Jasleen Matharu: The Fashion Design Student to Watch

We’ve featured a lot of established designers in the past, and emerging designers that seem to have it all together. But that doesn’t mean that everyone knows just where the fashion road will take them. Or that everyone has to follow a particular timeline in their career. Meet Jasleen Matharu, 23 year old who was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. During the callout period of this series, a close friend of hers nominated her for the feature which led the TDS crew to her website. It may all just be work she’s done at fashion school but it’s evident that calling her a star student would be an understatement. Pieces that are inspired by the need to convey stories of people and cultures, portrays design technique that is driven by silhouettes and texture; and captivates with aesthetics that gets the audience to stare at the creation a little longer.  They say it’s all about the journey, not the destination therefore TDS catches up with the graduate from FEDISA a fashion University in Cape Town.

'Appocalyptica' [Image: Courtesy of Jasleen Matharu/Megan Davies Photography]
‘Appocalyptica’ [Image: Courtesy of Jasleen Matharu/Megan Davies Photography]
Why haven’t you put out anything since you graduated?

Moving back to Nairobi has been a slight adjustment, I felt like I needed sometime to reconnect with my surroundings and myself.  Leaving Cape Town was tough, I felt like I was leaving my life there and moving to London – I will be going for a year to the United Kingdom to study a Graduate Diploma in Fashion at Central Saint Martins – will be a new chapter in my life; one that I am very excited for. I just needed some down time before I start again.

Will you be designing for the Kenyan market at some point?

I look forward to being part of the Kenyan fashion scene, however I would like to gain some experience working under established designers before I delve into starting my own label.

'Status Anxiety' [Image: Courtesy of Jasleen Matharu/Megan Davies Photography]
‘Status Anxiety’ [Image: Courtesy of Jasleen Matharu/Megan Davies Photography]
How would you describe your design style and does it target a particular demographic?

I have always leaned towards designing conceptually; the notion of seeing an idea come to life never fails to captivate me. I wouldn’t want to limit myself to one kind of demographic. I would love to dress anyone who is not afraid to take risks, who allows the clothes to be an extension of themselves rather than the clothes wearing them.

This sounds like you’ll be more along the lines of made to measure or haute couture…

I recon by the time I start my own clothing line, I would shift my attention to ready to wear. In particular, my focus would be on diminishing fast fashion and emphasis on creating timeless pieces.

'Status Anxiety' [Image: Courtesy of Jasleen Matharu/Megan Davies Photography]
‘Status Anxiety’ [Image: Courtesy of Jasleen Matharu/Megan Davies Photography]
Your website features some captivating design concepts… tell us a little bit about them and the inspiration behind them.

a) Graduation collection

[Image: Courtesy of Jasleen Matharu/Megan Davies Photography]
‘Status Anxiety Collection Piece’ [Image: Courtesy of Jasleen Matharu/Megan Davies Photography]
In the third year at FEDISA, students work on a graduate collection, which essentially tests all the skills you learn during your time at the institution, and ‘Status Anxiety’ was born. It explores the idea that we, as humans, desire to be socially accepted; to climb the social ladder and reside at its pinnacle, or at least die trying. To achieve this, we display an extroverted-mirrored image of ourselves. The self we seek to be portrayed in the eyes of others.

“Status Anxiety” explores this nervous tension by merging swaddling cocoon silhouettes with minimalist lines, elaborate northern Indian embroidery and unexpected pleating to embody this innate conflict between the self and mirror – image.

b) Contemporary tote

Contemporary tote [Image: Courtesy of Jasleen Matharu]
Contemporary tote [Image: Courtesy of Jasleen Matharu]
Cape Cobra Leathercraft luxury handbag brand in South Africa, held a competition to create a travel bag for men. My design, which was the contemporary tote that is designed for a man who enjoys all the extravagances that life throws at him, won me the first place position.

