Indian-born, London-educated and Birmingham, Alabama-based designer Sandhya Garg ruffled more than a just a few sleeves on season 13 of Project Runway. At times a judge favorite and the controversial winner of several hard-fought challenges, her unconventional designs and her uncompromising resolve have made her the target of scorn and snark from her fellow contestants.
Say what you will about her attitude, but there’s no denying that this woman makes it work — so much so, in fact, that she made it up to the final 8 designers this season, with a collection that recently premiered at New York Fashion Week. Here are her parting words on last week’s Project Runway episode:
Will Sandhya be coming back for a future season of Project Runway All Stars? Will she win this season’s Fan Favorite award? We’ll have to wait and see, and we’re pushing aside all the drama for a few minutes to take a look at everything you need to know about this fearless fashionista.
1) She started small.
Back in the early 90s, her friends were playing with Barbies; Sandhya was dressing them in miniature ensembles and accessories that she’d design herself. By the age of ten she was making her own clothes, sewing up skirts and trousers from her own conceptualizations.
Q | When did you realize you had designer potential?A | I was always artistic, strong headed and very different from others. I loved designing clothes and bags for my dolls since I was 8 years old. I realized fashion design was what I had to do when I was 10 years old. Since then I have worked towards it.Q | First garment you ever made?A | I made boxes full of clothes for my Barbie doll; I made my own skirt and pants when I was 10.
2) She’s had top-notch training.
Sandhya’s trajectory to date can be characterized as “haute couture meets High Street. Having worked under the Alexander McQueen and Alice Tempereley brands, bespoke boutiques like Allen Solly, and the luxury UK department store Liberty London, her resume reads like a who’s who of the fashion industry, whether in terms of retail or the runway. Well-versed in ready-to-wear clothing and custom-fit fare, she seems to have done it all — we’d say she’s more than ready to launch a label of her own.
3) Her clothes are as outspoken as she is.
They say you are what you wear, and in Sandhya’s case it couldn’t be truer. Known by not only her fellow contestants, but also her family for her filter-free frankness and strong-willed determination, she channels her fiery personality into her work. Her previous line, “Kathputhli,” is a particularly notable example, with garments like the Hindi Abusive Print Leggings (stamped with “Ullu ka patha, or “son of an owl,” a common colloquial insult) reflecting the collection’s theme of giving suppressed Indian women a voice. Other recent bold pieces include the middle finger print jacket designed for a PR challenge and the “Talent Comes in all Shapes, Sizes and Color” blouse, part of her final Project Runway collection premiering at this year’s New York Fashion Week.
— Sandhya Garg (@SandhyaGarg) September 12, 2014
4) She’s accustomed to winning (or at least, topping the heap).
Her designs have found fans among the Project Runway judging panel, but Sandhya’s no stranger to high praise, earning recognition ever since her days as a student. Starting in 2006 with a Fashion Quiz Award at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week, she went on to nab the Usha Award for Best Garment Construction the following year from India’s National Institute of Fashion Technology. In 2011, she was a finalist for both the London College of Fashion’s Nina De York Illustration Competition and at the World Sustainable Fashion Competition at London’s Textile Institute. 2012 saw her as a finalist at the Browns London Print Competition. Given that impressive track record, it’s almost no surprise that she made it through nine episodes of the grueling Project Runway mill.
5) India knew her first, and she’s a loyal desi girl.
Sandhya’s work has spanned runways across the continents, from her exhibitions in London to New York’s Fashion Week, but India can take credit for discovering her first; Sandhya made her public debut at the Usha Talent Box during 2012’s Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai. Her designs, too, stay true to her cultural roots, using materials, styles, and colors traditional to desi clothing. Think drawstring details, georgette jackets, and vintage, handcrafted techniques. She may be going places, but for Sandhya, home is undoubtedly where the heart and the inspiration is.
Anisha Jhaveri is a freelance writer and film blogger, and a recent export to Singapore from New York City. Find her on Twitter @jhavanis.