Rimple And Harpreet Narula On Costume Designing For Padmavati
When talking of Indian wear labels, the one name that unavoidably crops in mind is that of Rimple & Harpreet Narula. With their bridal couture expertise and their modern yet timeless designs, it is no surprise that the designer-duo is fast becoming a go-to label for every ethnic need. The couple who has put its designs on several B-Town beauties including Anushka Sharma, Sonakshi Sinha, Karisma Kapoor and many more has now taken on the huge responsibility of costume designing for Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s upcoming period drama, Padmavati.
In an exclusive, tell-all interview with MFG, Rimple Narula gives us an insight into their label and what it’s like to costume design for B-Town A-lister and a filmmaker known for his perfectionist ways. Excerpts…
We know that Rimple And Harpreet is this big label, but where did it all start?
First of all, I’d really like to thank you for calling it a big label. We personally believe that we still have a lot more to do and explore different boundaries. Coming to your question, it all started on a very small scale. So Harpreet is a connoisseur of art, a very creative soul, I’d say. So he and I decided that we’d go ahead with designing clothes and it was a very humble beginning, a very simple start. At first, we ourselves didn’t know where we are heading, but luckily people liked our work, back home in Punjab as well. So yes, you know when you are honest with your work, success is bound to happen. It might come a little late, but it will surely come to you.
We’ve observed that your bridal collection always has the tradition wedding feel to them and yet the silhouettes are very contemporary. How do you strike that balance?
That is, I’d say, what the art of our label is. That is our forte. Between Harpreet and me, I handle the business part of it and Harpreet takes care of the creative aspect. So Harpreet takes over the designing once I’ve given my opinion and feedback on the practicality of the clothing. Because I believe, no matter how traditional at heart she is, the woman of today needs functional clothing. Also, clothes are no longer just clothes, they are a form of art. Your attire decides your personality and whatever clothing you wear, you lend a bit of yourself to it. So that interplay of your personality and ensemble becomes a unique and individualistic style statement. That’s how you develop a style too. People often assume that our label is all about dressing up Bollywood beauties but that’s not the case, it’s whom they represent. We design for the woman of today, who understands and knows her style. Now, this could be an actress or an ace sportsperson like Sanya Mirza or an accomplished woman like Madhu Nair (CEO of Leela Hotels). These are women whom I enjoy dressing because every garment they wear, they lend a bit of themselves to it. That’s how the garment also exuberates superclass.
Being comfortable in your skin is not something everyone considers when getting their clothes done. So how do you convince customers who come in with a particular mindset of what they want and you know for sure that that style won’t work well for them?
See, this is where a designer’s job comes in. Yes, there are people who walk in with preconceived notions that I have to talk them out of to change their mind. That’s one of the reasons that I make a prior appoint for bridal orders. I look at their body type and accordingly suggest what will look nice on them and discuss colours and silhouettes. That’s what a couture garment comes along with and that’s what a couture designer is supposed to do.
There are some designers who simply follow trends without taking into account the client’s personality. What is your take on it?
Yes, there are people who follow trends blindly. But, like I mentioned earlier, our label is all about timelessness. For us, trends are not everything. You know, I have clients who ask me how long will anarkalis stay in fashion and I always tell them to stop worrying about it as long as it’s flattering to you body shape and it’s adapting to your body type, just get it.
Taking your anarkali example forward, there are a few trends that look out of place after a point in time, right?
Yes, so my response is, preserve them, have them in your wardrobe and as long as the embroideries are classic, they will come back. I’m honestly telling you, I know how to recycle goods. I keeping going through my grandma’s wardrobe and that’s what I explain to all my clients, mix and match and see the results. No one will be able to beat you then because you’ll be able to stand apart in the crowd, you’ll be different.
Would you say the same for colours too? Are there any particular colours that never go out of fashion, especially for a bride?
For Indian brides, we are blessed with golden tones and not white skin. So with that beautiful golden tinge to our skin, I think, red and all other jewel colours look fabulous on us. But when talking of current trends, our favourite for brides all through the season was ivory. Fortunately, girls have become very experimental. Also, there is a big change in the wedding industry, a lot of weddings have shifted from night to day where the pastel colours have taken their own charm.
Your collection, though, has a mix of pastels shades and bright tones…
Yes, we have like two different sections. So what we did was that we started with ivories, beiges and creams which are my personal favourites and then there are the bright which, like I said, our Indian skin goes well with.
And how about the grooms. Any suggestions for them?
Grooms, I can go on and on about! The way fitness has taken over our young men which, I think, I a great thing. With a great body now, even grooms are ready to experiment. I’ve seen a lot of change in grooms’ dressing. Gone are the days when grooms wore that one cream-beige sherwani. Now we are experimenting with a lot more colours on the grooms as well. In fact, the grooms are becoming brighter than the brides.
One suggestion you have for brides-to-be?
Don’t panic, don’t overdo and do not, at any cost, fall prey to trends blindly just because everyone is doing it. Understand yourself, talk to yourself and think of what you, as a bride, want to be. Be true to the Indian tradition, it’s one of the best. I feel Indian brides make for the most beautiful brides. Even is you have to wear a Banarsi saree, I’m all for it. Get a nice timeless blouse with zardozi work on it, carry a nice shawl and your look is done.
One suggestion for grooms-to-be?
Concentrate on your outfit, it’s your wedding too! Don’t leave it to you family and relatives to just pick out anything for you and be more enthusiastic about your wedding.
One actress you’d wanna design bridal couture for?