c) Free flow

'Free Flow Collection Piece' [Image: Courtesy of Jasleen Matharu/Megan Davies Photography]
‘Free Flow Collection Piece’ [Image: Courtesy of Jasleen Matharu/Megan Davies Photography]
This look was inspired by the trend “Re-styled Riviera” presented by Markham a South African menswear brand. Adapting to their customer was key yet I wanted to create a look that was slightly different. So I created the ready-to-wear look that takes an update on the nautical trend for their customers, but added a conversational print and sheer panels on the overcoat as my personal twist.

d) Appocalyptica

'Appocalyptica Collection Pieces' [Image: Courtesy of Jasleen Matharu/Megan Davies Photography]
‘Appocalyptica Collection Pieces’ [Image: Courtesy of Jasleen Matharu/Megan Davies Photography]
The avant-garde look was inspired by a post apocalyptic world. I was intrigued by the idea of human civilizations, which began in distant nations with diverse cultures, traditions and appearances. I wanted to create a strong empowering female queen. Her look had to be intimidating so I generated texture on her bodice using buckram to make triangular structures. The headpiece was somewhat of a crown encouraged by the beadwork of Maasai tribe from Kenya.

e) Anime

'Anime Collection Piece' [Image: Courtesy of Jasleen Matharu/Megan Davies Photography]
‘Anime Collection Piece’ [Image: Courtesy of Jasleen Matharu/Megan Davies Photography]
This look was inspired by the Japanese sub-culture. The anime look called “Kirenia” meaning beautiful which correlates with [Japanese fashion], model Minori, who would play as my muse. I wanted to make a look that she would wear, to fit into her extravagant life. I wanted to try something different by adding laser cut blossom flowers as embellishment on the garment.

How has your style and technique evolved from your first year to present day?

I would say my style and technique has got a lot more detailed, there are a lot more elements that need to be considered when designing such as the effect the clothes I make will have on the environment and most importantly how they would make the wearer feel. I would like to create feeling.

'Anime' [Image: Courtesy of Jasleen Matharu/Megan Davies Photography]
‘Anime’ [Image: Courtesy of Jasleen Matharu/Megan Davies Photography]
Is the Vivienne Westwood collaboration you mention on your website something you hope to actualise… that is working with her? What would a line with her look like?

Oh yes most definitely. Vivienne Westwood is an icon and being able to work with her would be an absolute dream, I mean she is one of the founders of grunge! I would imagine our collaboration would send a message through clothing, relating to important issues like politics or global warming.

'Status Anxiety' [Image: Courtesy of Jasleen Matharu/Megan Davies Photography]
‘Status Anxiety’ [Image: Courtesy of Jasleen Matharu/Megan Davies Photography]
Obstacles you’ve encountered so far?

I would say the greatest challenge I have faced so far is finding my voice. I want to be a women has a little bit more figured out, who doesn’t have so many uncertainties. There is a lot of judgement I find in the industry, I want to be able to stick to my guns and know that my ideas will be successful, without having to worry about failure.

'Status Anxiety' [Image: Courtesy of Jasleen Matharu/Megan Davies Photography]
‘Status Anxiety’ [Image: Courtesy of Jasleen Matharu/Megan Davies Photography]
What can we look forward from you in future?

I would like to create a space where you can buy into an idea, rather than just having clothes in a store. I would like to create a scene in my stores, so people can understand the process of where their clothes are coming from and the history or rather aesthetic behind any certain collection.

'Status Anxiety' [Image: Courtesy of Jasleen Matharu/Megan Davies Photography]
‘Status Anxiety’ [Image: Courtesy of Jasleen Matharu/Megan Davies Photography]
Talking to Jasleen, you can’t help but be inspired. She’s a comforting reminder that worries and fears are normal in any field, more so for creatives who are judged by the art they produce. You may be at the beginning of your journey, trying to chart the course of your career. Or in the middle, facing the glaring crossroads you’ve encountered. Whatever stage you are in, staying true to yourself and your vision lends to a more authentic experience. Keep creating or seeking knowledge to push your craft and your voice to the next step.

We can’t wait to see what Jasleen comes up with in future, all we know is that there’s a bright and stylish future ahead for this creative! Until then, check out her work on:

IG | http://www.jasleenmatharu.co.ke/ |

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