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'People Only Wear What Bollywood Wears'

By ANITA AIKARA
August 24, 2022 12:39 IST
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'Bollywood actresses like Parveen Babi and Zeenat Aman were huge inspirations, and they have stuck with us.'

IMAGE: Malaika Arora, centre, was the showstopper for Rohit Gandhi, left, and Rahul Khanna at their FDCI show.
Photograph: Kind courtesy FDCI/Instagram

Beneath the glitter of the fashion industry, it's a tough business.

And who would know that better than couture and pret designers Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna, who have been around for over 25 years.

Fibonacci, their latest FDCI India Couture Week collection, has squares, cubes and geometrics put together in an Indian avatar.

"We were inspired by the Golden Ratio," explains Rohit.

Throughout their lives, the designers never really focused a lot on showstoppers.

However, now they do. "We realised that people are only wearing what Bollywood is wearing," says Rahul.

"The audience loves Bollywood and I feel it makes sense to call showstoppers. But it only happens in India. We hope the trend goes all over the world too."

In an interview with Anita Aikara/Rediff.com, Rohit and Rahul discuss their work, their best fashion decade and what they do when they are not working.

Why didn't Ranveer Singh walk the ramp at the FDCI show?

Ranveer Singh has always been our favourite showstopper.

He has walked around five times for us.

We wish we could have got him, but unfortunately his dates were busy.

How long does it take to put a collection together?

It takes as long as you can give it.

Once we start designing a collection, it can go on for months and months.

For the FDCI collection, we used some interesting embroideries which took over a year to develop.

At the same time, we were also experimenting and learning how to do things.

We had never done saris before, so it was a whole new world.

What we tried to offer through our collection is a global silhouette, because our customer is global now.

During the lockdown we learnt that we were getting NRIs to order a lot from us.

They were looking for an Indianness in the garments, and wanted something they could also wear for their red carpet occasions.

So we made our garments with a mix of red carpet and Indian culture put together.

Some of the pieces in the collection may look simple, but they have taken over 2,000 hours of workmanship.

WATCH: Rohit and Rahul discuss their FDCI collection.
Video: Hitesh Harisinghani/Rediff.com

 

Couture vs pret... how different is the experience? 

For us, doing couture was like working on a canvas, and we love to go wild with it.

We can express ourselves with couture without worrying about making multiple ensembles, because these are all one-of-a-kind pieces.

What are some of the challenges you experienced doing a physical show post the lockdown?

It's a lot to put a couture show of this magnitude with 30-40 models and so many garments.

The process takes a lot of time, but it's really exciting.

Also, the biggest challenge for us has been the lockdown, because we changed our teams and made it smaller. We all work like a family right now.

The two of you have been around for over two decades. You started off in the mid 1990s and are still going so strong. What's the secret?

Our brand of shirts H2O was launched in 1995 in Delhi. It was a huge rage.

Since then, it's been so many years of us working together. We think alike.

We'd say it is an achievement to get us together for an interview. Both of us are usually busy in separate projects.

We get inspiration every single day, but the DNA of the brand stays the same.

Our major thing is that we've not gone all out with the trends.

I think sticking to our signature style and believing in ourselves was the key to our success story which is lasted with us for 25 years.

IMAGE: Ranveer Singh at his reception wearing a hand-embroidered velvet tuxedo by Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna.
Photograph: Kind courtesy Ranveer Singh/Instagram

Where do you find your continued source of inspiration?

We travel all over the world and see things. Every day is a learning process for us.

Rahul loves architecture, and all our collections are inspired from our travels.

We have an art gallery and get to experience a lot of art, which really inspires us.

In the past, we have done a collection based on the work of different artists.

We love simplicity, construction and metallics.

For us to get into colours was also very tough.

Earlier, we used to only deal with dark greys, now we are moving into different colours.

Which has been the best fashion decade?

We love the disco era, we love the 1970s and Studio 54 (the famous disco located on 54th street in Manhattan, now extinct).

Fashion needs to keep evolving and we can't just stick to one era.

But then, of course, the Golden Era of fashion was really amazing.

Bollywood actresses like Parveen Babi and Zeenat Aman were huge inspirations, and they have stuck with us.

We saw Madonna and George Michael, we saw the Dynasty style with big shoulders.

We've seen androgyny and feminine fashion.

Our collections have elements from different eras.

It is a combination of things and silhouettes which have looked nice in the 1970s and 1980s.

Our past experiences, shows and mistakes have all taught us.

WATCH: Why Ranveer Singh is so special to Rohit and Rahul.
Video: Hitesh Harisinghani/Rediff.com

 

How would you describe your quintessential muse?

We have different muses at different points of time.

We like women who put their things together and are intelligent when working.

We've had many muses in the past. Our favorites have been amazing models like Nina Manuel, Bhavna Sharma and Meghna Reddy.

Feroze Gujral was our favourite; she was amazing.

The quintessential Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna muse is a woman who knows what she exactly wants.

She is not going to come to us with her mother and say, "Okay, I'll buy this."

That's the clientele we have been dealing with as well.

We take their side more than their mother, because they will be wearing the garment. 

Your favorite thing to do when you're not working?

We have an art gallery and have been collectors since two decades.

We find new artists and curate our own collections.

We love art and fashion is our work, but we love it as well.

We travel, visit museums and art studios, learn about the process and see what the artists are creating. That's what keeps us alive.

IMAGE: Anushka Sharma in an RGRK overlap beaded interstellar gown.
Photograph: Kind courtesy Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna/Instagram

The best advice that you've ever received in the fashion business?

When we started, there was no one to guide us.

We were children without Facebook and Instagram.

We just wanted to do it, so we did it! That's been our motto.

We have learned over the ages as we didn't have a lot of mentors.

Young designers are very lucky. They can see what the senior designers have done and learn from their mistakes.

Tips for aspiring fashion designers

Passion should not be the only reason for someone to get into the fashion industry.

Don't do it unless you're ready to give it your 100 per cent.

One needs to put in a lot of hard work.

There are several master classes conducted by top designers.

At the same time, many international fashion shows can be watched online.

One can learn from the masters, even if it is done through the Web. Come intern with us.

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ANITA AIKARA