Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 October 2019

Payal Singhal in Dubai: meet the designer making Indian-wear accessible

If you’re attending a Diwali party this month, consider an outfit from the designer’s latest versatile collection, now available at The Rack by Kachins

An Indo-Western outfit by Payal Singhal 
An Indo-Western outfit by Payal Singhal 

Payal Singhal this year celebrated her 20th anniversary as a fashion designer with a knockout show at Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai – where she got celebrity couple-of-the-moment Farhan Akhtar and Shibani Dandekar to walk the runway together – and a trunk show in Dubai. Her collection, PS20, was displayed at The Rack by Kachins, which will stock select pieces by the designer at its Al Wasl Road boutique in time for Diwali, which is on Sunday, October 27. The range is an homage to the Indo-western patterns, embroidery and designs that Singhal has created over the past two decades – a fusion of Indian and western wear that lends itself to formal occasions, such as weddings and Diwali parties, as well as a night out. Dressed in her trademark black, but surrounded by the splashes of colour she has brought to life, Singhal tells us more about the Indo-western aesthetic.

How would you describe Indian clothing today?

Indian fashion is something that has always incorporated art, culture and craft. There are many elements of Indian fashion that are now simply fashion, and seen on international runways. The tunic is Indian, for example, but it is everywhere now, while the use of colour and embroidery is slowly taking centre stage, too. That’s where my aesthetic comes in. I love playing with colour and drama, as well as using Indian prints and textiles. In terms of Indo-western wear, much like the global fashion scene, trends such as bohemia and using folk art are in vogue. I see a lot of neon pops, while comfortable and breathable clothes and fabrics are also here to stay.

A model walks for Payal Singhal at Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai in August 2019. Photo: FS Images / Lakme Fashion Week / IMG Reliance
A model walks for Payal Singhal at Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai in August 2019. Photo: FS Images / Lakme Fashion Week / IMG Reliance

What’s your biggest no-no when styling and accessorising Indo-western clothing?

Overdoing it. Accessories have to be minimal, since our clothing is usually so colourful. My teacher, Jeannie Naoroji, told me about this French lady who had one elegant dress and wore it repeatedly. When she was questioned about this, she said: ‘I would rather be elegant all the time than fail at something new.

A model walks for Payal Singhal at Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai in August 2019. Photo: FS Images / Lakme Fashion Week / IMG Reliance
A model walks for Payal Singhal at Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai in August 2019. Photo: FS Images / Lakme Fashion Week / IMG Reliance

What are some of the fabrics, techniques and styles you focused on for the PS20 collection?

I am trying to recreate the magic of fashion that appealed to me in college. I am reinventing my design roots and reworking them, but using fabrics that are new to me or are much more mature, such as wool and silk. I have also used my favourite zardozi, but it’s now done with neon thread in keeping with a more international aesthetic.

What’s your favourite fabric to work with, and why?

I love to work with crepe de chine because it has a great fall, it takes embroidery and stitches well, and can be worn in winter or summer. I may need to work with neoprene some day; it may well be the material needed in the space age, so I’ll definitely try that out, maybe after another 20 years.

Indian fashion shows, notably Lakme, have become as much about celebrity models as the clothes on display. What do you think this brings to the show?

Shibani Dandekar and Farhan AKhtar fir Payal Singhal at Lakme. Photo: FS Images / Lakme Fashion Week / IMG Reliance
Shibani Dandekar and Farhan Akhtar for Payal Singhal at Lakme. Photo: FS Images / Lakme Fashion Week / IMG Reliance

Using models who actually love the brand can bring a certain legitimacy – OK, I like this celebrity’s look and she likes this brand, so I should try it out. I only use muses who are friends of the brand as I feel there should be a connection between the model and the brand. Aditi Rao Hydari, Diana Penty and ­Shibani Dandekar wear my outfits off the ramp as well.

Embellished Indian clothing was traditionally restricted for monied clients. With a rising middle class travelling the world to live and work in countries such as the UAE, do you see that affecting your customer profile?

I have always believed in affordable luxury and slow fashion; it’s why my brand has always appealed to the educated and clued-in middle class. My couture line goes up to 5 lakh rupees [Dh26,000], while my ready-to-wear collections start at 1,000 ­rupees [Dh50]. I don’t think anyone should spend more than that. Also, there is so much product in the market that we as customers need to slow down and see what it is that we really need. The Vogue sustainability conference is bringing the concept of slow and sustainable fashion to the masses, and that is the need of the hour.

Modest fashion and plus-size fashion are buzzwords. What do you think of these movements?

Indian fashion and modest fashion go hand-in-hand. We excel in doing [an attractive] peek-a-boo with our clothes without actually showing anything.

I also took part in a trade show in Paris called Who’s Next, with the launch of PS Pret called Musafir, or nomad. It includes loose and flowing kaftan tunics and dhoti pants with my trademark ikat print, which are influenced by my personal aesthetic of comfort. As someone who is plus size myself, I welcome this change in attitude, and I love discovering – and designing – new and better options for myself and others like me.

Updated: October 7, 2019 06:55 PM

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