Fifteen and fashionably high

Updated: Sep 08, 2019, 12:31 IST | Karishma Kuenzang

A luxury designer who completes 15 years in the fashion fraternity spills the beans on what drives his designs, the changes he has observed over the years and tells us about his new collection in Kala Ghoda

Fifteen and fashionably high
Kanishtha Dhankar in Varun Bahl's collection

The launch of his couture collection in the city earlier this week also marked designer Varun Bahl’s completing 15 years in the industry. A graduate of the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), New Delhi, Bahl catapulted to the limelight with the launch of his eponymous label in 2001, in which his floral motifs were praised aplenty. Soon after, he showcased his Spring/Summer 2004 collection in Italy, followed by the Milan Fashion Week, making him one of the first Indian designers to showcase a collection there. Excerpts from an interview:

Fifteen and fashionably high

Please tell us about your The Dancing Paisley Couture 2019 Collection
Varun Bahl My collection is inspired by the art nouveau period with little hints from the art deco period because art nouveau and art deco go hand in hand. Also, art deco happened immediately after art nouveau. I have been following the works of artist Alphonse Mucha. I went through all his works and found the placements, colours and flowers intriguing. I created my entire artwork for this line from his artwork. Of course, I took certain creative liberties. I had to tweak them, as they had to fit into an Indian silhouette. I have juxtaposed the traditional Indian paisley with his signature floral motifs featuring minimal intricate embroidery, broken kalis and incomplete motifs depicting the paradoxical beauty. The lehengas, sarees, sensual cholis, flared pants, lightweight organza drapes, frill dupattas and organza gown in ivory, gold, pale pink, coral, a hint of mint green, traditional reds, mustard and tones of yellow.

You will complete 15 years in the industry this year. How has the fashion industry evolved over the years?
Bahl: I think the consumer is better informed now, and able to make more precise choices about what they want to buy and wear. This makes my job as a designer both easier and more interesting, as the act of designing then becomes a conversation between my customers and me. It makes designers strive to always do more in terms of design development, garment quality, creative research, styling flexibility, and of course, pricing. And ultimately, these are the things people want from the clothes they invest in. As I grow in the Indian fashion ecosystem, I'm becoming more aware of what we as designers need to build sustainable businesses. By this, I mean brands that are not just creatively unique, but also commercially successful so that they can continue to employ the best artisans — weavers, printers, dyers, embroiderers, tailors. To do this, we need to adapt to the rapidly-changing style requirements of our customers, while also educating them about the treasures of textiles and embellishments that are our collective legacy as Indians. To do so, I plan to concentrate on designing trend-less and versatile pieces that can be styled in a variety of ways and include luxurious handwoven fabrics and embroideries but in modern cuts, motifs, and styles. These, adapted to competitive price points, will ensure that I create a modern Indian design language that will appeal to today's discerning customers, and help me keep our garment traditions alive and thriving.

Fifteen and fashionably high
Varun Bahl

One current trend you've observed and a tip for budding designers?
Bahl: 3. I see a huge shift in the way brides are going to dress this wedding season. Lighter, cooler and moving away from being completely traditional. There’s a combination of modern and traditional that we will see. A tip I’d like to share with budding designers is to inculcate traditional embroideries with modern aesthetics. And remember that every designer is unique and has their sense of style.

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