Interview With Designer Charu Lochan Dass
When I attended BB Fashion Week this year, one of the highlights of Caribbean Night was Charu Lochan Dass' début, self-titled collection, better known as CLD. I fell in love with her elegant, feminine silhouettes and dark floral prints. Charu herself is a warm, charming and sophisticated woman, who pretty much embodies what her line stands for. I had to learn more about this Indian-born, Trinidadian-raised designer.
Charu Lochan Dass (centre in black) at CLD's recent launch in Trinidad
Kurama Magazine: What does fashion mean to you?
Charu Lochan Dass: It's my world, it's everything to me. It really is a lifestyle. It says so much about your character, even your background. You could tell a lot by the way a person is dressed.
KM: How do you define the style of CLD?
Charu: I would say it encompasses the essence of an elegant, sophisticated and confident woman. CLD exudes class, brilliance, beauty, poise and sensuality. CLD uses fine materials and intricate details, producing outstanding quality aimed at attracting women of high society. I think in a nutshell, that is what the brand represents. That is the kind of woman CLD stands for.
KM: What is your design process like?
Charu: Something has to get my interest first of all. I'll give you an example with this collection. I have a friend who's really into Audrey Hepburn's 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'. This caught my attention. I've realized over the years that iconic women – their biographies and histories – capture my attention. I do tons and tons of research on whatever catches my attention until I know exactly what I'm focussing on. So this collection is based not on Audrey Hepburn but on that 1960s era with a modern approach.
After the research I do some real sketches. Once I get the sketches done, I start looking for fabrics. Then I might change my designs a little bit because the fabric can inspire you to do other things from what you had in mind already. There was a lot of tweaking until I got exactly what I thought was right.
A CLD piece at the collection's launch in Trinidad
KM: How would you define fashion in Trinidad? How do people interpret fashion there?
Charu: There are quite a few fashionistas over here. But I've found from my short time in Barbados for BB Fashion Week that Barbados is quite fashion forward, maybe even more than Trinidad. I think it's because you guys have a really strong British influence. Trinidad was a British colony too...
KM: But you have the Spanish flavour, the Indian flavour...
Charu: We do have the multicultural aspect going on. We've lost much of that British influence but Trinidad is moving quite ahead with fashion.
KM: So there's more experimentation than there was in the past.
Charu: I've owned a store for the past 10 years. From my experience, the minute the younger generation sees something on television, in a movie, on the runway or magazines, they come asking for that style. Our younger generation is very fashion forward.
KM: If money, time and resources were limitless, how would you change the Caribbean industry?
Charu: I would somehow try to bring in more of the European aesthetic into the Caribbean, and of course I would have stores throughout the Caribbean. I want to have more of that international fashion come into Caribbean. I studied in London and that's what I was exposed to when I was over there. Their fashion is completely different from the Caribbean and even the US. The US gets everything from them. Stuff I would see on High Street I would see in Miami two years later. And I'm not exaggerating, I swear. That's a long time! Of course designer brands would have that kind of thing before. Garments which are accessible to the masses, you might think it's hot and trend but it was hot and trend two years ago.
Charu fell in love with this shade of blue featured prominently in her line.
KM: I'm sure your business background gives you an advantage.
Charu: Yeah, it does help, in a big way. You may have noticed I haven't done anything avant garde because it won't sell; I want to create wearable clothes. Of course you want to show your creativity but nobody's gonna wear that. Because of my experience with the retail, I'm playing it a little safe.
KM: That's not a bad thing when you're based in Trinidad. If you were in London, would you still play it safe?
Charu: I would still play it safe but not this safe! Their street style is amazing.
KM: Who are some of your favourite designers or style inspirations?
Charu: I have to say Elie Saab is on the top of my list. That man is a genius. I absolutely admire him! I used to follow McQueen's work quite a lot but I stopped since he passed away. He once said he thinks he's the brand and if he's not there any more, there's no McQueen. He was such a genius, so creative. Of course also Audrey Hepburn and Jacqueline Kennedy.
Two of the CLD ensembles presented at BB Fashion Week
KM: What are your favourite colours and fabrics to work with?
Charu: I love flowy, silky fabrics. I like volume. I love colours but for this particular collection I chose this palette because that blue really did something for me. Blue, red, green, black. I love love love black.
KM: Where can our readers buy your pieces? I'm assuming CLD will be in your store.
Charu: No it won't. This is a totally separate entity from my store since I sell mass produced clothing. I don't want to mix my brand with that. That's not what I want CLD to be or become.
KM: If I wanted one of your dresses, how would I order it?
Charu: For now through the CLD Facebook page. Later on, we're looking at having a separate boutique for this.
KM: If I ordered from Barbados or as far as New York, would you be able to ship?
Charu: Will do! My dream is for CLD to be a global luxury brand. I don't want this to be just for Trinidad or the Caribbean.