Built from layers of heat-reactive felt blasted with intense temperature, the moulded plates of Indian-born London-based designer Kaushik Velendra work like armour, guiding the wearer’s muscular frame towards a heightened sense of confidence and strength. Following a process of intense development and research that began while studying at Central Saint Martins, now Velendra’s innovative fashion pieces have reached a level of precision that fuses technological and sartorial codes, acting as empowering punctuation for the designer’s defined tailoring: “made for the body, using the body.”
Alex James Taylor: Can you tell me about how you make the moulds – talk me through the process?
Kaushik Velendra: I personally call the moulds armour; they are both a second skin and muscle. The process is quite complicated: the main base of the mould is a heat reactive felt, then a lot of heat technology is used along with high temperature blasting to create new shapes and shape those forms. This is putting it simply. Before all of this is the process the world does not see – the base of these moulds, all created from scratch. These forms and shapes represent superhero structures. They represent all the insecurities of the people built into them. It’s layers and layers of muscles, areas of the body that people have problems with. It’s very similar to fitness, people work out a specific part of their body to enhance it, I do the same but through building up these layers of muscles on a form, which is where the moulds are placed. This is what creates the beautiful shapes and muscle-like features that are exactly the same as a human body.
AJT: When did you first make them and how did they idea evolve? What were the first prototypes like?
KV: It was an evolution for years through all my research. I wanted to use new inventions from different industries, looking at what they use for a similar purpose. It’s like exploring different characteristics that can be used in fashion. It was a constant research, thinking of what I could do to make something new.
It’s been a massive development. It was never a one-time thing, it has been a constant work-in-progress to enhance it.
I started researching during my CSM days, finding my niche, breaking stereotypes and my boundaries. I always had this thought, “How could I make my clothes make me feel like I have muscle?” I don’t stuff shoulder pads, what can I use instead of shoulder pads to create a new form of muscle? This led me to go deeper and deeper into finding my subject, one that works commercially and works in fashion. My full prototype came into life in 2018 and I knew immediately that this is what was going to make the difference.
“It’s very similar to fitness, people work out a specific part of their body to enhance it, I do the same but through building up these layers of muscles…”
AJT: What’s the conversation between the moulds and the body, how do you want them to interact?
KV: It’s made for the body using the body. It’s all interlinked – it’s an enhanced superior version of the body. Because of the heat technology, it reacts to your form and moulds to it. It makes you feel comfortable whilst having a massaging effect. It has exactly what you feel when you want to wear an outfit. Due to its strong relationship and origination from the body, it’s as simple as wearing a second skin, it is meant to enhance a certain area.
“It’s the same feeling as activewear clothing, you’ll feel strong, you’ll feel sporty, you’ll feel energy to work out.”
AJT: You’ve previously described your work as “power dressing for men” – can you expand on what you mean by that?
KV: It’s not just looking good; it’s feeling extremely good. It’s all about making someone feel like a boss. When you wear my outfit, say on a hot day, when you are walking shirtless, you need armour, an extra piece on top, that’s where the moulds fall into place. It gives you power, it makes your posture better.
When you go for dinner, you want to look strong, look beautiful, even if it’s my tailoring jackets or trousers, my clothes are designed to make you feel absolutely muscled sitting down, cross-legged. They straighten your back, your waist. It’s the same feeling as activewear clothing, you’ll feel strong, you’ll feel sporty, you’ll feel energy to work out. It’s very linked to that, that’s what I do with tailoring, I instil a sense of power.
AJT: Your work is rooted in tailoring, how does this traditional practice influence your ideas of innovation?
KV: My work is nothing but tailoring. It’s all down to perfection and accuracy. Tailoring has evolved in many ways, but I felt the core had never evolved. There were many stereotypes and boundaries that I wanted to break. For instance, people say you need to have a side-seam and in-seam for trousers. Mine do not. If you put a phone into jacket pockets, the pocket will bulge out. Mine do not.
It’s about pushing tailoring as a whole to a new level – setting a new benchmark. I wanted to enhance everything. I was tired of seeing the same peak lapel, notch lapel and shawl lapel. It was just these three lapels going gigantic, small, minimalistic, beaded, etc. I wanted to create my own new, masculine lapel. It’s very flexible in its use, for example it can lift up. This was how I wanted to push tailoring forward, by creating a new version of everything but from the understanding of the core.
AJT: I read that your personal experiences growing up in India have shaped your artistic vision – can you take me through some of these?
KV: Yes, my work is a reflection of my whole life, it’s about the learning process and everything I have picked up through my journey. It reflects who I am today.
This whole idea of being powerful, power-dressing and notions of confidence and enhancement came from being on sets of Bollywood as a child. It’s how things have to be made in a particular way to create the illusions of how they want to look instead of how they already look. There was a constant need to look good in front of all angles of the camera and even in times of stunts. This made me understand that you don’t need to use traditional methods, there are other ways you can squeeze in, adapt and overcome tailoring construction. That’s enhanced my entire knowledge and ideology behind this concept. There is a lot of research I have done, such as moulding candles for a living. I never knew what I did back then for survival would help me excel in what I do now. It makes me proud to know that it existed in me way back then and it has led me now to be able to change the way people feel when wearing my clothes.
models HARRY SMITH at D1LON MODELS and AMADOU FALL at SELECT MODEL MANAGEMENT; grooming ROM SARTIPI using ORIBE and MURAD