“Almost Gods” is an Indian luxury streetwear brand created in 2018 from an idea by Dhruv Khurana, a young fashion designer. In his creations and collections Khurana wants to express his emotions and tries to explore deeper concepts.
Hello Dhruv! You are the creative director of “Almost God”. Tell us something about you. What is your background? How was your passion for fashion born?
In 2014, I was a sophomore at Tufts University in Boston double majoring in International Relations and Economics. Prompted by my architect and artist grandmother, I wanted to take the opportunity to go deeper into exploring the world of art that America uniquely offered. Over the course of the year, I found myself spending a large amount of time in museums, galleries and shows- falling head fast in love with abstract impressionism and then eventually with conceptual art.
The idea that the thought behind the art work could be the art itself was something I found incredibly thrilling. As I saw these works take the physical form of party balloons filled by the artist sold as “Artist’s breath” or Hirst’s dead shark symbolise “The conception of death in the mind of someone living”, it sparked the excitement of the 5 year old within me.
Wanting to be more deeply connected to this world but unable to afford any art- I found myself taking a different route. Having stumbled on to them in a YouTube video, I discovered the trend of sneakers and streetwear- that were slowly finding their way into the spotlight. Over the span of the next year- I became THAT KID flying across the country to pick up sneakers, sleeping outside Supreme waiting for the newest drop and making myself pocket money reselling “grails”.
What I didn’t realise was that I was falling in love with the idea of context. The currency of cultural conversation- which found its voice both in conceptual art and in sneakers. The creation and trading of these contexts was not only a form of play which I found exciting, but also it was highly technical, and most importantly- it was culturally/ economically/ mentally impactful to a degree I hadn’t considered before.
Eventually streetwear became a gateway into the broader world of fashion and independent design. The breadth of storytelling and scope of what was considered important design widened for me as I began the process of self educating and understanding the kind of work designers were putting out globally. After graduating from college in 2017, I was fairly confident that I wanted to be connected to this world in some way- which eventually lead to the launch of ALMOST GODS in 2018.
“ALMOST GODS chooses to give second life to “dead” materials through its RESURRECTED FABRICS program”
When you create the garments do you take inspiration from something in particular?
While it’s natural that influences of India seep into what we do, we generally look into readings, videos, content from across the world and try to derive historical and present context for what we are addressing. In the case of the Fruit Shop collection we looked into the historic traditions in ancient Egyptian where harvest was celebrated with week-long orgies and tried to capture that feeling with the dystopian mythology we had created around the collection. We also referred to a lot of McQueen’s “Highland Rape” collection in looking at inspiration for the rawness it brought with it.
With the new collection, we consumed documentaries on disasters- trying to find the voice of power within what moulds landscapes. I got obsessed with volcano and the pure power of creation and destruction they posses. That led to a large amount of our imagery which makes up the first drop of our collection.
Additionally while designing our pieces we try to be as conscious of our impact on the environment. In order to prevent unnecessary depletion of resources through the creation of new fabrics, ALMOST GODS chooses to give second life to “dead” materials through its RESURRECTED FABRICS program. The resurrected line therein explores dead-stock and re-cycled fabrics as the central tenet in its design.
Therein, when we create- we look at a world of information, and references and construct the collection methodically over time.
Have your Indian roots influenced your way of doing fashion? I mean, in the usage of colours or materials but also in some characteristics you add to your creations
I think it’s only natural to have our work informed by our environment. Coming from India, impacts not only our design philosophy but also our choice of materials.
Whether you look at graphics, such as those on the Drought Tee, which are informed by the “Kikar tree” present in deserts in India or at our take on traditional sillouhettes such as our upgrade to the “Utility Lehenga”, Indian design ideas are ever present in what we create.
In regards to our Resurrected fabrics platform, wherein we explores dead-stock and re-cycled fabrics as the central tenet in our design: we explore many heritage Indian fabrics such as thick Jacquards that have traditionally been used to make sofas and curtains in North Indian homes. We also look at adopting technology to reduce impact on land waste in India by converting old water bottles in landfills, into new polyester yarn to be used as “r-PET” in our garments.
“The goal has always been to build a narrative around the idea of power”
When you started to work to this project, what is the “goal” you prefixed at the beginning?
At the heart of this project, the goal has always been to build a narrative around the idea of power. What does it truly mean, how does context mould its impact and who gets to control it.
Ever since I can remember, I have been obsessed by structures of power. As a child I remember staring at the Pyramids of Giza for hours on a visit to Cairo day dreaming about what the symbol meant. I remember my first few steps into Harvard University’s yard and the thrill of the institution’s mythology. At university I studied international relations theories of power relations between countries and dissected Kanye’s work though a foucauldian lens.
With ALMOST GODS I wanted to delve deeper into these conversations. To discuss power, its influences and the idea of who is allowed to wield it. Those discussions have ended up taking ideas such as sustainability, the idea of up cycling dead fabrics into something usable, feel like a powerful act rather than simply a conscientious one or re-contextualizing heritage silhouettes and fabrics I have grown up with in India into new use cases that could be engaged with globally, to force reconsideration of textile initially and hopefully over time the place of India within a global narrative as thought originators rather than simply followers of a global hegemony.
