Fashion that Challenges and Constructs Conversations

2015
Project Endangered is an example of the kind of “design for debate” aesthetic that Rohan pursues with his work, using design to create space for discussion about important issues.

Project Endangered is an example of the kind of “design for debate” aesthetic that Rohan pursues with his work, using design to create space for discussion about important issues.

Rohan Chhabra is redefining the connections among fashion, art and advocacy. He has quickly become a widely celebrated and respected designer and producer of clothing that challenges our expectations, our sense of personal responsibility, and the connection we feel to the world around us.

“The aim is to create a somewhat disturbing experience that moves from aesthetics to moral reflection.”

“The rate at which animals are becoming extinct is now 1,000 times faster than at any other point in history. This is due to human activity, hunting, and severe exploitation of the physical environment,” said Rohan. This striking realization inspired Rohan to use his work in fashion and product design as a platform for action.

Meeting Cora Goettmann, head of design at Pearl Academy, was a turning point for Rohan. With a long-held interest in product design and development, Rohan was initially unsure how he would approach his study in the world of fashion. Cora, however, challenged his thinking and opened up a world of possibilities that have set Rohan on a path he had never imagined.

“Cora understood and supported me like no one else could. After four years with Pearl Academy, I was more confident, outspoken, ambitious, and had defined and developed my own aesthetic and methodology,” Rohan said.

“Cora gave me the freedom to see and explore fashion not just as a particular style, but as products and as a platform. This helped me understand fashion was less about designing a look, and could in fact be about significant emotional and ethical connections. This really allowed me to start developing a new narrative for my work and for my future.”

Rohan describes his collections as “design for debate.” For example, as part of his Project Endangered line, Rohan has designed leather pants that transform into a cow, and hunting jackets that show the story of the hunter becoming the hunted.

Project Endangered aims to explore the issue of extinction of endangered species like the elephant, the mountain gorilla, the tiger and the rhino. By designing a series of hunting outfits that turn into representations of the animal under threat, Rohan reminds us of our complicity in the problem. The aim is to create a somewhat disturbing experience that moves from aesthetics to moral reflection.

Rohan’s work has received many international awards, including Best Design Project featured in Vogue Italy, the Grand Prix at the Asia Awards, Best Young Creator at Tokyo Designers Week, and the Wildlife Artist of the Year (Endangered Wildlife Category) organized by the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation in London.

“I’ve taken my own path and have dedicated myself to something I really believe in.”

In the future, Rohan plans to continue to promote his latest collection online, develop a relationship with an international wildlife protection foundation, and inspire a reduction in the unnecessary killing of animals.