Sukriti & Akriti: The Indian Wear Label That Took Over B-Town In 2016
When it comes to Indian wear, the few names that have always enjoyed a place in the forefront are designers like Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Manish Malhotra and Tarun Tahiliani, and rightly so! But another designer-duo that seems to be playing catch-up with the numero uno players of the industry is a relatively new, but widely appreciated one… Sukriti Grover and Aakriti Grover; The designers have not only reigned Bollywood in 2016, in terms of ethnic wear, but have also completed reformed the face of Indian wear with their creations under the Sukriti & Aakriti label.
From Kareena Kapoor Khan to Anushka Sharma to Malaika Arora to Aditi Rao Hydari to Lara Dutta, a slew of Bollywood divas have been seen donning the label, so much so that it seems to have become a go-to brand for many. And if there’s a fashion go-to, it’s got to be on MyFashgram. So we decided to get in touch with the talented designers to find out more about their designs, their style of working, their collection and a lot more. Excerpts from our tete-a-tete…
Please tell me a little about your respective backgrounds.
Sukriti: I’ve done my Bachelor’s from the National Institute Of Fashion Technology, Delhi. Then I did my masters from the Institute of Marangoni, Milan. I’ve been working as a stylist and costume designer with Anaita Shroff Adajania’s Style Cell team for six years now and I have done a couple of films with Anaita too.
Aakriti: I too have graduated from Marangoni, Milan, and I have my own exclusive swimwear label, Flirtitious which will complete 4 years now, in January.
Could you (Sukriti) name a few films that you’ve styled for?
Sukriti: I have done Cocktail and Dhoom 2. Then I’ve done Tamasha, I’ve done Fitoor. So I’ve been a part of the film industry for a while now. I’ve also worked with Katrina Kaif in Jagga Jasoos which should be releasing sometime in April.
You’ve become a go-to label, in such a short time for almost every Bollywood actress, when it comes to ethnic wear. Does it feel surreal?
Sukriti: It does feel surreal. But the whole concept of the label was to make light festive wear. We were so done, I feel, in terms of Indian wear with heavy ensembles to parties or wedding or any other celebration. So the idea was to make it more contemporary in terms of fabric. I mean, cotton was never a preferred choice for people to wear for any of these festivities earlier. But now, I think, people are adapting to the concept of cotton as a luxe fabric for all major celebrations. And that is what our intention was, all along, to make this label a more easy-breezy one. It’s just a new way of looking at Indian wear.
Akriti: It is always a good thing to be appreciated and there’s no feeling better than when people like your work. But yes, it’s a risk you have to take. Also, it’s a gradual process, so there’s time for the feeling to sink in. It does feel surreal at times, though.
Like you said cotton was never counted as a luxe fabric, but you’ve managed to give it a complete makeover. So what made you so confident about it when you first started?
Akriti: Our brand is Delhi-based where the general mentality is that cotton is not a luxurious fabric. People prefer silks and crepes and chiffons. But when we started, “being comfortable” was a major trend and so we figured it was time to bring about a mentality change. We wanted people to know that cotton too can be a luxurious fabric. And we managed that. There are so many brides now who prefer cottons for several functions. Brides are no longer just decked-up objects on stage, they are actively involved in their wedding. So they prefer lighter fabrics. And even for destination weddings, the biggest issues is the weight which always goes overboard with your heavy ethnic outfits and you don’t want to compromise on your jewellery and other accessories either. That’s where lighter fabrics come into play. The basic idea is that the outfit fits you, you don’t fit the outfit.
Sukriti: Well, the cotton we use is kind of a special one; it’s organic and made from soybean and latte. It’s not the generic, run off the mill cotton, it’s an imported variety and a very expensive one too. Our cotton is really soft. Basically, we wanted to reinvent this fabric in a way that people make peace with the fact that they can wear it to every occasion. You know it’s a typical Indian mentality, to think of cotton as an inferior fabric. We’ve had people come in to buy Indian wear and they say, “Oh! We didn’t want to buy cotton. Do you have any other fabric?” But our cotton has a very light and luxe feel to it even visually. Also, it’s easy to maintain unlike most cotton because, like I mentioned earlier it’s soft, so it’s not easily crushable. So we have intricate work done on the fabric but it’s still not very heavy.
So how do you achieve that… to have a heavy-looking number without it actually being heavy?
