How The Sambar Incident and Kimkara redefines fashion

12 Nov 2023 09:00am
Kimkara designs by Shikha Grover
Kimkara designs by Shikha Grover

In the world of streetwear, individuality and cultural identity converge as two remarkable fashion brands such as The Sambar Incident and Kimkara, challenge conventional norms and celebrate unique self-expression.

The Sambar Incident (TSI) founder Lobhini Gunasegeran said youth generally see streetwear as a way to express themselves.

She said it lets them step away from the usual, more traditional fashion rules and try out bold and cool styles.

“Some young Malaysian Indians think of streetwear as a way to rebel against the usual fashion rules, what society expects, and being like everyone else. Streetwear often challenges these norms, making it appealing to those seeking individuality.

“As streetwear incorporates elements of art and design, Indian youths end up appreciating the creativity and uniqueness that streetwear can offer,” she told Sinar Daily.

She added that the only stereotype she faces to date is the fact that people by default think this brand is run by a man.

“Surprisingly, I've learned to embrace this misconception, finding satisfaction in challenging such preconceived notions.

“Leading this brand as a woman, I aspire to set an example for young girls, encouraging them to boldly pursue their dreams and represent their culture,” she said.

The Sambar Incident shop in KL
The Sambar Incident shop in KL

TSI began as Lobhini's passion project in 2018, alongside her full-time job as an HR Operations Specialist. It served as a therapeutic outlet, allowing her to channel stress and emotions. After a day's work, she'd return home to fulfil orders, using this creative process to relieve tension.

“The essence of the brand was simple: I wanted people like me to walk into a shop and instantly connect with the designs,” she said.

Besides, she added that seeing the limited variety in our local stores, especially beyond traditional Indian clothing, inspired her.

“This gap motivated me to start something unique within our community. My passion for fashion combined with my cultural background became the basis for my brand.

“Today, it's fulfilling to see more brands highlighting our Indian heritage and culture through crafts and fashion. It's also heartening to see Malaysians from diverse backgrounds gaining a deeper understanding of one another.

“Little by little, a little becomes a lot as I believe in making tiny steps of improvement each day and that is why I feel the brand and I am always evolving and improving every day,” she said.

She also said when she looks back at how she has made the brand better since it started, she sees that her style has changed a lot too.

“As I grow as an entrepreneur, the brand changes too. I'm also learning how to work more efficiently, especially when it comes to balancing everyday work and creative work.

“I've realised that it's really important to have a good balance between work and leisure to keep growing,” she said.


Meanwhile, Kimkara founder Shikha Grover shares the sentiment of youth worldwide. They break free from traditional fashion norms and assert their independence through clothing choices.

She said street clothes have always been very popular among the youth in India and while they often mimic the latest fashion trends across the globe, there have been many instances where street clothes have set completely new fashion trends in motion.

“Street clothes are popular because they are trendy, comfortable and more than anything else, they fit the budget.

“I have been a huge fan of street clothes and the sight of all the stalls by the roadside still brings a smile to my face!” she said.

She added that Indian youth of today are very savvy and evolved when it comes to their fashion choices. They know exactly what to wear, and it is not uncommon to see some of the world’s best-known fashion labels adorning the youngsters on appropriate occasions.

“The High Street fashion market in India is clearly on an upswing, thanks in no small measure to the increasing spending capacity of the young population,” she said.

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Shikha Grover (middle) showcasing her designs
Shikha Grover (middle) showcasing her designs

Besides, she said when you set out to do something that is not conforming to what is typically considered ‘traditional’, it is natural to expect some raised eyebrows and maybe even some pushback.

“But then, that is what the creative process is all about, isn’t it?

“It is all about trying to see how far one can push the boundaries and change the definition of what is acceptable,” she said.

However, with Kimkara she is not trying to break away from the traditional as she is trying to do instead to uses traditional weaves and handicraft elements and marries them with a more modern visual design element, taken from original paintings.

“I unwittingly veer towards paintings that are not totally out of sync with the existing sensibilities of my audience. “Kimkara is never all or only about my interpretation of the art, it is a fusion between the art, silk, brocade, traditional hand embroidery and much more.

The fashion designer recently showcased her designs at Intermark Mall as part of its "Dazzling Deepavali" celebration.

“I am very happy that Kimkara Sarees have found immense love among the women who know what they want to wear especially since sarees are considered the most traditional among all ethnic Indian wear.

“I appreciate Intermark Mall’s ‘Hail Heritage’ positioning that allows us to bring traditional and contemporary Indian attire and accessories to shoppers.

“There have been numerous occasions when I have received photographs from happy buyers, showing them in a Kimkara Saree at a wedding event or a traditional family gathering.

“It gives me confidence that what I am doing is right and while not everyone, there are enough and more women out there who would like to try my unique take on art and fashion,” she said.

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Commenting further, she said she has always been interested in anything artistic as Renoir and Monet are two of her favourite impressionist painters and she has always tried to paint in their styles.

“While I will not call myself an accomplished painter, I would go so far as saying that an easel has always been my companion, wherever I have lived.

“As luck would have it, one of the places where I have lived was Varanasi in India, the home of some of the best-known hand-woven silk. “Walking through the narrow streets of that city, I simply fell in love with not just the end product, but the entire process of weaving. It is a truly magical experience, if you ask me,” she said.

She added that the idea of translating her love for visual art and for silk into something that one can only call ‘wearable art’ was always germinating in her head.

“It came to fruition about seven years ago when along with a friend, I dabbled in launching a line of sarees specially printed with our interpretation of paintings.

“From there to launching Kimkara was but a small step and before I knew it, Kimkara had already been there for five years and inspiring me to do more,” she said.

Moreover, she also said that inspiration sometimes comes from not one, but many sources. “In my professional career, before I moved to Malaysia, I was working with Childline India Foundation, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) working for the benefit of underprivileged children.

“When I came to Malaysia ten years ago, I continued for a while in a similar pursuit and helped a visually impaired child through her A-Levels at school.

“It was when I used to sit in the classroom with that child, learning all that she learned, that I came across the wonders of graphic design and what one could do with the right software,” she said.

She added that was the beginning of Kimkara as from there on, she hired the services of a professional teacher and learned photography as well as graphic designing skills.

“The rest, as they say, is a mix of destiny and history! I like to see life as a series of chapters, and when any one chapter finishes, I look forward eagerly to what stories the next one holds.

“The Kimkara chapter of my life has so far been the most exciting and rewarding of my life and I hope and pray it never ends.

“I have loved every minute of creating the pieces and when a beautiful woman wears it, with a smile on her face, there is no greater reward for me than that!” she said.

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