Kitsh In The City

By Sabrina Fatma Ahmad

Kuhu Plamondon is no stranger to turning lemons into lemonade. When she was starting out, Bangladesh hadn’t yet established many fashion schools, so she pivoted and studied fine arts instead. Never losing sight of her dream, after graduating from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Dhaka University, she took her art degree and applied it into fashion, and created a niche for herself with her signature prints and hand-painted motifs that adorned the clothes she makes. A breezy, come-what-may disposition has seen her through decades in the fashion industry, and it is this sense of fun that has taken her work to exhibitions around the world.

When I speak to her, she’s just wrapped up a busy day in preparation for an upcoming exhibition. There’s light and laughter in her voice as she talks about it.

Tell us a little about your upcoming exhibition

“It’s a contemplation on and a culmination of the past five years for me. When we went into lockdown because of the pandemic, it was like slipping inside a cocoon. And then at the end of it, we burst out like butterflies. Some kind of metamorphosis happened in that time, and I wanted to capture that in my paintings.”

What an interesting way of looking at it. Could you give us a hint of what to expect?

“When you’re stuck inside the house, you look out the window and see the sky. So there are a lot of sky paintings. There are a few more that explore the other dimensions of that time, including actually suffering from Covid. You’ll have to come see for yourself.”

You recently signed an MoU with BGMEA with the view to building the capacity of local weavers so that we may consider creating export quality high-end fashion

“Yes, we’re still working out on the modalities for that. I want to work closely with weavers in order to incorporate local elements into the design, details from our heritage, to create designs that are authentically ours. Once we have developed these designs, we can think about scaling up and taking it forward.”

That’s so interesting, because there’s so much untapped potential here

“All you need to do is look around, and you’ll see something interesting. I kind of played with that with my Dhaka Kitsch collection, you know. I was sitting in traffic, and I noticed this woman on a rickshaw, guiding the rickshaw puller, and thought to myself ‘This is how it is in life, the men drive forward, but women, they navigate.’ And my next thought was, I want that image on a T-shirt. How fun would that be?”

noun: kitsch

Art, objects, or design considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but sometimes appreciated in an ironic or knowing way.

The Dhaka Kitsch collection, which comprised of T-shirts for both men and women, featuring quirky Dhaka motifs rendered in rickshaw art, was originally conceived as part of an event to raise funds for Thrive, a local charity, and launched in an event at Edge Gallery. The collection, which was a collaboration with fellow designer Chandana Dewan, marries the functionality and practicality of a garment like the T-shirt, with Kuhu’s fun way of looking at the world.

“I want to do something like the faluda, you know, the dessert. Imagine all the components of the faluda, the ice-cream and the noodles, everything, but in a pop-art style on a T-shirt” she muses, and I know I have lost her to the gears turning in her head. For those wanting to own a piece of this wearable art, one can check them out at Chandana Dewan’s atelier Chondon, House 9, Road 103, Gulshan 2, Dhaka.

Kuhu’s upcoming exhibition, which is sponsored by Citibank and Mercedes Benz, will be held on November 17, at Edge Gallery.

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