A swadeshi dress fit for downtown New York

Designer Payal Singhal takes inspiration from Islamic architecture.

By Neethu M.

NEW DELHI: Designer Payal Singhal’s “Taj” collection, presented at the Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai earlier this week, is inspired by the fine detailing and intricate patterns of filigree, jaali work and floral inlays seen in Islamic architecture.

Designer Payal Singhal
Designer Payal Singhal

The collection is influenced by the interplay between “swadeshi” dress codes and sartorial styles for women set in the backdrop of the extravagant lifestyle of colonial India. Singhal, who started her clothing line in India in 2000, has chosen to combine contemporary urban silhouettes, swadeshi home woven Indian textiles and exquisite fine design.

Silhouettes include silken Sufi falda pants worn with structured cholis, buttery mul saris with free-flowing kurtas, short anarkali kurtas with voluminous salwars and asymmetric tunic-blouses with traditional saris in silks, katarva cottons and benarasi and mul silks. The delicate detailing of the patterns are embellished with resham, silver and gold taar, pita kora and filigree or jaali work in trellis patterns.

The signature look of Singhal’s clothing is being relevant in a modern context of fashion and translates from Indian to Western effortlessly.

Payal explains, “This collection represents an authentic summer bride that exudes elegance and tradition – her style statement though is experimental with an edge.”

A model displaying a Payal Singhal costume at the Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai
A model displaying a Payal Singhal outfit at the Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai earlier this week.

British Vogue Editor Dolly Jones summed up Singhal’s collection saying, “gorgeous dresses for dressing up in downtown New York with just enough of the genuine Indian magic that designers all over the world try to recreate.”

The American Bazaar interviewed Singhal on her new collection. Excerpts from the interview:

What exactly does the word “fashion” mean to you? How do you define it?

Fashion to me is a form of art for self-expression. I define “fashion” as lifestyle, taste level and form of self-expression.

Down the lane as a well-known designer, how do feel now, presenting your Summer/Resort 2013 collection, “Taj”?

It’s the same nervous high every time and doesn’t matter how long you have been doing it, you still get butterflies in your stomach.

How do you evaluate yourself after presenting your designs in various shows- both personally and professionally Do the personal and professional satisfaction go together for you? Is there any demarcation between the two?

I evaluate myself after each show without any bias. Personally and professionally, it is important for me to have grown or moved forward with each collection and I hope to achieve that every season. I am hard on myself but not unforgiving. At the same time, I don’t take fashion too seriously. I feel both personal and professional satisfaction go hand in hand because I am defined by the work I do and I bring my personal self to my work. Therefore, I feel Payal Singhal, the person and the designer are the same and have the same desires to accomplish the same things.

Your signature style has been a right mix of Indian and Western, which seems to be an effort to reinvent modern India. This time you have imbibed jaali work and floral inlays seen in Islamic architecture. What is your inspiration for that?

A model displaying a Payal Singhal outfit at the Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai earlier this week.
A model displaying a Payal Singhal outfit at the Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai earlier this week.

The inspiration was based on Islamic architecture and the fine detailing done on various monuments with beautiful floral and geometric motifs with inlay work and filigree. It’s translated the same dramatic ethereal and regal feel to the clothes.

A dress that one wear defines the attitude. It also tend to define the person as well as the culture to which he/she belongs to. In fact dress becomes a “text” or a “statement” which speaks aloud at times. So designing an outfit is not just a matter of fashion. What is your criterion while designing an outfit? What goes through your mind before inventing, reinventing a new design?

The first and most important thing I think about is who would wear it and how they would wear it – that is the starting point of my craft. I want the design to feel new and unique even it has been done a million times before, so I try to work with textures, concepts and silhouettes that would be exciting to wear.

Over the years, the attitude towards the fashion industry has undergone a major change in India. Do you find a change in taste among Indians?

Yes, it has changed and I think the change really is embracing our own culture as a mainstream culture and not as an ethnic. Indians have always had the great advantage of an abundant heritage of textile and embroidery. Now Indians can wear designs in their own global way and be accepted as part of mainstream trends that’s globally accepted and sought after fashion.

What do you think is the greatest achievement in your life so far, as a fashion designer?

I think the fact that we were able to build such a big business in America just based on hard work and sincerity has been my biggest achievement in fashion so far.

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