ARTISTS TO KNOW: NEHA KAPIL
Neha Kapil is an Indian-American visual artist, fashion designer, and makeup artist from Minneapolis. She is a creator whose work uses a range of diverse mediums to celebrate South Asian culture. From paintings & illustrations to clothing & makeup, Neha’s work centers around feminism, history, storytelling, and her Indian heritage.
SHEER: Tell us a little bit about yourself and where you’re from.
NEHA KAPIL: I’m a visual artist, fashion designer, and beauty vlogger from Minneapolis. Being of Indian origin, my work uses a range of diverse mediums to celebrate South Asian culture. From paintings & illustrations to clothing & makeup, my artistry centers around feminism, history, storytelling, and celebrating culture.
SHEER: How would you describe the influence of your cultural background and upbringing on your work?
NK: My identity has been something that I’ve always been very aware of. Growing up, I was lucky enough to have a positive relationship with my Indian heritage and the experiences I had as a child made me proud of my cultural background.
My family also made it a point to instill a strong sense of identity and tradition in me, which made my love for being Indian-American very obvious.
As I grew older, I realized that not everyone in the South Asian community shared the same positive sentiments when it came to their relationships with their culture. This influenced me to use my art as a way to celebrate our unique identities and show people that it’s ok to be unapologetically brown.
SHEER: What inspired you to begin designing your clothing line, AGNI? How did you come up with the name?
NK: AGNI is a fusion, streetwear brand that I initially started as an artistic outlet to explore my many creative interests shortly after graduating college. I had started out as a visual artist, but found myself very drawn to beauty, fashion, photography, and graphic design. At the time, my work was very scattered and I was struggling to find my voice as an artist. I wanted to create a connection between all the pieces of my artistry, which is why I was looking to build something where I could be accepted as multifaceted. All I knew was that I wanted to use multiple mediums to be able to reach people and create something bigger than myself. What started out as sketches & illustrations ended up turning into a lot of experimenting on how to create wearable art that not only looks unique but empowers people to recognize their strengths & importance, represents culture in a positive light, and brings something new to the streetwear market.
The name AGNI itself means “fire” in Hindi, which metaphorically represents what we stand for. The physical properties of fire can be dangerous, but just as much as it possesses the ability to burn , it also possesses the unique ability to bring light to dark spaces. Like fire, we believe that every person possesses a duality of intense fierceness just as much as we all have the power to shine our light upon the world. It’s this kind of power that is the core of our fashion and the message we use to inspire & empower youth everywhere.
SHEER: How does your clothing line fuse your artistic vision and South Asian traditional clothing?
NK: As a fashion label we are known for bringing art to the forefront and injecting a sense of maximalism into the otherwise minimalistic world of streetwear. We originate from a part of the world where fashion & handmade textile practices are quite literally engrained into the DNA of society, so we try to honor these roots in a modern way. Being inspired by South Asian culture, we aim to bring the intricacies and details of our community to the world and prove that representation matters.
By revamping traditional South Asian silhouettes and mixing them with custom hand drawn textiles our line is a unique mixture of wearable art and contemporary fashion. We like to take your typical designs/ prints and add a casual spin that can easily be taken from the streets to statement pieces, and something that is versatile for both South Asian AND American wear.
SHEER: What advice do you have for aspiring creatives on how they can connect their Desi and Western cultures in their work?
NK: Do what comes naturally, but also take a good hard look at your own connection to both cultures.
You almost have to psycho-analyze yourself and become very introspective to find your voice as a creative. Ask yourself what you love most about your unique identity and why it’s important to you.
If you can discover a passion for culture then you’ll be able to change the world with your art.
SHEER: What do you hope women of color take away from interacting with your artwork?
NK: Expressing yourself and understanding the intricacies of the world we live in is so incredibly important. No matter who you are or where you come from, learn to be really passionate about what you do and prove to people that hard work will get you far.
Be compassionate, kind, and the type of person that keeps trying to be better, because your thoughts and what you have to say is invaluable.