Don’t look for clothing designer Sandhya Garg in a fashion sea of basic black and boring beige. She prefers to make waves with color.
Last year’s winner of Fashion Week NOLA’s design award has an international resumé, graduating from the London College of Fashion in 2011 and interning at the fashion house of Alexander McQueen before his untimely death in 2010.
“My mind stops working when there is no color,” said Garg, who resides in Birmingham with her husband, Ankur Gupta. The couple moved there from India in 2013, when he took a job as an assistant professor of cardiology at the University of Alabama.
“Color has a psychological impact. If you are wearing color, you are happy,” says Garg, who took her allegiance to vibrant hues and a mix of textures to the 13th season of Lifetime’s “Project Runway.” She emerged as a talented and outspoken force on the reality TV program, winning several challenges and landing in eighth place. Her collection was among those shown at New York’s Fashion Week.
“My experience at ‘Project Runway’ was great. I had a lot of fun, made some good friends and clothes and got to show my work to very famous people,” she said. “I guess I learned how to make an entire look perfectly in 10 hours, and the value of choosing the right fabrics. I got a lot of good advice from (judges) Nina Garcia and Zac Posen; I remember it all and try to incorporate it in my work.”
Garg will return to New Orleans with her newest collection during Fashion Week NOLA March March 21-28. Fashion Week hosts more than 40 runway shows, serving as a platform for Southern designers, makeup artists, hair stylists and models. In addition to runway shows and competition for prizes, there are pop-up boutiques and networking opportunities associated with the region’s growing fashion industry. (For more information and for tickets, go to fashionweeknola.com.)
“New Orleans has always had a distinct fashion presence. However, it may have taken a backseat to the city’s other creative influences — music, cuisine, art — which have all gained national prominence,” said Tracee Dundas, founder and creative director of the event now in its fifth year. “It is because of the overall creativity and the natural cultural spirit here that recognition for the New Orleans fashion industry is growing. Many national publications have taken notice of the undiscerning style that can be found here. I love the fact that New Orleans fashion is not cookie cutter, and you will see a unique and different style from Uptown to the Marigny.”
Not only will Garg present a collection this year with her signature bold colors; she will also implement some of the couture elements she learned from the European fashion houses.
While interning at the London design studios of Alice Temperley, Izmaylova and McQueen, she was exposed at the Italian Gucci factory to intricate handwork techniques from embroidery to vintage knitting/lace making. Garg’s garments, made with her own prints, are produced as limited editions, with a price range from $150 to $500. A trunk show will follow her Fashion Week runway show.
“I owe a lot of my sensibilities to India,” says Garg, who was born in the small town of Safidon, but grew up in Noida, just outside New Delhi. “I could actually make collections for 50 years just by taking my inspiration from India. There are so many embroideries and patterns.”
But it was during her internships in London, Garg said, that she learned the value of the art of crafting.
“The vision came first,” she said. During her internship at the fashion house of the avant garde McQueen, Garg said there was this sense of “let’s make it grand.”
The focus was not on who would wear it, or whether it was comfortable, she said. “It was about putting art on the body.” She described the execution of ideas in these creative arenas as “taking from the future using techniques from the past.”
But as diversified as Garg’s perspective might be, her designs (www.sandhyagarg.com) are wearable and suited to daily life.
“You can wear one of my dresses with ballerina flats to go shopping and run errands, and you can pair the same dress with heels for a night out,” say Garg, who produces two to three collections a year, manufactured in the United States and in India.
When more than 50 designers take to the runway at the Board of Trade at 316 Magazine St., later this month, New Orleans will be the focus of a fashion gumbo of sorts.
“I definitely see an industry unfolding in front of my eyes, and it’s exciting to know that Fashion Week NOLA is a part of it,” said Dundas.