Shantnu and Nikhil want no introduction to trend fans. The designer duo, who specialises in bespoke womenswear, trousseau, menswear, bridalwear and equipment, is a reputation to reckon with. Their aesthetic stays unmatched, as they bring about a singular mix of ‘construction assembly fierce glamour’ to their clothes.
Lately, the designers added one other feather to their cap by launching a flagship retailer in New Delhi’s Mehrauli space. For a similar, we caught up with Shantnu Mehra for a freewheeling chat, the place the couturier shared fascinating insights into the ethos of their designs, the significance of innovation in trend, sustainability, results of the pandemic on enterprise, and much more. Edited excerpts:
The inside of the Mehrauli retailer. (Supply: PR handout)
Why did you determine on Mehrauli because the area on your new retailer?
While you take a look at the journey of Mehrauli, particularly the Sumbawa complicated, it has been nearly just like the Indian model of Rodeo Drive. You’ve got a few of the high luxurious manufacturers, a few of the finest couturiers within the nation retailing from right here. It’s a pure alternative for any designer to be part of this ecosystem, which has been constructed through the years. For us, therefore, being surrounded by the historical past of India, with the long-lasting Qutub Minar and the fleeting modernity that goes with the historical past that this area lends itself to, it was a pure alternative.
You had been the primary design home in India to include up to date silhouettes in lehengas — a departure from the heavy, conventional embroidery, and proceed with the custom. Are you able to inform us about your design ethos?
That’s our signature type assertion. Proper from the very starting of our model journey, we knew that now we have to be a bit anti-trend in our design philosophy. Once I say anti development, we need to communicate one other story of India, a story that doesn’t essentially discuss textiles, heavy textiles or heavy heritage. All of the embroideries, however, shapes, silhouettes, particulars, decadent tones, the decadent color palette, which sits on brown pores and skin superbly. Proper from the very outset, we tried to interrupt the stereotypical notions hooked up to Indian trend. And, I feel we might try this very early on in our profession, as a result of we had been solely a handful of design artists and skills. We’ve tried to create a really hybrid strategy to Indian trend which has all of the substances of Indo-western and ethnic influences coming and being part of our design DNA. And for us, drapes have at all times been the pillar round which the whole lot else just about revolves: construction assembly fierce glamour.
All of those components gave us a possibility to have a look at sure conventional silhouettes with a bit extra playfulness. A lehenga needn’t essentially have the cholis that it’s recognized to have however could be worn as a voluminous skirt with a drape with a shirt, that needn’t essentially have the burden of the dupatta. All of this was performed protecting in thoughts the younger, city Indian that sits in entrance of us. The youthful lot of those fearless, assured brides and grooms who’re resolution makers and thought-leaders. I really feel that’s the market that we’ve been working in the direction of for therefore a few years and I really feel the market is now the place we wished it to be. Now, the trendy bride and the groom don’t need to be overburdened by the custom of it. However but on the similar time, they need to hold the nuances of Indian heritage alive however with a lightness in type. That’s the place silhouettes, minimalism, even in ceremonial put on, turns into that rather more attention-grabbing.
Pure gentle, white toned partitions, fashionable structure replete with custom covers the outlet. (Supply: PR handout)
How has your model responded to the sustainability motion, now an enormous a part of the trade?
Sustainability has completely different connotations to completely different folks and completely different manufacturers react to sustainability in their very own distinct method. Once I take a look at it from my lens, and after I communicate as a couturier, and for different couturiers, I feel we’ve at all times had sustainability going for us. We’re a bespoke model, so for us, the whole lot is made-to-measure, the whole lot could be very confidential in its strategy, which signifies that we aren’t quick trend and might by no means be quick trend. You spend money on a specific season with many types and silhouettes, and then you definately take orders on them after which the following season. You’re really doing two huge seasons!
That is in contrast to quick trend, the place you might be principally doing six collections in a 12 months. I feel by default, couturiers the world over and most of who’re in India, we’ve at all times been sustainable from that side.
What have been your major design influences?