Sukriti & Akriti: We’ve found a way to do light embroidery on light fabric and yet make it look festive. The garment will look heavier, but when you touch and feel it, you realise that’s not the case. So it’s a perks-pay combination to actually wear something that’s looking heavy but you aren’t tired wearing it; you’re really comfortable throughout the occasion.
We’ve seen almost every diva sport your design from Kareena to Anushka to Malaika to Huma. Despite them all being distinct, the underlying theme in every garment is common and has Sukriti & Akriti written all over. How do you achieve it, so that your flavour remains intact and yet every design is different from the other?
Sukriti & Akriti: The most important thing when you design a line is that it should look like it’s your design. Every designer has a design sensibility, so you maintain that throughout. Like if you look at a Sabyasachi, you know it’s a Sabyasachi and yet it’s different from other pieces. So even when we come up with a new line, we work with silhouettes we keep our embroideries in the same space, so you know it’s coming from the same designer. The way the embroidery is done it adapts to the same kind of embroidery and we specialise in gotta work. You could say, we are not just reinventing cotton but also gotta work by using it with different silhouettes; trendy silhouettes like a sharara or a skirt instead of a churidar under a kurta. And since comfort is our utmost priority, we design the silhouettes accordingly. So you’ll see volume shararas, relaxed pyjamas, palazzos, etc. The bottoms of kurtas are very comfortable which I think is a deciding factor of an outfit.
Talking of design symmetry, is that why all your dupattas have these scalloped borders in common?
Sukriti & Akriti: Yes, that’s one reason. Also, when it comes to lighter fabrics, scalloping makes for a very pretty end. Our dupattas are not always made of cotton because a lot of people don’t like cotton dupattas since they want the outfit underneath to show. So we use a lot of net and other sheer fabrics and scalloping just goes well with them all. So yeah, you could call it a signature of our brand. And also the latkan and tassels, which give life to a dupatta, are a sort of signature trait; we make them in-house with gotta and thread. These are small things that make a lot of difference.
So will your upcoming collection have the same essence or do you plan on doing something drastically different?
Sukriti & Akriti: Well, the essence is going to be the same but the embroidery is going to be totally different. The upcoming collection is going to be a makeover. But again the design esthetic will be same; like you said, you’ll be able to make out that it’s Sukriti & Akriti. Nevertheless, it’s a very very different line that’s going to come up and we think, even for the brand, it will be a refreshing change. You know, there are people who have more than 3 or 4 Sukriti & Akriti outfits and we think these clients now need more variety. Also when people purchase a lot of your outfits you don’t want any outfit to look similar.
You’ve brought bright orange and sunny yellow mainstream with your current collection. Will your new collection have a similar colour palette or do you intend on playing around with new something new altogether?
Sukriti & Akriti: See we definitely want to do something new altogether, but since last year we’ve stuck to a sunset palette. That’s because we specialise in destination weddings which usually take place at beachy spots, the most common choice for DW, or hot spots. And like Akriti mentioned earlier, no one wants to carry 10kg-heavy outfits to destinations and that’s true not just for the bride but also others attending the wedding. Hence, the whole idea of lighter festive wear. But these functions and ceremonies usually take place through the day or at sunset, so we chose to go with a sunset palette with yellows and oranges and peaches. We think that worked really well as a concept since not too many people had worked around with this palette. We’re actually surprised at the number of people buying yellow and orange. So our outfits have become like a “Haldi function” speciality because a lot of people like the yellow association to the ceremony.
So yellow, you’d say was your most selling colour?
Sukriti & Akriti: Yellow, yes! Wouldn’t say that one colour particularly sells the best, but using yellow as a colour has worked better than we expected. It’s been very popular with brides and relatives of the bride and groom for the Haldi function in particular.
So what’s your new colour palette looking like?
Sukrit & Akriti: Hmmm… We think we’re going to keep that a secret. We’d like you to see it when it’s out. As for our recently launched winter collection, we’d say we’ve gone darker as far as colours are concerned with blacks and navy blues and bottle green and reds.
“Give in to popular demand” or “go by your creative instinct” – what would be a preferred course of action for you?
Sukriti: Definitely, go by my creative instinct! I think what’s amazing is when you make people adapt to what you are creating as a designer. Like there have been instances when clients have come to us looking for a particular colour of design and after looking at out yellows and oranges have opted for them. At my end, it’s definitely people who’d appreciate my design sensibility and colour combination. I do make customised outfits too, but the clients usually like the kind of work we do.
