|Indian Gorkha Fashion Designer Priyanka Ella Lorena Lama from Darjeeling|
The younger daughter of Mrs. Anjali Lama and Mr. Latshering Lama, Priyanka completed her primary schooling from Bethany School before becoming a part of the Loreto family. While imbibing designing as part of her life right from her school days, her passion took a professional turn when she decided to join National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Bangalore.
|Indian Gorkha Fashion Designer Priyanka Ella Lorena Lama from Darjeeling Invited to Lakme India Fashion Week|
Mom: Mrs. Anjali Lama
Dad: Mr. Latshering Lama
School(s) Primary + Higher school(s): Bethany School (Primary) and Loreto Convent, Darjeeling (High School)
College(s): National Institute of Fashion Technology, Bangalore
What got her interested in Fashion Designing?
When and how did she actually decide that she wanted to be a Fashion Designer?
It was in middle school – Class 8 to be precise, that I found out about NIFT from the internet. The more I researched about it, the more convinced I became that Design was an area where I could use my strengths. The next few years were spent focusing on submitting close resemblances of skirts and coats for my S.U.P.W assignments! I experimented with whatever inch of fabric my hands could find – from old scarves to pullovers, to jeans and school skirts, often to the disapproving glances of my parents. On a positive note, this was how I learnt to resize clothes for friends and family members. This was also the time when I conceptualized “P.E.L.L.A” – an acronym for my name which eventually became my Label. In the final year of school, I sat for the All India NIFT Entrance Exams and cleared the two rounds to finally get a seat in NIFT, Bangalore.
Challenges she faced in her journey
Convincing my parents about my decision was difficult at first but eventually they supported me in this quest. The big challenge came along when I decided to opt out of placements in the final year. I craved for creative freedom which would be limited if you got into a corporate career. But I knew I had to start somewhere, so I did freelancing for a year in Fashion Design, Styling and Illustration. This came with its own set of problems – some businesses who hired me got their job done for free or for nominal amounts. Since I was just out of college, I was not much aware of the value that I was creating for them and often got paid less. But eventually I got to learn the art of negotiating and putting things across the table in a professional manner. Also, freelancing work was often erratic – there were days when I would have no work and days when I would race against the clock.
How did she overcome them?
There were times when people questioned my dreams – gave me advice on how I should find a secure job, or did not understand why I would not want to work. Often during conversations, I had difficulty in explaining what I really did for a living. I do admit that things were not always rosy and such times, you start doubting your capabilities. But I held onto my dreams like the light at the end of a tunnel. I worked hard, stayed focused and surrounded myself with positive people who inspired and motivated me.
I started my own design studio with support from my family, then Lakme happened and there was no looking back. Also, the entrepreneurial spirit in Bangalore is phenomenal – be it technology, services, hospitality, retail or fashion – there is always a startup to offer something new and exciting. In fact, my studio is surrounded by quite a number of startups and when we are putting in long hours, we look outside the window and there will always be a lighted glass pane with a friendly smile and the thumbs up sign. The environment is very encouraging and pushes you to strive towards your goals.
Did coming from the hills help or hinder her journey?
Coming from the lap of nature, where I remember waking up to the sound of birds singing and the golden view of the majestic Kanchenjunga outside my windows, Darjeeling has always been pushing me towards creativity. It has made me revere natural and authentic beauty. Growing up around fashion where people are unafraid of experimentation helped me develop an individual sense of style. Apart from that, we are also fortunate to have such good schools here with teachers who mentor us to follow our passion beyond what is taught in class. I plan to open my studio there as well – when the right time comes. I believe there is an abundance of talent and creativity in Darjeeling.
Did she have to face racism in the fashion industry for being from the NE or due to her Gorkha/Nepali heritage?
No, I have always felt welcome – people love Darjeeling and in fact this was an icebreaker for conversations. In NIFT, we had students coming from all the nooks and corners of India and abroad, we were all away from home and so we connected well. I have made lifelong friends along my journey. Since, fashion is rooted in culture; the fashion community is open to learning from different cultures and traditions, food and costumes – you never know where the next big inspiration is going to come from.
Is it easier or more difficult for a woman designer to make a mark in the fashion industry, why?
