Neeranjan Vikash Liliah: The designer with a unique touch

Naya and Andaaz Designs has had tongues wagging about its one-of-a-kind, off-the-hook Indian pieces since its inception three years ago. Designer Neeranjan Vikash Liliah took to designing professionally three years but began dabbling in the art some nine years ago. His passion for creating unique pieces sometimes leads him to pulling out all the stops.

He has always had an eye for the art, the designer shared, especially when it came to intricate details. At 22 years old Vikash is well on his way to creating a household name for himself.

His passion for art and innovation was recognized way back when he attended Selman Fraser Nursery. One of his nursery school teachers always reminds him about his idea of using blocks as part of a competition for him and his peers back then. She figured he would have grown up and made everyone proud.

He recalled that while he was in primary school his painting of Stabroek Market impressed many. His parents had always seen to it that he had water colours and one day with nothing much to do his eyes wandered about his house and stopped on a painting on a calendar; it was an artist’s impression of Stabroek Market. Painting was something he had never tried before and taking down the calendar from the wall he found a quiet corner, and making careful brushstrokes, tried to copy the painting. It was not perfect, but he came close enough, he shared.

By the time he began attending Central High, many of his peers and teachers had already found out about his knack for art. When it came to assignments that included drawings or just the simple cover of the assignment, Vikash was tasked with getting them done by many of his peers and this he admits was sheer pleasure for him. He was always equipped with markers, coloured pencils and wax crayons. For Mashramani, his teachers sought him out for the making of floats and painting of banners.

Vikash, who hails from Albouystown, has always been intrigued with more than one art form and growing up in a home of devout Hindus, he was regularly at the Radha Krishna Mandir. At a tender age, he joined the Yuvaa Shakati Sangh, a youth group that functions within the mandir which would often perform various dances.

One year when the mandir was hosting a show in commemoration of Indian Arrival Day at the National Cultural Centre, he recalled, they were strapped for time after receiving their costumes from the seamstress. It was their idea that she would sewed them plain and they would add designs. “We started with the glitter glue that someone had suggested we buy and use but because of the extra effort it took in designing the costume I said it wasn’t working out for me and spreading the costume out on the stage of the mandir, I used paper glue to create my patterns then I threw the glitter on and after it dried, shook the excess glitter off. The rest of the group decided to do the same,” Vikash said.

Yet, though persons were already picking up on his talent, he really hadn’t seen it for himself or was not confident enough about it until he got a call from renowned Guyanese Indian dancer, Shivanie Latchman of Ishara dance Troupe. He and the dance star had been friends for some time, though he still ponders how it came about, and the call was to make two props for her first show. As it turned out Vikash ended up designing the entire stage and has been doing so for all of her shows since.

Vikash eventually chose to have his own youth group and founded the Naya and Andaaz Performing Arts Group and in the same year, he also launched his first line as a designer. The Naya and Andaaz Performing Arts Group is mainly a group of 10 but sometimes extends to 20 depending on the occasion. His members, he said would sit side by side with him helping to work on his designs, though he would take on the intricate parts himself.

Currently, he is working on an Indian Bridal Line which he began a while back. Last year he launched another of his clothing lines at the Miss India Guyana Pageant. And later this year, he will be launching ‘Ak Amar Prem Kahani’ (The Untold Story) line which coincides with the name of an annual show put on by Naya and Andaaz Performing Arts.

An extravagant outfit, Vikash shared, takes him a week or more and a simple outfit, usually a day or two; an entire clothing line takes a month.

Over time, Vikash often had a few challenges which he needed to quickly find

solutions for. “One of my main challenges is finding the perfect fabric. I would have this one design in my head then turn up at the store only to find out they didn’t have the needed material in stock. In cases like this I would find a substitute material that can carry the same design. At times, the challenge is getting the right colours and usually when I can’t find the right colour or one that would work with the other colours… I would have to change the entire colour scheme,” he lamented. However, he noted that it always works out and his clients are satisfied and happy and that’s his number one priority.

“Art to me,” Vikash said, “is a way to bring out your inner self whether it is designing or scripting [which he does for the plays of his shows] or choreographing a dance; it brings out my true self. Art has expanded my thinking ability and enhanced my creative skills… My skills keep evolving and I get better every time. It helps me in socializing and cooperating with others. It has widened my imagination. I find myself to be happier….”

What’s his favourite colour to work with? There’s no particular colour. “I love working with colours. I’m mesmerized by bright colours; I love vibrant colours,” he said.

When it comes to creating his designs, Vikash is inspired by Bollywood designer Manish Malhotra who would include a bit of velvet in his pieces whether a sari, shalwar or kurta and Vikash loves adding velvet into his designs as well. Recently he was in for a glorious surprise when he got the opportunity to hold one of Manish’s designs in his hands. His Rakhi sister’s fiancé had bought her a couple in India to wear at their wedding. Vikash is also inspired by Hashim Alli of Nachle Designs and Shivanie Latchman. The simple encouragement these two give him, Vikash said, helped in motivating him. Added to his list of inspirations are: Madhuri Dixit, Priyanka Chopra, Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan and Karan Johar.

Outside of his designing, he is most influenced by the teachings of Satya Sai Baba and his interpretation of life, love and his appreciation towards humanity. Even more than a Manish Malhotra Design or Manish Malhotra himself, Vikash would have wanted to meet Satya Sai Baba.

The designer took the opportunity to acknowledge his parents, especially his mother who he said is often cleaning up the strips of cloth he leaves on the ground, Hashim, Shivanie, his brothers, D Singh Trading and other family and friends.

Today he is on a flight to New York to attend his cousin’s wedding and is taking his designs with him. Based on the reactions of family and friends there, he’ll know what designs they favour the most and if it works out then very soon he hopes to market Naya and Andaaz Designs in New York.

He is currently pursuing studies in law and is not quite sure where he will be in another five years, but only promises that it will get better as well as his designs.

At present, he is the personal assistant to the wife of Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, Mrs Sita Nagamootoo.

His hobbies are dancing, acting, designing, cooking, reading and writing.

For a closer look at the designs or to make contact, persons can check out the Naya and Andaaz Facebook Page or his personal page at Vikash Liliah.

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