Soni Bazaar


Ashish Soni’s Soni Bazaar

Designer Ashish Soni’s 20 years’ retrospective, a fashion-art exhibition creates white noise to be seen and heard

Ashish Soni wears his optimism well. Among everything up for display at his 20 years in fashion retrospective — clothes, memories, reflections, plans — it is his positivism that you want to order to your size.

What does this cheer cost? Two decades of persistence with other realities that also come in twos. Needle and thread, craft and textile, India and abroad, black and white, creativity and commerce. The latter pair is befuddling for most designers. A late ’80s NIFT graduate (from its second batch) and the first Rohit Bal intern ever, Soni at 41, is among those designers who have survived two recessions and must wade through a fickle, local market that holds its head in its hands wondering what to buy and where. “The biggest lesson of these two decades is how to make design commercially successful. But it is within the scope of fashion that I have been able to do a lot of things” says Soni. On the opening night of his retrospective at The Aman, New Delhi, he looked like a spitting image of his sharp-suited male mannequins, who, of course, can’t manage his smile. “Very few people know that in the ’90s, most of my income came from textile projects for the government of India,” he recalls, talking about working with bamboo, glass and Chanderi fabric among other crafts of rural India.

Absolut Soni, (the booze brand is the sponsor of this arty extravaganza), then, is an arty collage with mannequins dressed in Ashish Soni pret and couture, sculptures, multi-media installations, its and bits from past collections, an interpretation of the Absolut vodka bottle, even a rolling film with oft-heard voices from the fashion industry. Lot of white. Lot of black. Lot of black and white. Soni’s press release terms it excessive minimalism. Turn the words on their head to call it minimalist excess. Both stick. Soni has had a white fixation for years. “White is my comfort zone, an inherent attraction but as my signature, it only started becoming recognisable in the last seven years,” he says.