Akriti: I’d rather go with my creative instinct too. Our brand anyways has two diverse collections- there’s the classic one and then there’s a trendy one for the younger lot with variations like kurta style top, palazzo bottoms, etc. I feel, when it comes to ethnics, a lot of people tend to dress up in a way that makes them look older, but you don’t have to. You can go in with a more trendy choice, a more age-appropriate choice too which as a designer I wouldn’t want to compromise on.
Have the two of you ever been stuck due to creative differences?
Sukriti & Akriti: Not really! It’s usually the two of us brainstorming. When we sit down together we both need to agree also, so a lot of thought goes into any piece before creating it. When there are two people working it’s never just one person’s decision. So we sit down and discuss and decide palettes and combinations and other things.
Sukriti is already a stylist and costume designer, but if you ever get chance to work as a team on costumes or styling, will you take it up or would you (Akriti) stick to the designer tag?
Akriti: If there’s an interesting offer to design for a film, I’d love to take it up. But as far as styling goes, I think I’ll leave it to Sukriti because she’s the master. In fact, that’s been her forte even before she studied it or made it her career. And I’m just a follower. So I think even if we do take up a styling jib together, we wouldn’t have any problems; given that my style sense comes from her, we’ll be on the same page.
Which Bollywood actress do you think would be your perfect muse to showcase every design of yours?
Sukriti: I think Katrina. Now that I have spent so much time with her I realise that she’s very Bohemian at heart something that is in common with our label. Though we are an Indian wear label, our silhouettes and styles are very Bohemian. So you see a lot of peasant sleeves and bell sleeves. And also Kriti Sanon; I think she’d be a good muse too.
Akriti: I’d say Deepika Padukone because she has a carriage for both edgy and traditional ensembles. She just manages to look awesome in them both. And even Sonam Kapoor, for that matter. I think she looks as good wearing traditionals as she does in westerns.
Though you do have a lot many ethnic looks in B-Town to your credit, is there any actress you wish to see your design on, but haven’t had the chance to yet?
Sukriti: Yes, may be Deepika Padukone.
Akriti: I’d want to dress Kangana Ranaut because I think, given her otherwise edgy style, it would make a strong statement to have her dress in our label.
One designer you’d say has been your inspiration?
Sukriti: I wouldn’t say an inspiration, but if there is one designer whom I love is Sabyasachi Mukherjee. If I were a bride, I’d love to wear his creation. In terms of inspiration, I don’t think I’ve taken inspiration from anyone because designing is originality. So you can look around but your design has to come from within, that’s the only way you can make a niche. But yes, I do look up to Sabyasachi as a designer. When it comes to bridal, I think he’s unbeatable. And another personal favourite of mine is Manish Arora. I think in terms of creativity and originality he’s fabulous. He’s the most original designer in Indian who’s a benign inspiration. His work is kitschy but you go anywhere in the world and you’d know his work is inspired by Indian and the colours of India, the street style of India. In terms of fusion, I don’t think there’s anyone other than Manish who’s done such amazing work.
Akriti: My all-time favourite designer has got to be Balmain. His design sense is simply splendid. Every design, every weave it just so perfect. My heart goes out to him. In fact, I think I’m a little biased at this point because even if a design is not as great, I like it if it comes from Balmain. As for Indian wear, I’d say there’s no one better than Sabyasachi. It’s not just one a particular geographical region, but every bride in Indian from every city want to deck up in a Sabyasachi on the most important day of her life and that truly is saying something. It’s just beautiful to achieve such success despite having started from scratch.
On a last note, Akriti, could you please tell us a little about your brand Flirtious?
Akriti: Well, Flirtitious is divided into four different collections swim wear, beach wear, gym wear and night wear. But we customise all the pieces because I don’t think the Indian body type is meant to follow international sizing charts. As a general norm, we follow the European size chart but people don’t get it that the Indian body is different. There are some who need a ‘Medium’ for the top and an ‘S’ for the bottom or a ‘Large for the top and a ‘Medium’ for the bottom. So we customise. You can pick any design from the website and pick colour options, and we’ll make a perfect fit for you.
Image Credit: Instagram, Sukriti & Aakriti