Fashion label Countrymade is inspired by familial stories of loss and longing

Rust, grey, black and white made up most colours in Countrymade by Sushant Abrol’s latest collection at the Lakme X FDCI fashion week. While the colours are the common template for menswear, Countrymade stands out for its sleek tailoring and textures.

Abrol’s collection was military-inspired. It centred around his brother, who passed away in 2019. Abrol’s brother, Squadron Leader Samir Abrol died during a training sortie in a fighter jet crash three years ago. Sushant says his brother had encouraged him to start his own label. “He was three years older than me, and a class topper. So, there was pressure on me to perform well too. Everything of his used to be passed on to me, from old school uniforms to books,” he remembers fondly.

Countrymade’s latest collection is called ‘The Road Back’. It features safety helmets and sleek attache bags, which symbolise jerry-cans that carry fuel. “The collection is an ode to the lost boy who, after witnessing conflict, is finding his way home. Home may or may not be how he left it, which is why the use of splattering of grey on the pieces,” Abrol, 34, says.

The leather accessories or add-ons, he says, “has patina work done in grey, which symbolises cement and iron and steel”. The helmets have been wrapped in leather, that’s been worn out. The purpose of this is to portray the complex emotions that come with the journey.

“Metaphorically, the collection is about a boy taking the journey home—something my grandfather, who was from West Punjab went through after the Partition. He wanted to revisit his familial home, which is now in Pakistan. But due to circumstances, he wasn’t able to.” War is a recurring motif for Countrymade. “It also reflects the ethos of wars going on in the world today—be it the Gaza-Israel war or the Ukraine-Russia war,” he adds.

Abrol graduated from NIFT, Mohali, in 2010. But his first choice was to follow in the footsteps of his brother and join the defence forces. In 2007, he wrote the entrance for the Service Selection Board (SSB). “I passed it, but, then wasn’t selected after the group discussion round.”

He launched Countrymade in 2019. The designer won the sixth edition of Nexa Spotlight in 2023 at the fashion week. Prior to that, he worked with veteran designer Rohit Bal for five years.

“In conflict zones, one sees dilapidated homes—charred, broken walls, blackened roofs and windows. That’s what I have tried to capture with the collection. That, and the feeling of desperation, a longing to go back home. Home may have changed the way the ypung man left it. The collection talks of the journey,” Abrol says. “There’s a sense of loss, but there’s a sense of happiness or fulfilment of revisiting the place.”

With the fabrics textured with rust granules, Abrol wants us to imagine the dilapidated state of the home the boy might go back to. The fabrics used are silk, cotton and denim. The silhouettes of the garments are precise, no nonsense. “The idea was to show the journey is more important than the destination,” he says. “There’s pain, but there’s resilience,” he adds. “Each creation is meticulously handcrafted—be it adding texture or making buttons from stoneware and clay.”

“I admire Rohit Bal’s work—the beauty in his work is unparalleled,” Abrol remembers his mentor. “I love the way he envisions designs. When it comes to my sensibilities, I really admire Rajesh Pratap Singh. Wearability, for me, is a very important aspect of design. I also admire the work of Shahab Durazi.”

“Today, people create brands for Instagram. And I feel some of the older designers haven’t been able to translate their designs on to Instagram, ” Abrol says. “I am one of them. But I do feel that my designs transcend boundaries. My target audience is 40 years and older—it is a mature audience. A maximum chunk of my designs comes from a mature point of view. My clients might be wearing ‘boring’ clothes during the day, but, they can transition using a Countrymade blazer or jacket.”

“The honeymoon period for the brand is almost over, we turn five in July. We have done a few international shows (we go to Paris in January and June, every year). We want to place our clothes in stores across the globe.”

The next step for Abrol is to have his own store, even as he slowly but sure-footedly builds a very personal label with a very strong design language.