Fashion designers Gabriella Demetriades and Nikhil Thampi get chatty over Bollywood and style

Updated: Oct 10, 2017, 11:07 IST | Dhara Vora Sabhnani

Fashion designers Nikhil Thampi and Gabriella Demetriades get chatty over Bollywood and style, with some spice

She's sizzled on lists featuring the world's hottest women. So, when South African model-designer Gabriella Demetriades walks into The Daily, it's easy to figure why. There's no discernable make-up on her face; her slip dress is perfect to take her from day to evening. It's impossible to ignore Nikhil Thampi too, with his tall build and sunglasses in place. "You always wear amazing boots," he tells Demetriades. The two designers, known for their sexy western creations, slip into comfortable chatter.

Fashion designers Gabriella Demetriades (left) and Nikhil Thampi at The Daily Bar & Kitchen in Bandra. Pics/Sneha Kharabe
Fashion designers Gabriella Demetriades (left) and Nikhil Thampi at The Daily Bar & Kitchen in Bandra. Pics/Sneha Kharabe

Sabhnani: What made you enter menswear?
Demetriades: Because no one's doing it! I am doing more of a casual daywear line that is unisex — jeans, tees and jackets.
Thampi: Menswear has evolved from what it was five years ago. Men are more experimental. I remember I had done cowl kurtas in my GenNext show; it wasn't big back then. Every top designer today is doing drapes for menswear. I thought, let's revisit it. Although, it is mostly Indian, nobody is doing predominantly western clothes. We thought of doing a small collection of eight looks to check the market. We have been flooded with offers. I never believed in celebrity showstoppers till today [Hrithik Roshan walked for his show].
Demetriades: It's amazing when they wear them as it goes viral. But then it depends on the celebrity too. As a foreigner, it was interesting to see that.
Thampi: We both owe a lot to celebrities; my career graph accelerated because of it. But it's important only if it translates into sales. A Deepika Padukone wearing an outfit is not as aspirational as Sonakshi Sinha or Kareena Kapoor wearing it, as they are full-bodied. Fashion weeks should focus only on design, not showstoppers.

Sabhnani: Speaking of model sizing, how did you shift from modeling to designing?
Demetriades: My family business involves textiles and haberdashery. My grandmother started it 50 years ago. My mother owns a small knitwear label in South Africa. The production capability there isn't amazing and we always thought of moving to India. We first came to India to look at production possibilities.
Thampi: Production is a nightmare in Mumbai. It costs half in Delhi or Kolkata. I cry every day due to bills and production issues.

Sabhnani: We have a long way to go, right?
Demetriades: It's very young. The Indian sensibility is conservative, so you have to tone it down. But it's a growing economy and there are risk-takers too.
Thampi: To survive, you have to be an all-rounder, especially a PR maestro.
Demetriades: Exactly. What's in the public eye becomes the identity of the brand. There's a big gap between lounge and high-end Indian wear — I can't buy a four-lakh gown for every occasion. There are no sexy/fun labels. The price point between $100 to $700 is massive in the West, and you can buy something beautiful.

The food arrives; Quinoa Salad and Champagne Mushroom Fricassee for Demetriades; Pollo Funghi e Jalapeno, Drunken Prawns and Banana Peanut Butter smoothie for Thampi.
Demetriades: This looks good! Avocuddle sounds cute [we ordered a blueberry avocado shake called Avocuddle].
Thampi: Food is my happy space. I eat everything; I can eat a human being!
Demetriades: That's mean! I gave up meat three months ago. But my family is Greek, so everything has lamb. They asked me, 'What are you going to eat!' When I watched the film Okja, I was in tears. And I was hosting people for dinner that day. When a pork dish was served, I thought, 'Oh god, I can't do it.' Since then I haven't had red meat or chicken.

Sabhnani: So, do you eat before shows?
Thampi: I can't eat anything, but I compensate after the show.
Demetriades: French fries. When I am stressed, I eat. When I am super happy, I don't. When I was in South Africa, I was 10 kilos lighter. It's very hardcore there. When I came to India, it was the opposite. People liked that I was curvy.
Thampi: She's so thin! It's a profession; you need to maintain yourself. But none of us would want to project our clothes on an extremely thin model.

Sabhnani: What do you like and hate about the industry?
Thampi: Nepotism. You pick up any magazine, and you'll spot the same five people, all over again. The same people are given awards every time. Move on!
Demetriades: Fashion and celebrities are a single entity in India. I don't think that just because you are a celebrity (Bollywood or cricket), you are fashionable. Also, there is hierarchy and power play in the industry, which is scary for newcomers and outsiders or foreigners like me.

Quick takes

Favourite places to eat?
Demetriades: The Blue in Bandra, it's the best Thai restaurant in the city, and Kofuku and Bastian. When I used to eat meat, I would drive to town to eat Kelvin's [Cheung of Bastian] Pork Belly.
Thampi: I am a seafood person, I love my Gajalee and Mahesh Lunch Home. I am a south Indian, so seafood matters a lot. Besides that Thai is a favourite. I eat at Hakkasan at least thrice a week. It's like home [laughs].
People you would like to dress?
Thampi: Rahul Khanna, he is the epitome of style. Akshay Kumar. He is a bubble of happiness. Ranveer Singh is responsible for the twists in menswear. And the usual names like Sidharth Malhotra.
Demetriades: Deepika is a glamazon. I love Kangana [Ranaut], she has an easy sense of style. And Sushant Singh Rajput.

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