India’s trailblazing streetwear designers on self-expression, breaking the rules, and redefining their brand ethos

...all for the love of casual fashion.

Harper's Bazaar India

Bazaar India speaks to five fabulous street designers about their early days, their learnings, their ever-evolving perception of fashion, and much more. 

Dhruv Khurana, Founder and Creative Director, Almost Gods

"During my time in college in the US, streetwear and sneaker culture were really becoming a thing. I became obsessed with it—camping outside Supreme and Nike stores, travelling across the country for sneaker drops. It was the first time I saw fashion as a tool for cultural communication and conversation. Once I came back (to India) from college, I was determined to start this conversation in the country as well. Streetwear as a movement brought accessibility and interest to a world of fashion and culture that had seemed far removed from those not engaged in its discourse. It acted as an entry point for us into these conversations, however, the more time we spent building Almost Gods, the more we realised that it was a small component of the broader world of fashion. It is very cool to see this realisation grow in the industry as brands engage with both high and low areas, truly driving cultural output with strong merchandising. Our vernacular draws on global markers of power derived from history and mythology blended together with Indian design principles to not only build a strong identity around the feeling of being ‘Almost Gods’ but also uplift South Asian makers of self-expression. We speak to a new generation of audience that seeks community and sees India operate neck and neck with the best in the world.” 

Latex top and skirt, both Almost Gods, prices on request; Amali Alta Sandals, Christian Louboutin, price on request

Prakhar Chauhan, Founder, PRXKHXR

“Streetwear for me has always been about regular, daily-wear clothes. When I started my brand, there were little to no places where I could find a good, loose-fitted printed shirt. Most brands only crafted tailored or formal versions, which did not resonate with me. So, I thought of doing exactly that (making clothes according to his style) and it has been a joyful journey ever since. 

All of the prints and artwork you see in my designs have been developed in-house, and a number of them are created by me—I think that adds a unique perspective to my work. Apart from that, most of the silhouettes are based on my personal style. I usually end up making garments that were not accessible to me, eventually releasing them for my audience. Nowadays, creators have access to many more production techniques due to which customers can delve into a much wider product offering. It is amazing to see the progress and pace at which things are growing. Utilitarian clothing is booming at the moment—being a huge cargo pant guy since forever, I am happy to see them get the love they deserve (laughs).”

Retro Anorak Jacket, ₹6,800, Rainforest Dress, ₹8,200, and Rainforest Hat, price on request; all prxkhxr, Loubishark Shoes, Christian Louboutin, price on request; socks, stylist's own

Surmai Jain, Founder and Creative Director, Polite Society

“In a world where there are countless macro- and microtrends to choose from, street style is all about feeling confident in your own skin and owning your identity. For me, streetwear has always been about finding the perfect balance between high- and low-end fashion. I love putting together outfits that combine clean and tailored pieces with rugged, oversized items. 

When I envisioned my brand, I didn’t want to conform to any specific style. Polite Society was founded with the goal of bringing a touch of femininity to the typically-genderless streetwear genre. Instead of relying on androgynous silhouettes, I want to experiment with daring cuts and body-fitted silhouettes while also ensuring that design innovation remains at the forefront of everything we do. 

We are actively looking at minimising our waste production. With our latest initiative, Poli-morph, we will showcase small-batch styles made exclusively from scraps, defected fabrics, and dead-stock materials. These sustainable designs will be available as a part of our Polite Society collection. We believe in the importance of a tactile experience, thus our next milestone is to create a physical touchpoint where customers can immerse themselves into the small world of Polite Society.”

Farm Applique Shirt, ₹6,000 and Big Flower Corset, ₹6,500, both Polite Society; Lipstick Pumps, Christian Louboutin, price on request

Kanika Goyal, Founder and Creative Director, Kanika Goyal Label

“Fashion has always existed as a medium to express a personal standpoint. Streetwear taps into the youth’s desire to challenge traditional norms. At Kanika Goyal Label, our perspective on self-expression and freedom of speech is built into the fabric of the brand. We combine elevated construction with elements that authentically define the ‘now’. 

Celebrating a non-traditionalist point of view, we intend to deconstruct the rigid perception of luxury, making it more individualistic and personal (not defined by the set norms). The brand language embodies a youthful and free spirit that draws inspiration from the current zeitgeist and, in return, adds to the cultural sphere, delivering intellectually-designed, statement neo-luxury with ‘a cool brand’ element.

In this day and age where the Internet and social media have profoundly changed the way we consume, evaluate, choose, and behave, we are just trying to create a narrative that appeals to the new mindset, aiming to reflect the mind-over-matter approach.”

August Washed Denim Jacket, ₹27,000, and August Washed Denim Pants, ₹32,500, both Kanika Goyal Label; Ohbori Strap Sandals, Onitsuka Tiger, ₹9,000

Rikki Kher, Founder and Creative Director, Kardo

“I started Kardo because I couldn’t see beautifully crafted textiles in menswear. I saw khadi being worn by bureaucrats and thought that it would be interesting to use it in a contemporary way. The brand was born from the need of making slow clothing by combining traditional Indian textile techniques that are transparent in their approach. 

We work with many craft communities such as weavers, dyers, and printers across India in order to support NGO-based organisations and local artisans that are perhaps not getting the recognition that they deserve. We explain the process of making our textiles on our hang tags, along with adding a provenance tag to each piece so as to highlight all the hands involved in the making and manufacturing of the garment.

We are not in competition with anyone. We do what we do and celebrate the fact that there is now a market for more brands to be a part of the ecosystem.”

Chintan Shirt, ₹19,450, Olbia Shorts, ₹17,450, and Mack Jacket, ₹17,450, all Kardo; Loubishark Shoes, 
Christian Louboutin, price on request; socks, stylist's own

Photographs by Anbhav Sood, Styled by Palak Valecha

Make-up: Karma Choezom. Hair: Lalngaihzuali Sailo. Model: Vanshika Saxena. Fashion Assistant: Sakshi Wadgaye.