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  • Writer's pictureWomen In Design

Lata Malani

Monthly Feature // March 2022

A self-taught fashion and jewelry illustrator, fashion & jewelry designer aspirant, Indian textile educator by passion — yes, Lata is all of those! How do you ask? Read on to find out.

On how she started her journey into design

“As a child, I was fascinated by designer clothing and jewelry. It was something that inspired me very much. But at the same time, I was also in love with drawing and art. So fashion illustration became a combination of the things I really loved doing. In hindsight, I never really thought about becoming a fashion illustrator. My dream was always to join a fashion design institute and study design. However, because of some resistance from my family, I wasn’t able to join a design school. Their belief was that Fashion does not provide any viable career opportunities and since my brother is a CA they wanted me to choose a career path that would give me the security of a ‘conventional’ job. It took some time to convince my family and they finally agreed! But there were more delays and hurdles I had to deal with. There are a few close friends and cousins who are fashion designers and it hasn’t worked out for them. So these things created a lot of confusion for me. I decided to not make any major decisions while I was confused so I turned to Instagram. I was ‘fashionably’ late to Instagram, given the current generation but I was quite inspired by the work of Anoop Barwa, my favorite fashion illustrator. And I thought I would try my hand at it as well - and I didn’t do so well in my first attempt. This, the pandemic, and a few other personal issues interfered with my decisions. But I made up my mind to put at least 2 hours of practice into my illustrations every day. And all the hard work finally paid off when I got my first commissioned piece. I uploaded a reel of my work and it went viral! My work hasn’t slowed down since.” Lata shares her excitement.

On how she powers through a creative block

“I think it is had to set yourself apart in the creative fields and I understand these blocks. What works for me is to expose my mind to different mediums of creation and observe them very closely. Whether that’s music, cultures, food, or films - anything that’ll refresh your mind. A large part of my inspiration comes from the work of director Sanjay Leela Bhansali— the way he depicts royal cultures from the past, you can really get a glimpse of it through the cinematography in his movies! I am mesmerized by the storytelling, the colors, the traditional outfits, and the art. Another major inspiration for me is the carvings from the Mughal eras on walls plastered across palaces — these translate as inspiration for my prints and embroideries!” Inspiration truly comes in all forms. One thing we’ve noticed a lot of our features find is that inspiration came from the other end of the spectrum.

On developing her own style

So when I started making illustrations initially, I had no idea of what my personal style was or what resonated with me best. At that time I was focused on learning; studying how to make different elements of the illustrations perfectly. Eventually, I started understanding my style — for example, I realized that I usually make more ‘straight lehengas’ which are minimal and elegant in style. I like to make my illustrations mimic reality with an added touch of my personal illustrative style.” Lata goes on to describe how if she’s making an illustration depicting the garment, she loves to make sure it looks like an illustrated version, and not focus on making it too realistic. “I love to add the feel of paint and enhance the textured imperfections that call the user to be in awe of how it’s painted!” What a wonderful take on how to perceive your works, build your style, and grow as an artist!

On what makes or breaks an illustration and her creative process

“It’s the light theory for me! Without light and shadows in the renders, It’s going to look flat and it’s not going to have that ‘wow’ quality. It’s important to understand shadows with fabric, if you don’t add the shades to the right place, it's going to be a mess. And it’s also important to understand what the lines and colors communicate. The details are everything in these kinds of illustrations”

“Interestingly enough, when it comes to my personal work, I just go with the flow! If I get caught up with a design before I start drawing, then it usually turns out to be completely different. That’s why I don’t think too much before I start. Apart from this, I spend a considerable amount of time on Pinterest. And when I end up liking something, I usually take inspiration and apply that in my work rendered true to my style, of course.”

On how she learned to position herself in the market

“Initially, it was quite confusing. I had no point of reference so, I started to do some research. I reached out to artists on Instagram and asked them how much they were charging. I was quite surprised with the responses I was receiving and I realized that they were highly experienced hence the high charges made sense. I remember charging 1200 rupees for my very first commissioned piece and today I charge 12,000 rupees for the same type of work!” The best part Lata feels throughout her journey is the fact that she’s gotten paid to practice “The best part for me is that I’ve been able to get paid to practice, that’s what keeps me going further” she explains. It’s so wonderful to see Lata talk about her journey from 1200 to 12000. We are very inspired. It goes to show that all you need is faith in your abilities sprinkled with some consistent work on self-improvement!

Fun fact — What size do you think her illustrations are?

So initially I would work on A4 sizes, but eventually, through my journey, I started growing the sizes to even having worked on 30x30 inch frames.

On Lata's trade secrets, tools, techniques, and more

“So when I was starting out, I noticed that a lot of illustrators use extravagant tools such as paints, brushes, color palettes, shimmers, or maybe even the papers they paint on. I started painting with the products I used to use in school - like poster colors! I believe that rather than focusing on expensive stationery or tools, we should focus on improving our skills — there is nothing like any specific technique! Your style is your only technique - that’s the right technique for you” she laughs.

“Now, I only use poster colors unless a client has a specific requirement. I have used colors like acrylic in the past, however, I’ve realized that I’m naturally drawn towards poster colors for my illustrations!” Another fun fact Lata goes on to share with us was how she records herself while taking those infamous reels of hers “I tried out a tripod, and cases and what have you — but I’ve gotten so comfortable to film with one hand while painting with the other. When I look back at my older reels, I see so much progress even in the stability of my hand while recording!” An in-built tripod is truly all we need. We'd love to congratulate Lata on her journey to 50k followers, keep doing you!

Interview edited by : Dhruti Soni, Ashwini Muralikumar & Lata Malani

We're always open to other perspectives, opinions, and a good chat over some coffee or tea. We'd love to host a conversation with you, head on over to our Discord and get in touch!

With 🧡 Team WID.

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