“I think the idea of “DARE” is quintessential to what we as artists are trying to accomplish”
How was the idea of “Almost Gods” born? Why did you choose this particular name for your brand?
Having known that we wanted to create a discussion around power, it only made sense to look at powerful ideologies and concepts around which we could build our universe around.
We finally chose this name, because it presented a duality, that may be seen both optimistically or in a more humbling manner. The term may be seen as an achievement of Humans, in elevating themselves to unbelievable heights; nearly becoming gods in their own rights. At the same time, there is humility to the idea in saying we are lesser than; an idea of always having to strive for more.
The name ALMOST GODS allowed us to bring together high low ideas of the things that define our current cultural landscape and put under the microscope the ideas which we believe weren’t being given enough voice to in the present conversation.
What does “DARE” mean to you in fashion design?
I think the idea of “DARE” is quintessential to what we as artists are trying to accomplish. In trying to push the envelope for conversation, and shed light on new ideas- taking the spotlight to where it hasn’t been before, its always come from a notion of daring to push things further than they have been before.
How complicated is to get to some levels in the world of fashion design?
The world of fashion is definitely bound by heavy gate keeping. That being said, in the last few years, there has been an influx of new designers and new design philosophies that have made it on to the main stage. So while things are very complicated, and difficult to break into- I believe there’s always hope for a new voice to hopefully come in and shake things up. It’s all about finding the right community who understand and truly believe in what you’re doing.
How did you get the idea of “Fruit Shop At The End Of The World”? What was your main inspiration when you started design the collection?
FSEOW as a collection came about very differently than how we approach our other works. Normally with a collection, we look for a message or an idea we want to dissect deeper and then start studying historical, cultural and fashion references behind it- eventually leading to design and finally pieces. However with FSEOW, we chose to abandon that structure.
It was a collection formed in the midst of the hellishness of COVID and we were just searching for a relief. Almost mindlessly one day, the team was discussing fun things we’d like to do and one of the idea that ended up on the whiteboard was that we should open a fruit shop. (“HOW WILD WOULD THAT BE” was a phrase used a lot)
That idea seemingly struck a nerve in all of us, and without realising what we were doing- we collectively got pulled down an Almost Gods-ian hole of research around fruit and it’s myriad contexts. We eventually ended up finding parallels between the visual complexity of Indian fruit shops and the idea of Peak Experience commodity- a notion of over saturation which was very much the feeling of the moment in the pandemic- which became the basis to the pieces. We finally overlayed the theory with a mythological story of a Lonely traveller at the end of the world stumbling upon a gleaming fruit shop, building further upon the parallels between the character’s reality and ours- acting as an examination of the weird moment COVID placed us in.
It’s definitely been one of the most unexpected and exciting collections for us.
“We finally chose this name, because it presented a duality, that may be seen both optimistically or in a more humbling manner”
Tell us something about your new collection called “PALEOLITHIC EMOTIONS, MEDIEVAL INSTITUTIONS, GODLIKE TECHNOLOGY”. What do we have to expect from it?
The collection draws its name from a quote by Edward O. Wilson that reads “The real problem of humanity is the following: We have paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions and godlike technology.”
It’s a statement that when we first read really stuck with us. We saw it as an idea which not only broadly captures the human condition perfectly, but also juxtaposes a number of ideas that ALMOST GODS naturally plays with already ie past and future, archaic untamed emotion contrasted with technological preciseness and most importantly the idea of finding definition during constant transition.
In giving structure to the narrative of the pieces it was very important to us that the three pillars of the collection, ie: 1) Paleolithic Emotions 2) Medieval Institutions 3) Godlike Technology were not dealt with separately through individual drops but that rather every drop of the collection, and every piece in turn, dealt with these three ideas at once on the same equal footing. This to us was an acknowledgement of the nature of Humans as “Evolutionary Chimera” as Wilson calls us- “Picking up things from every age without fully transitioning out of any one era.” Therein drawing on the past/present/future all at once and more importantly the emotionality that goes with it.
For the visual imagery, I was really drawn to natural disasters. We used heat maps recording global temperatures. We pulled on Volcanoes a lot- an obsession of mine for as long as I can remember. The Krafft documentary “Volcano Watchers” has played on loop in our studio the last few months. Nothing to me has the raw emotional power or beauty as an erupting volcano; or more so captures the collection’s core tenets so perfectly.
There is also a very direct inclusion of ALMOST GODS within the pieces, an admission that the speculation of being human within these parameters is something we are not outside of- but rather products of the same conditions. This comes through in the New Delhi city map printed panels, with our studio marked or even through our choice of RESURRECTED FABRICS for the collection that include dead stock thick woven jacquards, a fabric that is very personal to me as I have seen my grandparents cover their living room sofas, curtains, table runners and even TV Remote covers out of this material- an experience that should be relatable for many North Indians and has now through our pieces been recontextualised into new storytelling for our clients.
All this being said, the collection is intended as a meditation. We’re not trying to propagate any grand ideas but rather posit a gentle reminder of the structure within which we see our reality: defined by PALEOLTIHIC EMOTIONS, MEDIEVAL INSTITUTIONS and GODLIKE TECHNOLOGY.
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Images provided by: Almost Gods