I would not categorize it as easy or difficult based on gender. The product should speak for itself; it should reflect your thought process, your creativity rather than the way you look or your background. Fashion is a very competitive place so you have to carve a niche for your brand in order to make a mark.
What inspires her?
Being a keen observer, be it observing the environment, people around me or introspecting within me, inspiration to me has always been on an emotional level. Things which I have experienced until now or things which are happening in the present have been my food for thought. It can be as simple as breathing or something as complex as meditation. Experiences are a key source of my inspiration and I express them through the designs I create, which I hope would inspire someone somewhere.
When I joined Art of Living at the International Ashram here in Bangalore – an experience I was introduced to during my school days – it became a significant milestone in my life and that is what made me create this collection which I call "Utopia" which is derived from the utopian existence of the mind. A state of mind emancipated through meditation. It is a tribute to the life – one which is happy and content.
The Wabi-sabi way of life is another influence which inspires me and to a certain extent, my way of life. This has become a key foundation for my brand. Wabi-sabi is the beauty of things humble and simple in nature, slow and uncluttered, pure and unadulterated. Imperfections make us appreciate the beauty of natural objects and processes. Inspiration to me goes beyond fashion; it becomes a core value which I want to keep close to me, close to my heart.
Any thoughts on including Gorkha ethnic theme/motifs etc in her designing:
My debut collection is the interpretation of an emotional experience. There is an indirect influence of Zen Buddhism and arises from the meditation that I started in school and still continue to do. For one of my forthcoming collections, I do intend to incorporate elements of the Gorkha way of life.
Where does she see herself in the next 10 years:
Right now I have just set up my studio and I want to concentrate on establishing my brand name for the next few years. For the long run, I would like to integrate the social value chain into Fashion – help revive art and culture from the hills and work with the local cottage industries to bring our heritage to the rest of the world.
Word of advice for those who want to follow her footsteps:
To all the bright young minds – I would say discover what your passion is, don’t limit yourself to said norms. Make full use of the tools available to you, start reading and researching about it now, groom yourself for that role instead of waiting until you finish your board exams. Being just 23, I think a push in that direction in an early age certainly helped me reach where I am today. Also, if you start young, you have time on your side; the opportunities and learning you can get is immense. Dream big but start now by taking the first step towards what you want.
Like someone once said to me – “When you wake up in the morning, if the work you do does not excite you or put a smile on your face, you have to do something to change it.”
I have been making short amateur videos on my doodling of late and eating up my friends’ internet bandwidth when I share them! It is fun to combine music and art along a story line and I am fascinated by the whole process of developing the videos. Apart from that, I love cycling – I used to cycle quite often here until I lost my bike. I haven’t got a replacement since.
To complete this interview, we wanted to know about her from her best friend of many years, Ms. Prashanti Choiden Moktan a few things about Priyanka and posed her these questions to Prashanti
Do you believe in Priyanka?
Priyanka has been one of my best friends for more years than I can recall. My faith in her remains unshaken and grows stronger still because I know of the way she has persevered to get where she is today.
From school days itself, she was always the creative one. Be it her sketches, her SUPW projects (which I sucked at) and her way of dressing up, she stood out. Many thought of her as too eccentric for our ‘everyone knows everyone’ small Nepali community, but I knew she was a diamond in the rough. Now she is shining bright and bringing glory to our very own Darjeeling. She dared to be herself, different from the others and never let negative criticism break her. This has resulted in her refining her passion into a beautiful worthwhile profession.
What sets her apart from other fashion designers?
Her minimalistic designs and her love for monochrome and subtle colours add a very international flavor to her collection. She is also a hard taskmaster on herself as she takes a lot of pain in creating her designs. Painstakingly hand painting her designs, her attention to details makes her designs definitely stand out yet blend it. So it is like being on two ends of a scale at once. It seems like harmony is serenading beautiful chaos. Besides her garments are very wearable and add layers to your own personality.
We are hopeful that our readers, especially the youngsters read the interview and enjoyed it… Follow your dreams and believe in yourself… others will always try to tell you otherwise… but if you believe in your dreams… do follow them.
We thank Priyanka for her time and wish her luck for the upcoming event… we are hopeful that in 5 years time, we will be reporting about your show from the ramps of Paris.
This interview would not have been possible with the help and support from Ms. Prashanti Choiden Moktan… THANK YOU
Source: The Darjeeling Chronicle