Sweaters with four sleeves, Benarasi weaves with zari seahorses, and delightful, gender-fluid, non-binary ensembles...these are the recent imaginations of New-York based designer Ikshit Pande, who has caught the attention of independent-minded dressers across the world. For each of India-based label QUOD’s wonderfully engineered, handwoven and hand-knit separates, paired with gold-plated jewellery, is a statement in itself.
“QUOD is about exploring new things, or doing existing things in a fresh manner. And we take that very seriously,” Pande, founder and artistic director of QUOD tells Bazaar India in an exclusive conversation. “Our most important endeavour remains to explore traditional crafts, textile, and dress-making, and contextualise them in a manner that is global, and perhaps, alien to that craft,” he adds.
For the Automne/Hiver ’22 collection, ‘A Poem From Benaras, With Love’, the label has continued its commitment to supporting local artisans and communities, and has developed Victorian-style outfits with traditional techniques—blouses with delicious mutton sleeves, Benarasi brocade ankle-length dresses with floral panels and tulle (or even fine wool suiting), and layered tulle skirts with opaque line drawings.
“Men, women, generalists, how they dress, people on the streets, architecture, and nature inspire me,” Pande reveals when speaking about his wide range of design aesthetic. And being born and brought up in the foothills of the Himalayas, Nainital, there is a recurring connection to nature and its forces.
The knitwear pieces also turn to Pande’s childhood memories, of when his mother knitted sweaters for him in a variety of colours and patterns. Taking it a step further, Pande designed organic wool, four-armed sweaters for this collection...a unique design that provides gainful employment to the women artisans of Kullu in Himachal Pradesh, who were initially surprised by this new concept. “Traditional fabrics must be given a new life...” Pande insists.
“The foundation or the past is very important, for that is from where we learn and carry the story forward. But it has to be done in a unique way. You have to give to the craft as much as you take from it.”
His philosophy is well-expressed in the custom-made Benarasi zari fabrics (it takes a month to weave about six metres) each yarn of silk wrapped with a thread of fine gold. The final fabrics are then accentuated with dots of resham or coloured silk thread, and contemporary House motifs. “If the craft has to survive, then the consumption has to broaden and its relevance has to become global,” the designer explains.
It’s interesting that Pande elaborates upon such a crucial aspect of fashion, given that he never dreamt of entering the field while growing up! “I come from a small town, and had boldly chosen to study Commerce (‘boldly’ because I thought I was going against the grain of being a doctor or engineer). It was only when I turned 30 that I realised I could still flip my life around and pursue something creatively fulfilling.”
Pande graduated from Parsons School of Design in December of 2018 and went on to intern under American fashion designer Vera Wang. “As soon as I graduated, I realised how all strong fashion brands focus on good
storytelling. And I felt I was equipped to take this plunge. So. I immediately went ahead with registering QUOD in London and New Delhi in 2019.
In fact, this approach towards storytelling makes the label even more intriguing. Pande likens a campaign to a theatrical presentation, and the drama against minimalism echoes the abbreviation that the label stands for—‘Quod Erat Demonstrandum’, which is Latin for ‘thus, it has been demonstrated’.
Pande explains, “This phrase usually means to come to a conclusion from something that was earlier only a hypothesis. For us, ‘Quod Erat Demonstrandum’, or simply QUOD, is an embodiment of this belief; this hunch of where the world’s clothing, style, and fashion agendas should be, and where it should go from here.”
Lead image: Multi-face sheer silk shirt, ₹13,999, and Multi-face silk overlay skirt, QUOD, ₹28,499