “Fashion is something that I have always been sure of,” she says. “As I grew older, I came to better understand the importance of the fashion industry and its impact on the world around me. Fashion has been a major player in instigating change in the world, for example, in the Women’s Rights and LGBTQ movement. The way in which individuals have chosen to dress has greatly impacted their cause and its progress,” she elaborates. At a recent TEDx talk in Bengaluru, she spoke of the gap between prescribed genders, and fashion’s role in that space.
Are Indian consumers interested in these unique, artistically-oriented accessories? Rawla thinks so. “We’ve been selling products to the Indian market consistently,” she says. “Our interactions with our customers happen mainly through Instagram. Our content curation is what draws in individuals.” Until December, when the next collection will be revealed, Roadside will continue to hold sway. Meanwhile, Rawla and Chen are working with a biochemical engineer to develop a durable bag made with leaves. “We intend to release one major collection each year, accompanied by a few collaborations,” she says. What can we expect from the next collection? “Similar to our last one, the inspiration comes from objects but in a different setting and storyline.”
From approximately ₹17,200 to ₹72,200. Available online at khaore.com.