Styling today’s fashionistas

By Richa Kharshandi

Shillong is called the city of fashion for a reason. Besides local fashionistas, it has produced some of the finest young designers of the time. Duncan Kharmon is one of them.
Kharmon’s works are sophisticated, bold and innovative and the designer is not afraid to stray from convention.
A small black door leads to the one-storeyed Duncan’s Boutique in Mawlai Umjaiur. The humble signboard on top of the door directs a first-time visitor. The door left ajar gives a glimpse of his works as if to tease onlookers. Most of the times, a visitor is greeted by the soft-spoken designer and the small-sized mannequins wrapped in satin threads which are neatly placed on both sides of the alley leading to the main boutique space.
“Since childhood I was interested in fashion and would follow the latest trends. When I was in school, I really wanted to be a designer when all my friends would talk about becoming engineers and doctors. I didn’t want all that. This is what I wanted,” says the 35-year-old designer as he points at the mannequins flaunting his works.

To the left of the shop hangs a collection of clothes and to the right is the reception that leads to Kharmon’s workshop. At the end of the boutique is the dressing room with a mirror. As Kharmon settles down for the interview, he confesses that he is nervous.
After finishing studies from Seng Khasi College, Kharmon enrolled for a crash course in fashion designing at Impulse NGO Network. During that period in 2000, he got an opportunity to participate in a fashion show.
Kharmon went to National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Kolkata, in 2003. After finishing his year-long course, he came back to Shillong and started taking part in local fashion shows. He won Fashion Society Shillong’s Black Mannequin Best Designer award in 2003. Last year, he received the Shillong Pride Best Local Designer award.
On inspiration, Kharmon replies with a smile, “I am simply passionate about fashion and styling and I don’t really look for inspiration. When I was in school I used to play with Barbie dolls. I used to make dresses for the dolls.” But he adds that he admires designers like Ritu Kumar.
Kharmon’s works are a blend of tradition and western wear. His ready-to-wear jainsems come with sleeves and one does not have to wear a blouse.
The outfits are convenient for young and working women.
“My line of clothing is simple and elegant, classy yet trendy. As a designer, my top priority is wearability. I strongly believe that clothes have their own language to speak, so let them do their own talking,” the designer says, adding that one has to be highly creative to make a name in the fashion world.
With time people started to accept changes and small alterations in traditional trend. Women today are welcoming fusion fashion and Kharmon is just the right person for fusion styling.
He has been part of the Meghalaya fashion industry for 15 years and has done shows in Guwahati, Kolkata and Delhi as well. However, he took a break from the industry a couple of years ago.
The designer says it takes months to think of a unique idea and work on it. He has to work for almost 10 hours a day to finish his assignments. “We can’t really tell the exact time to prepare a jainsem. It depends on its work. If it is completely handmade then it takes me more than a week,” he says.
The ultimate collection of jainsems has different price ranges and starts from Rs 2,500 and goes up to Rs 30,000 depending on the fabric and design. He gets fabrics from Mumbai, Guwahati and Shillong and this makes his creations a little above the average price range.
Kharmon says he avoids advertising to attract customers which is unusual in today’s competitive world. It is only word of mouth that works for him.
People come to him from in and outside the city. “Some bring their designs while some leave it completely on me but most of the time we put forward our ideas and culminate to a design that pleases both me and my client,” he says.
Kharmon also makes dresses and other outfits depending on the demand. The young designer recently showcased his clothing line at the Miss Shillong beauty pageant held in the city that earned him appreciation.
So is he happy with his success story? Kharmon laughs and says he is not successful but is still growing.
Born and brought up in Mawlai, Kharmon says his mother always supported him in his endeavour. “Where I am today, it is because of my mother. I am strong because of her. I never got the opportunity to speak much about her but I am very grateful to my mother for always being there,” Kharmon asserts. He is no more nervous but poignant.

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