For almost as long as humankind has been wearing clothes, we’ve sent messages through them. Who we are, what we have set out to accomplish, and even what we believe in. Shruti Kirti, one of the Designers in Residence at the Chicago Fashion Incubator, has set out to create a contemporary womenswear line that exemplifies the modern woman and meets the challenges of everyday life. Kirti’s self-named clothing line also pulls diverse inspiration from the women in her life and her native Rajasthan, India. I had the opportunity to sit down with Kirti and ask some questions about designing for the modern woman, what that means, diversity, and inspiration in fashion.

Shruti Kirti in her own label.

Kirti’s beginnings in fashion design started from when she was a child, even though by her own admission, you wouldn’t have known it. “[My inspiration] to design was simply having a interest in garment design. I had clothes on my mind all the time as a kid.  You wouldn’t know it by how I dressed, but I was really obsessed with clothing design.” Kirti didn’t consider fashion design until it came time to apply for college, but when she was accepted to The School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Fashion Department, it was decided.

When I sit down to design there are many things running through my mind.  Lots of moving parts.

The Shruti Kirti line is defined by being contemporary wear, which Kirti stumbled upon after questioning from her business mentors. “[They] asked me to focus on who we wanted to sell to.  That was a difficult exercise for me, because I was used to creating whatever popped into my head. After I compiled buyer personas using actual women I knew personally, it became very clear what kind of label I should create.” Kirti’s designs have been executed with the inspiration of women that she’s known personally and in her life, and it’s apparent in the clothing – down to the stitch.

Shruti Kirti Label. Photography, Inell Lawrence. Model, Cairo Lawerence.

“When I sit down to design there are many things running through my mind. Lots of moving parts. But the main four points I reflect on are: my customer, what past pieces were successful, how can I add value to my customers closet and what is grabbing my attention at that time.”

Of course, the term ‘modern woman’ has become diluted in today’s age. How does the ‘modern woman’ do it all? What defines the ‘modern woman’? What does she do? For Kirti, it comes down to one question – how do you think that you design for a modern woman? “I have found that designing for the modern women means asking lots of questions.  And in my quest for answers, I have created garments that are made from soft, comfortable fabric that has some stretch, are wrinkle resistant and machine washable. There is no way I could have designed the products that I have without picking the minds of the modern women around me.  I’m really appreciative of their generosity.”

There is no way I could have designed the products that I have without picking the minds of the modern women around me.

Going beyond just designing clothes for the aesthetic, Kirti has taken her message of clothing for the contemporary, modern woman to heart. While her designs certainly do not lack in aesthetic appeal, there is a thoughtfulness to the designs that are stitched in (if you’ll forgive the pun).

All of the pieces are designed especially to be comfortable, so women can focus on what else they have running their lives. Kirti set about to create a line that was going to enable women to take the focus off what they were wearing (once they put it on) and tackle the rest of their day. Of course, one doesn’t design for empowered, modern women without knowing a few. “The women I dress are my biggest inspirations without a doubt! I’m very conscious about their lives, daily routines and how my garments enhance that.”

Kirti at a sample fitting at the Chicago Fashion Incubator.

Kirti’s designs are notably functional upon first glance and especially bold – which stands out even more in a world obsessed with minimalism and a pre-conceived notion that all functional, clothing-for-the-modern-woman is monochrome and ‘quiet.’ Kirti’s color choices are inspired by her native Rajasthan, India. “Rajasthan is largely desert. And there is an enormous amount of beauty in the geography. The sand dunes alone create such unique shapes. Secondly, the locals dress in the most eye-catching, vivid pigments. And those same hues can be seen in the architecture.  Because the climate is arid, it almost feels like people are trying to enhance the dry temperature and dusty landscape with more color.” (Editor’s note: it’s apparent that my all-black closet is now incredibly unfit for my trip to Rajasthan in October) 

Kirti has already blended a need in the design world for the modern, contemporary woman with her influences from her native Rajasthan and the women in her life. The melting pot of her inspirations lends its way to the melting pot that she believes fashion needs to be in order for it to be successful.

“Simply put, fashion is a melting pot of creativity. And the only way to make the fashion industry more original is to be inclusive.”