Fashion

Inside Kitschy Couture's Paradoxical Dream World, "Artificial Paradise"

“We built this fantasy because we couldn‘t bear to lose our homes. Come in and be swallowed by our immigrant nostalgia.” –Abarna Kugathasan

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Inside Kitschy Couture's Paradoxical Dream World, "Artificial Paradise"

“We built this fantasy because we couldn‘t bear to lose our homes. Come in and be swallowed by our immigrant nostalgia.” –Abarna Kugathasan

Designer Abarna Kugathasan lives in a paradoxical world between cultures and traditions. Growing up compressed between her conservative Tamil roots and her German surroundings, she “longed for a home [she had] never met.” So, she built her own called Kitschy Couture.

Kitschy Couture is a celebration of diasporic identity, creativity and self-love. The brand’s collections are inspired by the traditional sari draping that Kugathasan learned from her mom. But she gave it an entirely new perspective. Instead of woven or silk fabric, Kugathasan’s garments are brought to life through lace and lingerie, in an angelic, yet kitschy way.

Following the Fall/Winter 2024 show concept about a bride marrying herself, Kitschy Couture is setting off for its honeymoon in an “Artificial Paradise.” For her Spring/Summer 2025 show held at Berlin Fashion Week, Kugathasan presented an ethereal collection featuring deconstructed swimwear and lingerie-inspired dresses with hand-sewn roses and rhinestone dolphins. Elsewhere a slim-tailored mermaid skirt in bright turquoise and kimonos made of lace and satin, underscored the transcultural fantasy of living between worlds.

Continue reading to hear from Kugathasan herself on building her SS25 show, “Artificial Paradise,” and her dedication to making everyone feel at home.

Kitschy Couture, Berlin Fashion Week, SS25

How would you describe Kitschy Couture to someone outside of the fashion industry? 

I would describe Kitschy Couture as a nostalgic dream of a paradoxical in between world. I have Tamil roots, my parents are from Sri Lanka but I was born and raised in Germany. So, the brand is looking back and honoring my childhood memories from being born and raised in a transcultural home. It’s also about expressing the longing of a home I’ve never met, or that I’ve never seen or lived in. Kitchsy Couture is the essence of all of these emotions.

Did you have any influence of fashion design growing up? 

I’m very much influenced by my mom. She’s a seamstress, and she is trained in creating traditional Tamil saris. I was raised with her almost bringing a slice of her homeland to Germany, with her sewing machine. She would sew all of the saris for the ladies in our neighborhood and give them a piece of their homeland, just with this craft. She would sew all of our festival ties at home and they would be a wild mix of the colourful world in Sri Lanka with a Western influence. For a birthday party as a child, I wore a Western wedding gown and then I had a buttercream cake with a Barbie doll with Tamil jewellery. This whole world is ingrained in me. It’s the base of the whole kitschiness of the brand.

Kitschy Couture, Berlin Fashion Week, SS25

Tell us about your theme “Artificial Paradise.” Following up from last season, which was placed in a fictional wedding, where is the collection heading now and why do you use the language of “artificiality” in particular? 

We’re calling it the “Artificial Paradise” because when I gave birth to the brand, I really wanted to dedicate it to my cultural identity. I grew up in a really conservative Tamil world which merged into a Western environment. So, when I started to create this whole project, I would go back to my parents photo albums and old VHS tapes from when they freshly came to Germany. I noticed that their home was decorated in a typically German way but then at the same time they would have the living room cabinet decorated with plastic banana trees or these foamy lotus flowers with these LED lights inside.

We had these pictures of Hindu gods and goddesses adorning the white walls and it felt like my parents were yearning for the homeland so much that they would bring it to Germany in a really artificial way. Because I was born in Germany, I was born into this whole artificial world. So, if I go into one of these one euro stores and see these foamy lotus flowers with LED lights, it makes me think of my Sri Lankan roots. I never notice anything artificial about it.
Kitschy Couture, Berlin Fashion Week, SS25
Where would you go on your dream honeymoon, whether it be somewhere that’s fictional, digital or in your memory?

I would go to our “Artificial Paradise.” I would live on this perfect, saturated kitschy island. I see myself going there and sitting beneath a perfect, idealic waterfall like in these pictures of Hindu gods from my childhood. All of the flowers would be synthetic flowers with plastic water droplets on them because my mom would wear them in her hair with her finest saris. The whole landscape would be made out of blue and green butter cream, because my mom would create these landscape cakes when I was growing up. All of the palm trees would be inflated and it would be this perfect island where there would be no boundaries. All of the borders would be transcended. There would be no rules holding you back and different cultures would be able to coexist in harmony. There’s such a beauty in different cultures merging into each other because they give birth to new traditions and new ways of thinking. In my mind, I am there.
Kitschy Couture, Berlin Fashion Week, SS25
Is there something in this collection that you’re experimenting with for the very first time?

We have actually never sold any items. So, this season, we’re super excited to launch an online shop, which is going to be like a virtual invitation to our paradise. We will launch our “Paradise” thong, which will be exclusively available from the runway and available to purchase on the day of the show. We are super excited because it’s the first time for us to give a really kitschy, tiny piece of our fantasy to everyone.

We really wanted to follow the whole story from last season, of the bride and her cake dress getting married to herself and now leaving to her honeymoon with herself again. I feel like this season we’re really showcasing the Kitschy Couture look. There’s a different kind of confidence when you do your second show. So, when we created the concept, there was no limits to it. I’m excited for everything.
Kitschy Couture, Berlin Fashion Week, SS25
If the audience could leave with one collective feeling after your show, what would you hope it would be?

I want everyone to feel at home and leave with a sense of community. I [want them to see] the challenges you’re faced with when you grow up with an immigrant background and the yearning for a home that you can’t return to or that you’ve never seen. I want them to see the beauty of the in between world we have created and the beauty of different cultures coexisting in harmony and merging into each other. When you don’t grow up with an immigrant background, and you’re not part of this community, it’s really hard to to understand it but we are opening the doors and really want to share our emotions, challenges and the beauty of it all.

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