Fashioning fresh frontiers
Oct 17 2013
After making a mark in apparel, top fashion designers foray into accessories and interiors with equal ease
His revolutionary fusion of classic and contemporary has redefined traditional Indian crafts as a profitable niche within the cosmopolitan market, allowing the artistic processes to live on despite the pressures of globalisation. Now, after two decades as a reigning couturier, JJ Valaya is all set to rule your roost. Last month he launched India’s largest single-largest designer lifestyle store in Delhi —The Home of the Traveler.
“It’s been an incredible journey since the Valaya label was launched back in 1992. I was looking for the next big thing, and finally, on completion of 20 years in the world of luxury, I decided to introduce to my clients a concept of designer interior furniture and accessories. This interiors line follows the same philosophy as my couture label, a rich unique collection to perfect the art of fine living,” says the designer.
It actually started as a one-off exhibition two years ago when purely out of latent interest, Valaya curated SIAM: The Monk and the Monarch — a collection of rare handpicked artefacts meant for discerning collectors. “The show was a great success, enough for us to consider taking this personal passion of travelling and collecting unique pieces from across the world to the next level,” he recalls. Having been associated with the world of aesthetics for so long, an extension into other areas akin to luxury seemed a natural progression.
Each product of The Home of the Traveler, or THT, says the designer, will bring a character, a narrative and a piece of history to a home. Spread over five floors and divided into six themes — India, Glamour, Vintage, Art Deco, Organic and World — the products, which include carpets to curios and everything in between, have been sourced by Valaya and his brother, TJ Singh, mainly from south east Asia. The aim is to create a store where you get everthing for a home under one roof. Valaya is not designing at THT as of now, but bringing together pieces he has liked during his travels. This is also the first step towards Valaya Homes, which he plans to launch in a few months from now.
As Singh, who is also his business partner, says: “THT symbolises a refinement cultivated for connoisseurs who seek beauty and art in the spaces they inhabit. Exploring and discovering the world, there is always a little street or a corner that has something new, a hidden treasure waiting to be found. THT is exactly that kind of treasure trove.”
The Trousseau Tsar, best known for his ability to merge Indian craftsmanship and textile heritage with European tailored silhouettes, has been crafting couture since the early 90s. Of late, he’s also been dabbling in jewellery, watches and interior design. “You can’t keep doing the same thing all your life, you have to evolve in order to grow. But the essence of your style remains the same,” says Tahiliani.
Indeed, much like his garments, the spaces he designs are modern in form but classic in structure. “My clothes are designed as contemporary silhouettes which are culturally rooted and have traditional embroidery as the detailing. The same philosophy is followed in our interiors, which are modern to the core but have elements of intrinsic Indian craftsmanship such as jali work, mother of pearl inlay and carved panels. My colour palette, too, remains consistently muted — with ivories, taupes, greys and blacks mixed with bursts of colour, as is the case with my couture collections.”
The man who originally wanted to be an architect, but abandoned the idea when told he would have to study science for that, finally seems to have found his niche in interior design. “I actually started long ago when I designed my store, Ensemble, back in 1987. Then I did all our stores, followed by my homes in Delhi and Goa.
As more and more people saw our work, I started to do personal commissions for friends and acquaintances,” he recalls. Professionally, his first assignment was for a jewellery showroom. Since then he’s been doing a huge variety of projects ranging from private homes to restaurants to resorts to boutique hotels and even a 115 sq ft ATM for Citibank!
Tahiliani has channelised his distinctive signature into his latest venture, TT for Timex, a collection of jewelled watches that marry art and functionality into their design. The 14 pieces in two ranges: bridal and ready-to-wear, explore traditional jadau work with precious stones, pearls and dull gold adding lustre. Besides, he has just launched Tarun Tahiliani for Asva, a range of jewellery in collaboration with the World Gold Council.
Pioneering design diva and this year’s Padma awardee, Ritu Kumar, was actually the first to introduce the ‘boutique’ culture in India under her brand, ‘Ritu.’ The woman who began her fashion career with just four hand block printers and two tables in a small village near Kolkata back in 1969, today presides over a network of 35 stores across India. Over the past four decades, she has developed a unique style that merges ancient textile skills with modern sensibilities, creating a new classicism for Indian garments. A style that can now be seen in her bags and shoes as well.
“A fashion house becomes more diverse with the addition of products that fall under the category of fashionable dressing. They add a further dimension to the creative process and give us designers the opportunity of working in areas other than clothing,” says Kumar. “To infuse fresh ideas into a brand so that it does not stagnate, you need to reach out to allied areas. I felt bags allowed me to use my core strength of textile and craftsmanship in a fresh new way while retaining the same Ritu signature elements,” she adds.
The eclectic range of bags that debuted two months ago as part of her A/W-2013 collection are divided in six styles — the Embellished Group, Cravat Group, Ikat Group, Mosaic Group, Eyelet Group and Floral Group. Each of these sling and shoulder bags come in neutral bases with fabric embellishments and colourful tassels. There’s also a new festive RI collection of clutches in vivid hues of yellow, gold, fuchsia and burgundy with delicate embroidery and zardozi. Perfect accessories for her garments, these work in tandem to add value to the brand.
What do Hollywood hotties Jennifer Lopez, Sarah Jessica Parker and Mariah Carey have in common with Bollywood beauties Aishwarya Rai and Priyanka Chopra? They all carry signature clutches by Suneet Varma that he designs exclusively for Judith Leiber, the global luxury brand for bejewelled handbags.
One of India’s foremost couturiers, Varma is synonymous with glamour and timeless style. Not surprising, since the designer interned with no less than Yves Saint Laurent in Paris before coming home to start his own label back in the late Eighties. “My label emphasises the qualities I feel are integral to couturewear — superior craftsmanship, strong design sensibility and sexy sophistication. And today, when I have carried the aesthetics of the label to other areas, I seek to incorporate the same qualities in those products as well.” Products that range from shoes to bags to cars. Yes, as of now, Varma is hard at work designing the interiors for the new BMW 7 Series to be launched later in the year. Associated with BMW Motors since 2007, he hosts all BMW events and projects and has also come up with a new concept of “Fashion Appreciation” evenings for which he is currently on a 15-city tour.
Besides, for the past decade or so Varma has been collaborating with Swarovski on developing clothing and interior projects. He has also used his creative energies to style advertising campaigns for clients that include Airtel, Raymonds, The Oberoi group of Hotels and various high-end jewellery brands. As he says: “Designing is not a static profession and moving out of your comfort zone of couture clothing keeps your energy dynamic. After all, the idea is always to have something new that enchants and entices your client so that they are always in love with your creations!”