I feel we’ve at all times had this strategy of heritage assembly spunk. In fact, our heritage comes from sure decadent architectural values. Internationally, once you take a look at the architectural worth, there are particular geometric shapes, influences that we deliver from our design philosophy. I really feel that works. We’re not very Mughal impressed structure, however extra Artwork-Deco, enjoying with geometrical shapes. Should you fastidiously observe Mughal structure, you can find sure nuances which might be very geometrical in type and I really feel, we current that.
There’s at all times been that undercurrent of heritage inside spunk. Then spunk got here in with silhouettes, shapes and drapes and I feel we’ve at all times been experimenting on that. We had been really additionally the primary ones in 2013-14, to introduce the hybrid type of a sari by means of a sari-gown idea. As an alternative of doing lehengas, we began off in 2009, by doing a model of robes. Robes that are voluminous, taking inspiration from the quantity of a lehenga, cholis, and the way a lehenga can turn into a robe for us. We gave quantity robes, a method for lehengas! We tried to be as experimental as we might, after which robes abruptly turned this new rage, from 2010 to 2015. In truth, even now, once you take a look at it, robes have actually changed one or two conventional silhouettes and it’s turn into a mainstay for features in India. If we take a look at the Indian celebration, we’re 4 to 5 features in a slew. The robe has turn into a staple for not less than one, if not two features.
It’s a little bit of fearlessness, it’s a little bit of protecting the Indian heritage alive, but in addition making it slightly extra flirty and playful, with out ignoring the market and nonetheless being related within the ceremonial facet of the enterprise. I feel we just about set the veil tone after we launched drapes for males in 2015 or 2016. In order that’s after we modified the sport and we introduced in a little bit of innovation in menswear, which was in a conventional Nehru collar ecosystem. So, we considered how we might herald a little bit of a female contact to a really masculine form. I really feel that that additionally introduced in a little bit of gender fluidity in our DNA model philosophy and our males turned a bit female when it comes to how we layered it, which was superbly accepted. Our drapes have began to be copied in every single place else which additionally drives dwelling the purpose that once you innovate with us with a eager sense of market in it, then eager sense of commercialization in it, then the world follows. I really feel that due to that we had been in a position to then add slightly bit extra masculinity to our womenswear, a little bit of patriotic stylish taste got here in, a little bit of navy influences got here in. I really feel that at this time we’re in a superb area the place there are female and masculine energies overlapping between each women and men. I feel that’s one thing that has stored us going so far as innovation is worried.
Tones of gold, ivory and blue made the area come alive. (Supply: PR handout)
You talked about your garments being gender fluid in nature. Are you able to elaborate?
With our new model S&N, if you happen to ever take a look at that assortment, you’ll at all times discover a girl to be very highly effective, a lady to be nearly working shoulder to shoulder with a person and each of them are carrying decadent tones in the same shade palette. There’s similarity in the way in which we herald that heritage in each kinds. That path of being gender fluid, has already began about 4 years in the past. In truth, it’s going superbly into our couture facet of the enterprise as nicely. While you see our womenswear and menswear sitting collectively, there’s a language that each of them are talking. There’s that little bit of power that’s going into our menswear, and then you definately’ll see the same resonance of softness occurring. You might be seeing that overlapping power in your product and can proceed to, in our journey going ahead too.
Has the pandemic affected the way in which you ideate and all the course of of making your designs?
No, in reality, the pandemic as a lot as we are saying has been a spoilsport, I really feel there was a deep cleaning required within the system. Innovation was an enormous miss–there was a lot commercialization of trend earlier than COVID that we had forgotten that there’s something referred to as uniqueness or innovation. I really feel that with COVID taking place, that has come again in an enormous method.
There’s way more worth given to design now, to a means of how a design begins from a sure level and ends at a sure level. There’s a huge revisit into the classics and the timelessness of these classics, how they are often reinvented and introduced with a little bit of newness. I really feel that the ‘much less is extra’ idea is now arising once more.
We’ve been part of this innovation ecosystem since 2012. So for us, the pandemic wasn’t actually an excessive amount of of a problem, as a result of we had been already disrupting ourselves as trend innovators, at all times difficult ourselves to be slightly bit forward of the market. That’s how we began our profession. So for us, COVID has principally bolstered the truth that no matter we had been doing within the final 5 – 6 years was the precise factor.
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