Vancouver is a city well-known for producing athleisure and basics. But there’s much more happening behind the scenes with designers creating culturally inspired and avant-garde pieces alongside everyday wearables.
After graduating from Parsons School of Design in New York City, Cheema returned to Vancouver and saw a gap in the market for using Indian textiles in the Western silhouette. Instead of getting a job designing plain T-shirts for someone else, she decided to start a colourful brand that would stand out. And in May 2016, TKC was born.
“I’m South Asian and I come from Indian descent. Whenever you go to an Indian wedding, it’s vibrant and colourful, and to me, that’s magical. It makes me happy. When I see people wearing colour, I’m automatically drawn to them,” Cheema tells Daily Hive.
The designer works mostly with Indian textiles, including 100% silk and cotton, as well as some synthetic fibres in acrylic embroidery and beadwork. She creates glamorous statement pieces as well as ready-to-wear clothing, and the textiles used throughout her collections echo the heart of the TKC brand.
It’s clear that a lot of passion fuels the design and construction of each TKC garment. Cheema conceptualizes her designs in Vancouver and physically works with a tailor in Jalandhar, India, to bring them to life.
When she visits her parents’ hometown, she typically spends up to three weeks working with the local tailor, showing him the techniques that she learned at Parsons and creating between 10 to 12 pieces together. “It’s a little way to help their local community, too,” she explains.
“We have many cultures and ethnicities that are represented here in Canada, so it was really special and unique to incorporate my culture into [the TKC brand].”
Cheema describes how she started out creating womenswear pieces and gradually incorporated menswear. “I saw interest from men wanting more textiles and colour. We’ve seen a lot of men incorporate womenswear pieces, like our robes, into their styling.”
The designer says it’s inspiring to see everyone wanting to wear her designs and diversify the platform she has created. “TKC designs are open to anyone who wants to wear them. I think our clientele are people who are aspiring to be bold and start a narrative.”
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When she was participating in runway shows, Cheema says major events would inspire her to use fashion to create a conversation.
“There was one [collection] that was inspired by the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh and how fast fashion is affecting us.
“Our recent lingerie collection at Vancouver Fashion Week was inspired by talking about sex, sexuality, and slut-shaming culture, especially in the South Asian community. It’s not something people talk a lot about and it’s definitely frowned upon. So this was about having women be more aware that it’s okay. It’s okay to be bold, beautiful, sexy, and confident.”
Cheema is currently working on more product drops with TKC as opposed to collections in an effort to be more sustainable as a company.
“I’ve minimized the quantities and the production so every piece can be truly unique. Now I feel as though each piece is a work of art for clientele, only made in small batches of up to 13 pieces.”
Right now, the designer’s favourite TKC piece is the Bhag Suit. “It has heavy beadwork on velvet, and I think it’s one of the most special, daring items in our collection. It can also be worn as separates, making it versatile in many ways.”
When it comes to the pricing for TKC pieces, Cheema tries to keep things as affordable as she can, with items ranging between $30 to $375.
“I don’t ever want to be someone that can’t be affordable, because I have struggled with that when I was shopping in high school and college.”