As of today, I think Deepika is like the dream Bollywood celebrity to work with. How much better could it get that we are getting to design so many lehengas for the number one actress of the country, for Padmavati? Come to think, of it, lehenga is pretty much becoming our national costume. Getting a chance to dress Deepika in so many lehengas… well, I couldn’t have asked for more.
How about in real life… one actress you’d want to design for on her wedding?
All of them. I’m a little greedy that way.
And one actor you’d like to play groom-dressing with?
Ranveer Singh! Given the kind of maverick he is and how experimental he is, I think it would be him.
Your recent pret collection sees a shift from your usual heavy attires in terms of the colour palette and embroideries. Could you elaborate a bit more on that?
So our new collection is more functional clothing. With the online development and social media, I’ve finally realised that the times are changing and people like to order online as well. Now if the garments are functional, I believe, we could do a lot more. Also, our existing clientele wanted us to come up with a range slightly lighter and more wearable. Fortunately, the collection has done excellently well.
So do we see a Rimple And Harpreet store coming up in Mumbai too?
Well, I hope so! I think Mumbai’s now ready.
Moving on to your new role as a costume designer for Padmavati, we know that Sanja Leela Bhansali is known for his perfection and anyone around him is nothing but the best. How does it feel to have made the cut?
One thing I always tell people who ask me anything regarding the movie is that more than what I give to the movie, it’s important to see what I’m getting from the movie- a great learning experience. Sanjay Sir has an eye for detail and he’s taught us a lot. The discussion that we have, the research we conduct, the Q&As we’ve had all make up an experience that I’m going to cherish all my life.
Does being around SLB put you under pressure to strive harder?
Yes, definitely! But then, good work always comes when you have a mentor like him. His constant quest for perfection will make you a perfect person.
What was the kind of research and treatment that went into designing for Padmavati?
Since the costumes have to take the narrative of the movie forward, we just have to make sure that the costumes are very relevant and the fabrics that are used are true to the era and province they are set in. The audience has now become very intelligent. You can’t fool them so what you are trying to convey has to come out loud and clear. Since the costumes are taking the narrative forward it is the job of the designer to make sure to not goof up the absolutely clean and intelligent work of art. Since Padmavati is set in the 12th and 13th century, the costumes had to be hand woven with long lost hand techniques; you can’t use fabric that weren’t present in that time. We had a lot of difficulty in sourcing the textiles but like I said before, with a mentor like him (Sanjay Leela) and hard work you can achieve anything. We’ve tried our best and we now leave our fate in the hands of the country. Let them decide on the 17th of November when the movie is out.
That’s a lot of research, isn’t it?
Well, I think that’s one of the reasons why we bagged this film because there’s a lot of like-mindedness between Sanjay Sir and us in terms of research-based work. And it’s not just for the movie, that’s our approach of each of our collection. Like the previous two collections- The Eternal Wanderlust and Maharadja & Co- also had an extensive amount of research going into them. Whenever we travel, Harpreet and I have a habit of finding out all about the place, its history, its culture, its roots. We visit antique collectors to bring back some little memory of the place including antique textiles. These little things have always inspired us and the Eternal Wanderlust was an outcome of our travel to Uzbekistan, Turkey and the neighbouring regions; the Mediterranean belt basically. Same goes for Maharadja & Co which is inspired by the ancient royals of the country. The name itself is how the Britishers wrote and pronounced it with an additional ‘d’ in it; so it’s not a spelling error. In old history books in museums, ‘Maharadja’ is the spelling used. That’s actually the collection which impressed Sanjay Sir a lot. He liked both the collections, then picked a few pieces here and there and told us this is how I want you to give me a collection for Padmavati.
Costume designing limits you in various ways in terms of the era, the character, the place. Do you think these challenges enhance your creativity or do you feel restricted?
These things form a base of our creativity. Actually, it’s all a matter of interest; how interested are you to give yourself to a particular character. You have to feel it, live it, understand it, get your research right and then imagine how things would be. Once you’ve done that and you are honest in your approach, I think, everything will fall into place. Yes, there have been certain constraints to achieve what was there in that time and place, there are techniques of embroidery long lost because they were time-consuming- are Maharajas were known to wear outfits that were unique and hard to make. But Sanjay Sir has given us ample time, we are on board since June. But when you love your craft, these small things just make your work more interesting. You enjoy these challenges.
What kind of research have you done for individual personalities of the characters?
There are four provinces in Padmavati and the mood is set in the 12th and 13th century. So Raja Ratan Singh (played by Shahid Kapoor) is from Chittor, which is Rajasthan. Now that whole Mewar belt has a different kind of history to it, so the colours, the embroidery, the technique, the fabric are very Rajasthan-oriented. Rani Padmavati (played by Deepika Padukone), the most beautiful woman India’s ever witnessed, came from Sinhala, Sri Lanka which required a different kind of research work. And then she eventually comes from Sinhala to Chittor, and how she transforms is another sartorial story. Coming to Allaudin Khilji (played by Ranveer Singh), He’s in North India but comes from the Khilji dynasty which belongs to the Mongol, Afghan belt. So it has those influences. Now, this is how we’ve divided our research into different characters depending on their origin.
But is it just the character that counts when designing for a film or do individual personalities of the actors also matter?
The thing is that these actors are so professional that they almost completely absorb into the character. I’m impressed by how convincingly they become the character that you yourself believe for a few minutes that this is really Padmavati or Raja Ratan Singh. So their personalities take a back seat of sorts.
So who of the whole lot is the most comfortable to work with?
Believe me, all three. It might sound politically correct, but it’s a fact. All three are impeccable human beings and so professional. So it is impossible to pick a favourite. On a personal note, I think the movie is really going to create history with the kind of talent, dedication and attention to detail given by Sanjay Sir.