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‘We knew we’ve to be a bit anti-trend in our design philosophy’: Couturier Shantnu Mehra

Shantnu and Nikhil want no introduction to style lovers. 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 novel mix of ‘construction assembly fierce glamour’ to their clothes.

Not too long ago, 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 style, sustainability, results of the pandemic on enterprise, and much more. Edited excerpts:

Shantnu Nikhil Mehrauli Store Render 1 The inside of the Mehrauli retailer. (Supply: PR handout)

Why did you determine on Mehrauli because the area on your new retailer?

Once you have a look at the journey of Mehrauli, particularly the Sumbawa advanced, it has been nearly just like the Indian model of Rodeo Drive. You’ve a few of the prime luxurious manufacturers, a few of the greatest couturiers within the nation retailing from right here. It’s a pure selection for any designer to be part of this ecosystem, which has been constructed over time. 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 selection.

You had been the primary design home in India to include modern 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 model assertion. Proper from the very starting of our model journey, we knew that we’ve to be a bit anti-trend in our design philosophy. After I say anti development, we wish to communicate one other story of India, a story that doesn’t essentially speak about 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 style. And, I believe 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 style 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 all the time been the pillar round which all the pieces else just about revolves: construction assembly fierce glamour.

All of those elements gave us a possibility to take a look at sure conventional silhouettes with a bit extra playfulness. A lehenga needn’t essentially have the cholis that it’s identified 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 finished maintaining in thoughts the younger, city Indian that sits in entrance of us. The youthful lot of those fearless, assured brides and grooms who’re choice makers and thought-leaders. I really feel that’s the market that we’ve been working in the direction of for thus 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 wish to be overburdened by the custom of it. However but on the similar time, they wish to preserve 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 fascinating.

Shantnu Nikhil Mehrauli Store 1 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 a giant a part of the trade?

Sustainability has completely different connotations to completely different individuals and completely different manufacturers react to sustainability in their very own distinct method. After I have a look at it from my lens, and once I communicate as a couturier, and for different couturiers, I believe we’ve all the time had sustainability going for us. We’re a bespoke model, so for us, all the pieces is made-to-measure, all the pieces may be very confidential in its strategy, which signifies that we’re not quick style and might by no means be quick style. You put money into a specific season with many kinds and silhouettes, and you then take orders on them after which the subsequent season. You’re really doing two large seasons!

That is in contrast to quick style, the place you might be principally doing six collections in a yr. I believe by default, couturiers internationally and most of who’re in India, we’ve all the time been sustainable from that side.

What have been your main design influences?

I believe we’ve all the time had this strategy of heritage assembly spunk. In fact, our heritage comes from sure decadent architectural values. Internationally, once you have a look at the architectural worth, there are particular geometric shapes, influences that we convey from our design philosophy. I really feel that works. We’re not very Mughal impressed structure, however extra Artwork-Deco, taking part in with geometrical shapes. If you happen to rigorously observe Mughal structure, you’ll discover sure nuances which are very geometrical in type and I really feel, we current that.

There’s all the time been that undercurrent of heritage inside spunk. Then spunk got here in with silhouettes, shapes and drapes and I believe we’ve all the time 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 a substitute 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 grow to be a robe for us. We gave quantity robes, a method for lehengas! We tried to be as experimental as we might, after which robes all of a sudden grew to become this new rage, from 2010 to 2015. In actual fact, even now, once you have a look at it, robes have actually changed one or two conventional silhouettes and it’s grow to be a mainstay for features in India. If we have a look at the Indian celebration, we’re taking a look at 4 to 5 features in a slew. The robe has grow to be a staple for not less than one, if not two features.

It’s a little bit of fearlessness, it’s a little bit of maintaining the Indian heritage alive, but additionally making it a bit extra flirty and playful, with out ignoring the market and nonetheless being related within the ceremonial facet of the enterprise. I believe 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 standard 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 grew to become a bit female when it comes to how we layered it, which was superbly accepted. Our drapes have began to be copied in all places else which additionally drives house 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 capable of then add a bit bit extra masculinity to our womenswear, a little bit of patriotic stylish taste got here in, a little bit of army influences got here in. I really feel that at present we’re in a superb area the place there are female and masculine energies overlapping between each women and men. I believe that’s one thing that has stored us going so far as innovation is worried.

Shantnu Nikhil Mehrauli Store Render 2 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, when you ever have a look at that assortment, you’ll all the time discover a lady 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 coloration 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 actual fact, it’s going superbly into our couture facet of the enterprise as effectively. Once 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 you then’ll see the same resonance of softness happening. 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 your complete course of of making your designs?

No, the truth is, 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 a giant miss–there was a lot commercialization of style earlier than COVID that we had forgotten that there’s something known as uniqueness or innovation. I really feel that with COVID taking place, that has come again in a giant method.

There’s rather more worth given to design now, to a technique of how a design begins from a sure level and ends at a sure level. There’s a large 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 style innovators, all the time difficult ourselves to be a bit 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 appropriate factor.

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