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Behind the Puffy Dresses: Yashana Malhotra's Escape from the Gaze
NCO 041

N: Hi Yashana, how are you? For those who know you primarily for your big, puffy dresses, could you tell us more about who Yashana is and where she comes from?

Y: Hello, the "how are you?" prompt is the toughest question. The "who" I leave it up to interpretation. The whereabouts is easier, I am Indian born and bred, currently living in the Yorkshire countryside and my heart stays in London.

N: While finding your voice as a designer, you've mentioned being driven by the goal of creating 100 dresses. This sounds similar to Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, who sets a goal of drawing a thousand polka dots a day as therapy. Did you find the process of repetition to be therapeutic in any way?

Y: The idea of the hundred was a means to sharpen my axe. I do understand how Kusama saw hers as “curing”, I think that’s what a part of creating is, below the layers.

I don’t force myself to create in the way she settled herself to every day, but I wanted to create, with breaks in between (this is where the sharpening really happens) and I liked that milestone. Though I don’t have complete physical proof of it, some dresses simply don’t exist anymore, lack of space and money did have them repurposed into another and another and again.

Yet, the 100 live mostly in fragments, patternless, without a drawn design on paper, just somewhere in my head.

N: In today's creative world, there's often a focus on "giving" to others or conveying a message. Your approach seems more about the pleasure of doing things for yourself. What are your thoughts on "selfishness" as an artist? I find it refreshing.

Y: I like selfishness in this form. As for giving to myself, and creating for myself, or be it being my own muse - who could interpret me better than myself? The rest is just room for misunderstanding.

N: You don't seem to take yourself too seriously in your work. How does irony play a role in your creative process?

Y: The dresses have always been easy and fun to me, I give no thought to them, just listening to the fabric, cutting and sewing. Putting it on me and assessing it is the last step, and accepting and moving on is the most important. The more serious part comes in with work I create artistically, all that seriousness though, crushes under the weight of thought.

It takes a lot more out of me and I need more time to recover new words to speak. Both parts live in irony I suppose.

N: Are there any historical references in your designs that I am missing?

Y: For any reference I am mostly impacted by art and emotion, I avoid looking at fashion all together.

The references that might come through in a dress I make today may be the feeling of seeing how fabric fell stiffly in a painting I witnessed years ago. There’s nothing I reach for at the time of making, it has to be something that has had time to fester.

N: Your work delves into the idea of the gaze. While working in solitude, your creative process served as a way to escape the gaze of others. However, walking around in your puffy dresses, you ended up commanding attention. What are your thoughts on this parallel dynamic? Is it a happy or sad twist to your story?

Y: Happy or sad? I suppose neither. It is the irony that I like to be “out of your gaze” but so forcibly commanding to be seen.

It's poetic.

All images courtesy of Yashana Malhotra.
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