Like many of their fellow 2020 grads, Riya Khanna and Amruta Behera, friends who met as roommates in Alumni Hall, looked forward to jobs in the fashion industry. Instead, after graduation, they found themselves back home in Mumbai under lockdown. They made the best of their downtime, producing face masks in cool, reflective fabric. Bolstered by brisk sales, they deconstructed old jeans to make cute denim tops with the pockets intact. “Every item in the resulting zero-waste ‘denim-pocket’ line sold out,” says Behera, Fashion Design ’20. “We even used selvage as straps.”
Soon their cottage industry grew into a full-fledged streetwear brand: jackets with detachable sleeves, pants that convert to shorts, shirts with buckles and zippers. Their aesthetic is ’90s-era looks in new or upcycled fabrics. “We interpreted styles from New York and juxtaposed them with life in bustling Mumbai,” says Khanna, Fashion Business Management ’20, whose sophisticated, clean silhouettes are enlivened by Behera’s bold use of color. Their customer, Behera says, “is that person who loves to make an impression walking into a room.”
Necessity forced hyperlocal manufacturing: working with Indian craftsmen, resorting to muslin for samples, and later, sourcing fabric from deadstock. They overcame each challenge with ingenuity and persistence.
They called their collaboration RIAM—short for Riya/Amruta—and soon reimagined the name as Rising Among. Covid’s barrage of testing and quarantines proved “super scary, but we had ‘risen among’ all that to the next stage,” Behera explains.
Recently, Flying Solo, a brand consortium that was helping Rising Among with sales and marketing, invited them to present at its Paris Fashion Week runway show. In March, the duo showcased their latest collection, Untamed. “Our entire journey is encapsulated in this collection: being uncontrollable, standing out rather than fitting in,” Khanna says.
“We started in peak Covid, and that’s how we learned to work,” she adds. “We had delivery and pickup delays, red zones, no shipping to hotspots. Wave after wave, we’d get disappointed, but it never kept us from working. Now, even if there are another 500 Covid waves, it won’t stop Rising Among.”