WHAT DOES a fashion designer actually wear to work? How does a musician dress for a day in the studio, and what does a stylist wear on set? It’s no secret that some of the world’s best dressed people work behind the scenes, and this series is all about meeting them, and learning about the role style plays in their work and life via five outfits they might wear throughout the course of any given week.
We’re kicking the series off with stylist and creative director Kshitj Kankaria, who recently travelled to Australia from his home country of India to collaborate on a runway show for Byron-based fashion brand Nagnata. Here for a good time, not a long time, Kankaria spent his week Down Under casting, fitting and styling the show, which was held inside the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ new Sydney Modern extension. He also found time to document what he wore during his stay, and chat to us about his journey from small town India to working with some of the world’s biggest fashion brands.
Kshitj, you wear many creative hats — how do you sum up what you do?
I’m a creative director and stylist by profession. A few years ago, in a project of passion, I founded a fashion, culture and art publication called the Dirty Magazine, the editor-in-chief of which I currently am.
Can you tell us about where you grew up?
I grew up in a small town in central India. I belong to a family of middle class doctors, where structure was prioritised above all else. I knew growing up that I wanted to stray away from the path set out for me, and from notions of domesticity. Going to fashion school was largely a way for me to avoid the eventuality of the medical career my parents were preparing me for. So, I moved away to study fashion in a college in the west of India at age 24 and migrated to Mumbai, a large metro city unlike the one I grew up in.
What were some of the things that you considered ‘cool’ or ‘stylish’ in the city you grew up in?
Growing up, we had no concept of fashion or what it was to be stylish. The influence of Bollywood trickled down and became ingrained into the country’s pop culture, which dictated a lot of our style. Apart from that, Indian traditional outfits were the only occasion wear we were given the pleasure of dressing up [in]. That style of dressing forms a large part of what we wear to weddings and other cultural gatherings.
Can you remember when you first fell in love with fashion?
My earliest memory of fashion was Bollywood. I would also draw inspiration from the kids in my neighbourhood who used to travel overseas with their family and come back with “cool” clothes none of us had seen. But my true inclination towards fashion wasn’t born until I was at university. It’s here that I realised that fashion is something I’d like to do for a long time.
Who is the most stylish person in your life right now?
I really appreciate the style of my drag friend, Glorious Luna, whose style has influenced how the industry or people in general see a queer person who genuinely does not give a damn, and does what they feel most themself in, with a lot of style and grace. It is always a joy to witness.
You were in Sydney to creatively direct the Nagnata runway show recently. What do you enjoy most about styling runways for brands like Nagnata?
Nagnata was my introduction to fashion in Australia. What was most exciting about working with them was to get an insight into the Australian fashion industry, and witness first hand how careful the people are about wastage and over-consumption. Being present to style the runway, and experience the different aspects of executing Nagnata’s presentation was thrilling. In many ways, I found it very much similar to how we work in India.
How does the work you do as a stylist inspire the way you dress?
I certainly feel that, beyond providing inspiration, working in fashion familiarises you with, and gives you access to deeply understand the history and cultures of clothing. What excites [me] the most, you tend to adapt it to play a part in your own style. For me, the way I dress keeps transforming depending on what part of the world I am in and what I’m there to do.
What’s the most practical or functional item that you wear when you’re working?
A jacket and cargos with loads of pockets. My work jackets can typically fit a one litre water bottle, a phone charger, ear pods, wallet, phone, sunscreen, snacks… you name it!
You travel a lot for work. Where is your favourite place in the world to go shopping?
I love Paris and Tokyo the most. Marais in Paris and Daikanyama in Tokyo are my favourite spots to shop and find special pieces, from vintage clothing to discovering a new brand.
In your opinion, what’s the most over-hyped trend in the world right now?
Tokenism in representation of culture, body type, skin colours and sex.
Can you describe your personal style in one sentence?
Putting in the effort to look like I don’t give a fuck.
Describe your first impressions of Australian style in one sentence?
Conscious, functional, and uniform.
If you had to wear one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Cotton Kurtas from my favourite Indian brand called Itoh.
When you’re in need of style inspiration, where do you look?
I tend to turn to music or good writing for my style inspiration.
Are there any exciting projects you have coming up that Esquire Australia readers should know about?
The next issue of Dirty, which is probably the best thing I’ve ever done. And my second photo Book called “ji” is out in a few weeks which will be published in London and Shanghai.
Check back for another edition of ‘Five Fits With’ next week.
See more of Esquire Australia’s style coverage here.