FEATURE ー MIUNIKU
Synergy is the only way to describe the electricity between sisters Tina and Nikita Sutradhar, the duo behind the India-born Miuniku label, read as ‘Mew-Nikoo’ in testament to their childhood nicknames. The sisters began their label in 2011 but have since achieved immense success as emerging designers. The Miuniku sisters are the ultimate observers, and adapters to their situation. In life, they’ve learnt to overcome growing pains and absorb the ever-changing world around them, channeling their experience into clothing.
Raised in Mumbai, their father traveled immensely, and immersed his daughters in an exposure to western society, and even if only experienced vicariously on their behalf, an international upbringing. The sisters spoke of the influence their father had, pertaining to their untraditionally relaxed Indian upbringing, which may have consciously affected their creative outlook on design.
“We just grew up like that,” explains Tina. “For us it’s (a Western influence) not something we have to put on, or be someone else, it’s just how we are. And also being in Mumbai we see the people, they wear anything with anything. It could be a sari with anything below, leggings or jeans… they do it very naturally. Very unintentionally, it’s very interesting to absorb the colours and proportions that they wear. I think in some way or another it does affect us while designing.”
From their youth, the Sutradhar sisters began to absorb the surroundings expressed so artfully in their work. The symbiotic nature of their observations is articulated through their clothing, their creations speaking as a direct reaction to their environment. Considering the extent at which their lives are intertwined, it raised the question as to whether the sisters could design independently to the same degree of their team effort.
“I think we are kind of not complete without each other in every sense,” Nikita immediately answers, almost as a testament to their connection Tina finishing her sentence – “we work really well together. If Nikita has an idea for a detail and tells me verbally, I’ll think of it differently, and we both will then draw it and have two versions of the same idea. It gives us a lot more options. It’s so natural for us to work together.”
2010 saw the pair make the monumental move to London to pursue an Honors degree in pattern cutting at the London College of Fashion (LCF), where the foundations and philosophy for Miuniku were developed.
Commenting on their time at LCF, Tina says, “we came to London with the vision of working towards the brand, and it was quite easy to adjust because everything is so accessible; the museums and the knowledge.”
The geographical move proved crucial in the development of their brand, and unbeknownst to them, built the foundations for the future of Miuniku.
The sisters newly found domestic independence was the inspiration for the label’s AW14 collection “Mundane Things”. Prior to their life in London, chores and the perils of independent living was not something they’d ever experienced.
“Before we moved to London we never had to do any housework, and when we moved we had to do everything ourselves; do the dishes, do the laundry along with studying and doing projects,” says Tina. “We had some time to decide what our final year project was going to be about. No ideas were coming to our minds, and one day I was doing the dishes and just thought ‘why don’t we make the collection based on house hold chores?’ so the inspiration is from things like doing the laundry.
“We dried our clothes on a laundry line, and they just juxtaposed themselves. We drew a line in the room and hung our own clothes one on top of one another and experimented with how they fell. That kind of gave an idea for layering and paneling and things like that. The graphic colours come from detergent and household products.”
The subtle intelligence of this collection is what is initially striking; the amalgamation of colour, shape and angles forming so effortlessly. The collection emphasises the juxtaposition of minimal and maximal, unequivocally balancing the two and refining it with sleek silhouettes.
The collection led the sisters to be nominated for this year’s prestigious LVMH Young Fashion Designers Award. Among them were nominees Simone Rocha, J. JS Lee, Marques Almeida, Jacquemus and Thomas Tait, whom the pair interned for over a two-year period, all facing a judging panel made up of the fashion industry’s modern giants Phoebe Philo, Nicolas Ghesquière and Raf Simons.
“We took a chance and applied, and just prayed to God really,” says Nikita of the logistical experience. “I told Tina ‘I don’t think this is ever going to work out.’” When the sisters were notified that they’d become finalists, Tina, while laughing, says “she (Nikita) screamed and I think the whole neighborhood could hear, we didn’t expect to get in. I mean we just graduated six months ago!” The unassuming Sutradhar sisters are about as genuine as they come.
Miuniku was awarded the LVMH Special Jury Prize, a well-deserved honor for these humble designers. As Tina says, “Now that we have some funding for our brand it has really sped up for us. We can do our next collection, now we have interest from different buyers.”
“We’re going to take it slow but steady,” says Nikita, “just go step by step and make collections to put in show rooms and do small presentations on the side.” And we suspect others will be watching.
Words / Bridgette Hungerford