A freewheeling chat with designer Payal Khandwala

Designer Payal Khandwala, who recently opened her flagship store in the city, talks to Nikshubha Garg about shifting gears from art to fashion, and why she wants her creations to make women feel good about themselves

A fashion store is as much an indicator of your personality and aesthetics as is your apartment or workspace. As we enter Payal Khandwala’s new flagship store at Colaba, we know that the designer likes all things simple but dramatic.
The space boasts of minimalist interiors and is divided into a retail space and a studio. Despite quirky light bulbs that hang from the ceiling and black walls that house a mural and her paintings, we are unable to take our eyes off the racks of brightly-coloured clothes that are in the centre of the room. “I want the clothes to be the star,” says the designer.

As we sit down for a chat with Khandwala, she tells us about her fashion sensibilities. Excerpts from the interview:

Payal Khandwala
Payal Khandwala

Q. Why did you decide to open a store to showcase your clothes?
A. Frankly, a store wasn’t on the cards. I was working from home, as I didn’t want to be away from my six-year-old daughter but there were space constraints. I was thrilled to find this space at Colaba. I never wanted a multi-designer store to house my clothes because such stores never convey your sensibilities entirely as you share that space with other designers. This store is different from the others because my clothes are different (laughs). On a serious note, it’s an extension of myself. From the paintings to the furniture, I planned everything.

new collection
Payal Khandwala's new collection at her recently-launched store in Colaba

Q. What prompted you to shift gears from painting to fashion in 2012?
A. I studied fashion before I studied art and have grown up in a family where my mother sewed my clothes and my grandmother sewed hers. So honestly, these skills came naturally to me. However, painting will always be my
first love. Nothing really prompted the switch though I admit I never liked the clothes available in the market. Also, a few friends asked me repeatedly to design outfits for them. I thought that there might be a section of people who like my fashion sense and it all started from there.

Q. There are many new designers in the industry today. What challenges do entrants face?
A. The biggest challenge for any designer, old or new, is carving a niche. You need to say something that hasn’t been said before. Yes, we deal with clothes and there is only so much you can do but when you put various parts of the garment together, it needs to showcase a point of view. For instance, I make clothes that I will wear. I have met many designers who make certain kind of outfits for the ramp but never wear it themselves. This doesn’t make sense to me. Also, I feel it’s important to be true to yourself. My motive behind my clothes is to make women feel good about themselves.

Q. How would you describe your personal style?
A. For me, comfort is everything. I am a very informal person by nature. For instance, you can spot me sitting cross-legged in a restaurant. I want my clothes to echo that aesthetic. I am 40 years old and am way past experimenting with clothes that make it difficult to breathe. In fact, I am more bothered about proportions and body shapes. For example, I am a short woman, so I like experimenting with patterns that make me look taller or textures that make my legs look longer. Also, I like to keep my clothes simple yet dramatic. I am not the type who likes disappearing in a crowd (laughs).

Q. What next after the store launch?
A. I’ll work with the weavers of Benares for my next line.

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