Long Road to Fame

Hoihnu Hauzel 08 Jan 2014

He took the road less travelled. When most youngsters in the Northeast prefer the security of a government job to the uncertainty of a private one, Atsu Sekhose chose to pursue his dream of becoming a fashion designer. Today, his label ‘Atsu’ is sported by film stars and A-list Indian celebrities. The dreamy-eyed boy from Nagaland has certainly come a long way. He speaks to Hoihnu Hauzel about his journey and his dreams.

Is fashion designing your first love? Since when did you prepare yourself to become a designer?

Fashion has always been my passion right from childhood. I grew up idolising designers like Yves Saint Laurent, a French fashion designer who is regarded as one of the greatest names in the history of fashion; Roy Halston Frowick, an iconic American designer in the 70s, Italian designerValentino among many others. And I had the courage to follow my dreams against a lot of negative advice and sceptism from family and friends. A career in fashion was too new a career choice to follow then, in the late 1990s.

How did your years at National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) turn out?

The NIFT years were a roller-coaster ride. There were a lot of highs and lows and a combination of good and bad memories but it made me who I am today because of all the intensive training that I went through. The course made me realise that fashion is a serious business and a lot of hard work.  Glamour is just a small part of it but creating and doing something that you are passionate about covers up all the hardships and struggle you go through in life.

How important is the apprenticeship period for a young designer? How did you get to work with Tarun Tahiliani and what was the experience like?

I feel it is very important to work under an established designer, or a design house to gain some experience before venturing out on one’s own. It also helps to discover one’s own style or identity when he/she starts his/her own label.

Tarun Tahiliani is one designer who has a very strong signature style of his own and to work under him was, no doubt, an enriching experience. It helped me figure out how important it is to be true to oneself. It taught me the importance of having a sharp business acumen apart from creativity. Also, to be commercial and deliver what your client demands, to produce and show collections season after season and sustain yourself – I learnt it all working under him.

Today, if young designers from the Northeast approached you, would you mentor them?

I feel blessed and honoured that I inspire young budding fashion designers to dream and do what they want most. I have interns, not only from the Northeast but from other states too, training with me every month.

How was your experience working with ZARA? How long were you there?

Working with an Indian designer and working with an international brand was the perfect combination for me. It helped me hone my skills and taught me tricks of the trade. I got to learn about the demand of the domestic market and clients’ requirement while I was working with Tarun Tahiliani. At Zara, which is a popular Spanish brand, I learned how to be commercial, price conscious and how trend-driven the international market is. So, both the places taught me different aspects of the fashion business.

After how many years of graduating and working, did you launch your label ‘Atsu’? Was it a rapid growth?

I launched my label when Western garments were not so much in demand, especially from an Indian designer. I launched the label only after I had worked for five years in the industry. I was lucky to be noticed by fashion editors and magazines right after my launch, and without the help of any PR agency, the label found its own way and became well-known in a short period .

Today, film stars like Sonam Kapoor endorse your brand. How does it feel? What has been your experience designing clothes for stars?

For a designer or any creative mind, the biggest high is to see your creation on anyone, be it a film star or any regular girl. Today, my clothes are worn by celebrities and movie stars such as Sonam Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor, Pernia Qureshi, Feroz  Gujral among others. Whenever I see them, I feel a sense of satisfaction to realise how far my brand has evolved and the possibility of growing bigger and bigger over the years.

Is there any Northeastern sensibilities that you bring into your clothes? If so what would they be?

My Northeast influence is always there unconsciously. It’s so innate that it happens with or without me realising it because I have grown up surrounded by beautiful things around me: my beautiful mother who has been the driving force of my life: the beautiful textiles and colors of Nagaland and stylish people I grew up seeing. So when I design, I think all these influences linger on in my mind but having said that, I am someone who always challenges myself to do something different every time I sit down and start a new collection. My inspiration is not just restricted to one place or theme, I like to create silhouettes and styles which are timeless and wearable.

You were invited to showcase your design at Tranoi, Paris and also at the Milan Fashion Week in 2010. How easy or tough was it to be on the global ramp showcasing designs?

Yes, I have come a long way from where I started my journey. Today, the label ‘Atsu’  is one of the known fashion labels in the country but there is no end to this. From here on, it’s just about taking it a notch higher. There is a sense of satisfaction and contentment when I look back; I thank God for making this possible.

What were the obvious mistakes you made in your career growth?

I have always been a strong believer of sticking to what you do best but sometimes, to survive, you need to let go of yourself and be more commercial and learn to deliver what the market demands. At the same time, one has to keep in mind one’s aesthetics and style.

Where do we see you five years from now?

Hopefully, ‘Atsu’ will be a household name. I would also consider venturing into other area apart from clothing, like home, accessories et al. We have already launched our menswear and now our bespoke Indian wear and kidswear is in the pipeline.

What would be your advice and message to aspiring fashion designers from the Northeast?

People from the Northeast have immense talent. Just stay focused and put in your 100 per cent in whatever you do. I strongly believe that we do have an edge over the others as we all know that style comes naturally to us. What we lack is dedication and discipline. For aspiring fashion designers, it’s not enough to merely have a fashion degree. Learn from your experience and stay true to yourself.

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