“Look Within”: A storytelling artist sewing faith and culture into garments
Feature image: Awakening Heart - Grace and Beauty, photographed at Wynyard Hall, England. International Chinese Model - Anqi Zhu; Photography:William Barrington-Binns/WBB Photography; Design House:THE HOUSE OF RADHA, Radha Singh, Head Designer.
When a designer believes that a garment should do more than clothe the body, they design something more than a piece of clothing. And that, to the wearer, is an experience of being part of a personalised story that is sewn into the garment. “The personal narrative of each piece is a combination of strength, empowerment and love,” said Radha Singh, a designer and artist. Her signature style harnesses the power of traditional storytelling and narrative art, expressed through the medium of abstract fabric prints.
Born in the North East of England from an Indian Sikh cultural background, Radha has been brought up in a creative family. From her mother and grandmother who were professional seamstresses to her siblings that are computer games designers, design has been woven into her DNA and has become the natural progression of her life.
"I want my couture to connect and embrace what is all around us…to make design [as] organic as nature and allow free flowing positive energy to be encapsulated in every garment and couture piece.” -- Radha Singh, Head Designer at THE HOUSE OF RADHA.
After graduating with two degrees in fashion design, Radha created her own brand THE HOUSE OF RADHA (THOR) in 2017, which specialises in luxury couture, urban wear, menswear and accessories. Since its establishment, her couture collections have been showcased on stages from London and Paris Fashion Weeks to Madeira Fashion Weekend, Portugal. She has also been nominated for Britain’s Top Designer award in Fashion’s Finest, London.
Her diverse background and strong religious beliefs have not only formed the inspiration for her designs but have also inspired her to support equality in the fashion design industry and embrace this cause through the ethos of her brand. She has been recognised for her creativity and support for other creative artists, becoming nominated as a member of the Parliamentary Society of the Arts, Fashion and Sports at the Houses of Parliament in 2019.
Light through the Darkness - Journey Begins, photographed at Wynyard Hall, England. International Chinese Model - Anqi Zhu; Photography:William Barrington-Binns/WBB Photography; Design House:THE HOUSE OF RADHA, Radha Singh, Head Designer.
Drawing inspiration from Hinduism, Light through the Darkness is a couture collection that visualises her belief. This collection wants to convey the message that “giving up is not an option, even when you feel there is no hope left. See within yourself to embrace the strength and determination to guide you forward again with love and light.”
One of the pieces from this collection is Journey Begins (see above) - an evening gown including layers of silk organza and chiffon with prints of crows spreading their wings in flight and a silk shawl illustrating the spirit of the Hindu God Kala who beholds the power of death, time and space. With delicately illustrated moths flying through withering leaves towards a mystical garden, the dress is intended to convey the message that death, rather than the end of a journey, is the beginning of a new one.
While the spirituality from her Indian Sikh background plays a crucial role in the creation of her brand, her keen interest in vibrant cultures is a rich source of inspiration. “I have always been fascinated by [different] cultures and traditions [and their] arts, fashion, architecture and the philosophies. I am very passionate about Chinese and Japanese art and culture because of the connection to my belief,” said Radha.
THE HOUSE OF RADHA brand logo, designer Radha Singh.
The design of her brand logo (see above) could be a demonstration of that inclusiveness. The word ‘of’ is turned into the third eye on the top of the logo. The design of torii gates that are commonly seen in Japan have been reflected in the structure of the lower part which represents the abbreviation of her brand name - ‘THOR’. Just like the name of the logo – “See Within” suggests – a journey begins on a normal ground and as you pass through the gate, you enter a sacred land.
The colour of the logo reflects the flame of light that is inspired by the phoenix, which symbolises regeneration and new beginnings. “My belief does resonate with some of the philosophy of Chinese Taoism [in relation to] the natural world that there is an importance to create a universal balance of energy that can then flow freely through you to help guide you on a positive path in life each day,” she added.
Awakening Heart - Grace and Beauty, photographed at Wynyard Hall, England. International Chinese Model - Anqi Zhu; Photography:William Barrington-Binns/WBB Photography; Design House:THE HOUSE OF RADHA, Radha Singh, Head Designer.
The use of colour is also an important part of storytelling design. A common practice of her work sees different splashes of colour overlapping one another to form abstract patterns. It is a very free form of expression, but with a certain degree of control to prevent the effect from becoming too overwhelming. “It doesn’t matter what shade [a colour] it is,” Radha said, “there is always a meaning behind it and what the colour represents in [different] cultures…the way that they are intertwined with the story and imagery helps bring the design to life.”
Grace and Beauty (see above) and Heart of a Lioness (see below) are representative designs from her Awakening Heart Collection, which were inspired by the journey of a woman exploring the purpose of her life. Grace and Beauty is a fishtail dress with a hem which captures the shape of a peacock and represents the grace and beauty of a woman. It is paired with a cape that has a cherry blossom tree illustration suggesting that one can only blossom with confidence and braveness.
Awakening Heart - Heart of a Lioness, photographed at Wynyard Hall, England. International Chinese Model - Anqi Zhu; Photography:William Barrington-Binns/WBB Photography; Design House:THE HOUSE OF RADHA, Radha Singh, Head Designer.
Francis Bacon, an Irish-born English figurative painter in the 1900’s said, “The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.” Radha’s Heart of a Lioness did just that. The layered silk halter-neck gown captures the image of the astrology fire sign, Leo the Lion and conveys it through the fabric lion illustration. The wearer is the lioness that is ready to explore the world of the unknown with her power, strength and wisdom.
“The designs are created to empower and individualise wearers,” said Radha, “I want my couture to connect and embrace what is all around us…for me, it is to make design [as] organic as nature and allow free flowing positive energy to be encapsulated in every garment and couture piece.”
Full photography credits:
Design House - THE HOUSE OF RADHA, Radha Singh, Head Designer
Photography - William Barrington-Binns, WBB Photography
International Chinese Model - Anqi Zhu
Mua - Maria Azam, Rimshah Ayub, Hattie Freer & Kate Pymm
Location: Wynyard Hall, England
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