The year 2020 was a period of silence for the Indian fashion industry as everything came to a halt. Then, 2021 started with a big announcement -- designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee sold 51 percent of his fashion brand to Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Limited.
First Anita Dongre, then Raghavendra Rathore and now Sabyasachi, why are Indian fashion houses opting to take the corporate route? Are strategic collaborations the way forward in order to establish Indian brands as global entities?
"This was always the way forward" replies industry veteran JJ Valaya who took to Instagram to unveil his latest SS21 collection today. Titled 'BURSA', the line is the second chapter of his collection which was launched at the FDCI India Couture Week in September 2021.
"What is now happening in India, was happening in the West several decades ago and popular designer brands like Coco Chanel, Burberry, Versace are the leading example of it," Valaya tells IANSlife.
"It's only when the corporate comes in, that there's stability of the business and the brand goes to another dimension. So, I think this is a fantastic move forward and it's only going to go better."
Earlier designer Anita Dongre's company had received a sizable investment from a large US Private Equity Fund in 2013 and was the only Indian designer with a retail presence in New York. Now Sabyasachi has announced he is set to open a 6,000 square foot retail space in the city in early 2022.
Asked if he has similar plans, Valaya answers: "Well, if it happens, we will surely consider it. I feel for us it's a couple of years to go before we can take this route. At the moment, we are doing a significant amount of experimentation and expansion within. If we find a suitable partner, of whom we are convinced can take the brand to another level, we will certainly be open for it."
Talking about his collection, Valaya believes: "I always believe when you are truly inspired to do a collection then seeing all the interpretations in six months is never enough, you must give it atleast 12 months to kind of try and interpret it in as many ways and forms as possible."
He adds, "And fortunately for us, in India we have two very clear themes between winter and summer that allows a significant change in the weather and that gives us room to experiment. And yet having said that, at the same time we are essentially a couture design house and we focus on wedding clothes and occasion wear. So the challenge is always how will you make the bride, the groom and the guests look spectacular still wearing the silks and organza but making them relevant to the season. This second chapter of Bursa -- is essentially a whole new interpretation of inspiration we initiated six months ago."
As the pandemic has changed how Indian couture is seen and interpreted, has it also brought on a change in design philosophy?
Valaya replies: "I have always been very clear that come hail or storm, the signature of the brand should never change. So, of course things will lead us to all kinds of circumstances... but the DNA of a brand should persistently continue. So, if you ask me that if the pandemic changed the way I think, No, it didn't."
Adding: "We continue to create our collections the way we always do. Obviously, the wedding are not that large the way they were pre-covid, fortunately, slowly and steadily people are getting back to normal. All of us had an unusual year - 2020, and through it we have learnt some wonderful lessons. Now is the time to wake-up and be appreciative of what we have and create more and more. As designers and fashion houses, our only role is to create beautifully inspired clothes that people can enjoy."
If nothing else, the Covid-19 has shed light on the importance of sustainability and slow fashion. "Couture in itself and by its very nature has always been sustainable," says Valaya.
"The stories I have witnessed, how brides and grooms of ours from the mid-90s are coming back to us to now dress their children for their big day. The new generation is coming to us with wedding clothes we made for their mothers nearly 25 years ago, to get them altered and re-styled for their own nuptials. So, that's the perfect example of sustainability and how a singular garment has withstood the test of time in terms of styling, quality and relevancy; it's still relevant to a completely new generation nearly a quarter of a century later. If you do quality apparel, which brand Valaya is known for, something which is timeless, a person can and will wear it again and again; it can be passed on to the new generations. We have always been advocating the concept of sustainability," he concludes.