Despite winning the sixth edition of NEXA Presents The Spotlight (a programme that gives young fashion designers a platform to showcase their work at the upcoming Lakme Fashion Week X FDCI in October) for the first time, fashion designer Sushant Abrol says he almost feels like a veteran. “I had applied earlier for this coveted title. This was my fourth attempt,” he laughs.
Sushant, who launched his label Countrymade in 2019, believes in learning from his failures. “Last year, I was very close to winning. I did well, but someone else did better,” he adds. “So, this time, I raised the bar.”
“While clothes play a big role, the competition is also about set design and how you present the collection. I presented mine with a 360-degree view. We had four days to prepare for the final jury round. I sat with an architect friend of mine for two nights, 9pm to 4am, and integrated the software that gave an all-around view,” says Sushant over a call from Noida, where he is based.
Titled No Man’s Land, this collection is deeply personal. “I lost my brother (Squadron Leader Samir Abrol) when I was just starting my brand. He was in the Indian Air Force. The label name Countrymade is a homage to him,” says Sushant.
At the Abrol family home, there is a room dedicated to Samir, with all his belongings stored there. “We have a file with all the letters he wrote to us from his academy. I imagined him going to war and writing letters from the war zone. That was the starting point of this collection,” explains Sushant.
The collection speaks about the aftermath of war; the odyssey of a soldier. While conceptualising it, Sushant imagined a letter where his brother says he is fighting a war and he sees bloodshed all around. “The land that he is trying to protect is also the land he is bombarding and it’s now barren. This is no man’s land. He is conflicted and going through an emotional turmoil. It’s basically a question that he is asking himself,” says the 33-year-old.
The collection comprises shirts, over shirts, crop jackets, M65 bombers, blazers, and jackets with multiple pockets. “We have used blends of linen and cotton, waxed canvas etc. Once you wear these garments, the wax cracks and creates wrinkles, these wrinkles represent war. We’ve used prints and artistic artworks to show mountains, rivers flowing…”
Stitch work has been used to depict the metamorphosis a piece of land goes through during the course of war, till it turns barren. He also incorporates kantha stitch into his creations. Every season there is a different variation of the technique. “How we play with thread and needle changes. We create small elements with them,” he says. He has used pocket detailing too.
Leather bags, water bottle or wine bags, jerry can-shaped cross-body bags and totes in different shapes are also part of this collection.
This is Sushant’s eighth collection. In every edition, he keeps his brother in the centre. No wonder Countrymade’s themes are heavily inspired by military uniforms . It also comes from Sushant’s love for the armed forces. “We take cues from military outfits and archives. We mould them into everyday clothing silhouettes. They do not look exactly like a uniform, because a uniform is something that one has to earn,” he adds.
A lot of clothing that we see in mainstream fashion has been inspired by the military. Trench coats, bomber jackets, double-breasted jackets, Sushant lists out.
Though Countrymade is all menswear, the label also has a number of women clients who like the oversized jackets. With gender neutral fashion there are no boundaries as to who can wear what, believes Sushant. He is now working on his next collection titled Band Of Brothers and hopes that people talk about how passionate and strong the bonds of brotherhood are, a topic most shy away from.
Available online on countrymade.in and Pernia’s Pop Up, and offline in multi designer stores like Evoluzione and Ensemble.