Streetwear is where the democratisation of fashion in India stems out, being the one facet of the fashion industry that is rapidly becoming synonymous with the voice of Indian youth, leaving in its wake a cacophony of differentiated versions of street style that are harmoniously thriving together to form the country’s own language of street. The streetwear of India, on one hand, materialises in its most raw and literal form encompassing the carefully tucked pant-style Marathi fisherwoman sari, or the starched white Bengali kurta boarding the next tram on schedule, while on the other hand, street style is all about loose cargos and fanny packs laced heavily with neons and logomania. In between the two paradoxes lies a third category of Indian streetwear that is trying to strike a balance between the two, a generation of affordable streetwear labels that add a touch of India to the international designs and silhouettes that have the power to compete against the international bigwigs such as OffWhite and Balenciaga. These brands are together forming the new image of Indian streetwear, and the forefront of such brands is a brand that garnered the tag of being the change-maker of the Indian street scene right from its nascent stage, Nought One by Abhishek Paatni.
Being one of the top streetwear labels in India with an early success on the runway, Nought One is a high-street fashion label that showcases the perfect amalgamation of activewear and streetwear. With a background of engineering followed by an MBA, Abhishek’s growth in the fashion industry has been inspirational. Due to lack of jobs in the field, he started modelling and eventually developed an affinity towards fashion, thereby taking up styling gigs. After his MBA, he started his work with Mr. Buttons, and found inspiration to start a menswear brand that talks about the free expression of streetwear using the generalised sense of mainstream clothing. His evolving sense of fashion reflects through his visionary hold over international trends, as the trend of smart tailoring with shorts that stormed the runways in 2017 was captured by him in 2014.
“I used to come up with this stuff following international trends to get that culture into India. With the help of friends, I got an office in Shahpur Jat as the central space for my work, a creative space. I then started customising shoes like that of Mr. Buttons, but I made them less formal and more street type. I started selling shoes, pocket squares, lapel pins, and other accessories and the response I got for this was amazing. But I wanted to have a very niche focus group and that’s why I parted ways with Mr. Buttons, with the zeal to start something on my own,” says Abhishek, as he talks about his journey in the fashion industry in conversation with Apparel Resources.
The kick-start of Nought One
Abhishek started his own venture in fashion with a brand called Zero Dot Zero, which was more about the masses, and eventually started working with the high fashion e-tailer, Koovs. With the support of close-knit group of friends and colleagues who considered his style as aggressive yet revolutionary, he started Nought One, and equipped with sufficient production capacity and a unique brand design language. Nought One bagged the careerlaunching platform, the Gen Next Designers, by Lakmé Fashion Week in Autumn/Winter 2015. “Our designs were loved by the jury, and GQ’s Vijayan Bhardawaj from the panel considered my collection of mere 8 looks good enough for a major gig in the GQ magazine. These achievements were a great boost of momentum, and the Letter of Recommendations written by the whole panel got us into Amazon as well, and I worked with them for three years.”
Nought One is a brand that is utilising hardware and industrialinspired trends such as buckles on its signature tone-on-tone looks. The signatory military aesthetic of the label stems out of Abhishek’s interest in military uniform since he was a kid, as his family was posted in army areas where his father, work involved constant projects related to hydroelectricity. Nought One addresses the needs of diverse people, whether that of a college going millennial or a 40-year old, who is fashionconscious, and wants to dress differently. The sneakers revolution happened after many years of struggle of the streetwear scene in India, and Nought One was one of the brands to tap the market.
As Abhishek avers, “We take trends from the past and transform it for today. This is our foundation – traditional turned contemporary smart tailoring with a hint of utility. For our collection that rolled out last year, we took plaids and herringbones and mixed them with ribbed fabric, fastener trims etc., to give it a street identity.” Their creative tailoring evolves basics to something greater, as they escalated their styles from a vest to a T-shirt to a jacket made in a bulletproof format with heavy quilting, and one of their signatory styles is a utility-inspired jacket, a bomber integrated with a backpack detail on the back, which became a rage in the market in 2018.
Making streetwear mainstream
Abhishek compares the present scenario of India in the streetwear space to where USA was in the ’80s – a harmonious mosaic of clashing subcultures right from Disco to Hip-hop. “USA was a success in street because they mixed their native subcultures to create a fashion language, and we need to do the same; India needs its own street culture,” asserts Abhishek, further adding, “India is in a very revolutionary stage right now, it is open to change so it is up to us to provide it with substantial content that leaves a mark and sets the foundation for streetwear. Nought One is all about that. We take time to understand and find out who the customer actually is. I am trying to make streetwear a lot more mainstream than a mere millennial style of dressing up for fashion weeks. In fact, if I like any artist, we simply reach out to them. We need to make the customers aware and talk about streetwear as a collective culture.”
In his ardour to normalise street culture, Abhishek recently extended his offering to womenswear as well, with the launch of the same happening during Spring/Summer 2019 edition of Lotus Makeup India Fashion Week. The collection, called the Hyped Indian, was a take on global street style that draws references from various street sub-cultures enveloped in Nought One’s hardware-inspired aesthetic. Several silhouette details such as zipper jackets, utility pockets, and drawstring closures mixed with modern hardware, military influences and pop colours, playing between the lines of natural and engineered fabrics, lined the runways. Abhishek elucidates on the brand extension, “Womenswear was an extension of our menswear line but with inclusion of new colours such as fuchsia, neon green, as we wanted the same functionality as our menswear line offers. We wanted to keep the comfort level high and thus, included lots of shorts too.”
The entire collection followed an androgynous fit module which gave way to straight yet relaxed silhouettes. Traditional Indianwear like kurtas, bandgalas and Nehru Jackets were de-constructed and reimagined to create garments with modern, edgy silhouettes, offering functionality and slickness with strong tailoring. They also included wearable anti-pollution masks matching the ensembles.
Nought One has been a favourite among several fashion retailers who want to harness the power of the rapid momentum that streetwear is gaining in India. The hyped Indian collection has been a major hit amongst celebrities and influencers and regular streetwear enthusiasts alike, and the collaboration with Adidas Originals who provided footwear for the collection, elevated it to a bigger, more commercial level. For Amazon Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2018, Nought One collaborated with footwear brand Vans for a collection called Future Kids, that paired Nought One’s edgy silhouettes against Vans’ Ultra Range and White SK8HI’s shoes along with their skate strap backpacks and caps. Retailed via Instagram and outlets such as Aza and Mumbai-based Curato, the prices of the products lie well within the norms of young enthusiasts willing to invest in fashion. Abhishek mentions, “We start from Rs. 6,500 to Rs. 7,000 ranging up to Rs. 35,000 to Rs. 40,000. You will be shocked that brands sell cotton hoodies for Rs.60,000. We in-turn think that quality matters – if cost is high, the value addition would be of highest quality. Zero dot Zero, my other brand that caters to the masses, can work for college kids as they form the most important segment,” states Abhishek.
Talking about the success of streetwear in India, Abhishek avers, “Nought One as a brand makes clothes that make you feel good about yourself and the clothes improve and adapt to the wearer’s routine. We have to convince people now that dressing up is very necessary and desirable. Millennial culture influences streetwear a lot, and it is not just limited to fashion week anymore. I see designers such as Sahil Aneja who are contributing to the cause so tremendously, and I believe any brand can be street, you just have to mould the aesthetics as per your own individualistic style. It is indeed the best time to be a part of the Indian streetwear space today.”