KARDO is the brainchild of Rikki Kher, a Londoner who has travelled extensively around the world working in both the textile and fashion retail industries. Fusing a wealth of artisanal expertise from communities in India with a sophisticated, premium style that transcends the seasons, KARDO is a brand very much on the rise with a clear and unique aesthetic.
After studying at New York University, it was a move back to London and a 10-year tenure working in textiles and retail that paved the foundations for Kher. In 2004 Kher moved to India, and he hasn’t looked back since.
“I had my own buying/sourcing company, facilitating the production of clothing and accessories for large brands in India from 2007 to 2013. During the later stages of that period I started making my own clothes,” Kher says. “I used my friend’s sampling unit to make my own pieces because I couldn’t find anything I wanted to wear. I was astonished when people started asking if I could make them what I was wearing.”
It was a friend who then encouraged Kher to turn his hand to this new avenue, kick-starting the KARDO label. However, the need to avoid working in a large factory environment or industrial unit was key to any progression.
“The idea of spending my time in a lifeless, large-scale unit waiting for my samples and production felt terrible,” he adds.
Kher was soon introduced to pattern master Jahid Ali and they discussed the idea of setting up their own workshop. Kher found a space and Ali found a tailor. Together they bought one sewing machine and built a cutting table, and KARDO was officially underway.
“I suppose we can describe KARDO as a brand that celebrates Indian artisanal textile craft and the amazing people who are keeping these traditional techniques alive,” Kher says. “The philosophy of the brand has always been about slow fashion, high quality and transparency. It has always been important for us to show how many hands are involved in the making of each piece.”
With a unique and eclectic mix of textiles that embrace traditional craft, KARDO is Kher’s own reflection on cultural styles and fabrics. He’s interested in showcasing beautiful textiles traditionally available to women (saris, blouses, dupattas, salwar kameez, embroidery, etc) in a way that convey his version of India to the world.
“It was really tough at first,” Kher says. “You make well-made clothing and buyers think its lovely. They think it’s perhaps made in Japan, and when you tell them it’s from India they simply walk away. Despite the quality, the craftsmanship and the unique textiles, India’s reputation for quality clothing hasn’t always been positive. It was our job to change people’s minds.”
Since inception, the brand’s DNA has been built on the idea of championing local artisans and craftspeople. Staying far from the centers of global fashion, KARDO dedicates themselves to meeting as many textile Indian artisans as they can. When discussing their collections to prospective buyers, it’s imperative that these artisans, their craft, and their processes are at the forefront of KARDO’s story.
“My colleague Sarthak and I start by visiting various artisanal communities around the country to understand and develop new fabrics, techniques and weaving ideas,” Kher says. “It takes a lot of time. Spinning yarn, weaving, dying, and printing the way we do largely depends on the artisan’s circumstances and environment, including the weather. Once that’s complete, we start the sampling process in our workshop.”
Entitled ‘Trip to Kullu’, KARDO’s latest offer is about sending positivity out into the world. It’s about bringing people together, a sentiment inspired by their team of cotton growers, pickers, yarn spinners, weavers, dyers, all the way to their selling agents.