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Payal Khandwala: I Design Clothes For Women Who Aren’t Slaves To Fashion

by Simi Kuriakose

Payal Khandwala Interview_MFG
When discussing fashion, the one obvious word that you’re bound to discern is trends. There’s no doubt that ‘trend’ is an integral part of the domain. But there’s a disparate thought that states that fashion is as much as about trends as it is about art… about perception. And it’s rather convincing. If I were to pinpoint one designer whose designs spell the exact same thing, it’s got to be Payal Khandwala. While Khandwala’s clothes don’t (literally) reflect the art she’s drawn to, you’re sure to find glimpses of it through the palette of rich colours and jewel tones she uses. Think about a blurring line between simplicity and minimalism, that’s exactly where her collections stand. Hardly trend-driven, high on proportion, Khandwala’s clothing line is apt for the edgy, stylish contemporary woman. To know more about her design aesthetic and influences, we interviewed Khandwala as part of our ‘Designer Of The Week’ series. Excerpts…

1. Give us an insight on your brand’s ethos.

We believe in making clothes that are simple, stylish and luxurious for women that won’t sacrifice their comfort for fashion.   

2. Art definitely is a big influence for you given your background in the study. But how much of art actually influences your seasonal collections?

I don’t think it’s a literal influence… it’s more subliminal. I keep in mind the things I learnt as a trained artist — composition, proportions, the power of the line, shape, colour — and I use these as a reference for when I design a collection. But it is not as literal as being inspired by a specific painting.  

Payal Khandwala Spring Summer 2016

3. Every designer has a set creative methodology. Tell us whether Payal Khandwala is spontaneous or structured when it comes to research?

It is definitely a combination of both. A bit like the clothes that are draped and structured, my design process is both impulsive and organised. With draping I have the most room to experiment, to play with it, and happy accidents are always a bonus. With the more tailored garments, I can recreate a garment that I had in mind… a bit like solving a puzzle. Both can be challenging but both are just as creative as processes.

4. You pay a lot of emphasis on proportion when it comes to your designs. Had it always been like that, or has the element of proportion in garments taken precedence over the years?

I’ve always thought proportions are paramount. But in recent years, I try and design garments that will retain those proportions across sizes. Nothing can ruin a look quicker than sleeves that are too big or pants that are too long, the length of a blouse, the volume of a tunic, so on.

Payal Khandwala Lookbook

5. As far as design is concerned, do you keep in mind the commercial aspects when creating something, given trends play a key role in what’s shoppable? 

I don’t follow trends or forecasts. I make clothes that I want to wear. It is really quite simple. I go with what works in different sizes, shapes, personalities and ages, so I keep shop floor feedback in my mind always. Because at the end of the day, clothes are a product. And unless someone buys them, wears them, and comes back for more, it’s not a viable business proposition.

Payal Khandwala Looks

6. How involved are you with the business side of the label?

The business side of the label is handled by my husband and partner Vikram Ramchandani. I couldn’t do this without him, he allows me to concentrate on the creative part of the business which frees my time and headspace to do what I am good at. Excel sheets, data, and financial plans don’t really interest me and are not really my strength either.

7. If I were to define your clothes it would be ‘understated, edgy fashion for the stylish yet contemporary Indian woman.” How would you define your line?

Thank you. That is quite accurate I think. The line is simple and sensible, fierce but also feminine. Clothes with an Indian soul but a spirit that is global.

Payal Khandwala Collections

8. Will you be showcasing at the upcoming Lakme Fashion Week 2017?

We are not actually. I wanted to shoot our campaign and lookbook a bit like an illustration I had made, so I wanted to concentrate on that. This collection will see us revisit prints in a very graphic way, with a lot of black and white in addition to a very bold primary color palette.

9. Jewel tones are synonymous with your clothing. Is that deliberate, to keep it as a signature?

I love to layer colour, and jewel colours are my favourite because they do this effortlessly. I also think they work so well with our skin tone. It has become the brand’s signature because the way we play with colour is so distinct. But to me, it is an extension of what I did with my art. So in that sense, it is not quite deliberate.

10. You launched your accessories label Tachi in 2015. Can we expect you to foray into other domains within fashion, menswear for example?

We do toy with the idea of menswear and we get so many requests to start a menswear line. But last year was a very busy one for us with our new store in Bandra and the Delhi one, and I want to make sure that we focus on meeting the demand in terms of our existing product. Also, menswear requires some research and development, which we are considering.

11. Who, according to you, is the Payal Khandwala muse?

When I started this label I designed the clothes for myself, I still wear every single garment I design. But now I also keep in mind all the women out there like me, women that have a point of view, and are not slaves to fashion.

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