The veteran designer Ashish N Soni tells Travel+Leisure India & South Asia why he needs to take at least two vacations in a year and how his escapades around the globe have shaped his fashion aesthetics. By Chirag Mohanty Samal
Designer Ashish N Soni has been in the fashion industry for three decades and has a series of milestones to his name. He is the first Indian designer to showcase at New York Fashion Week, he is known to have redefined the white shirt and given it a fresh identity, and his sharply tailored clothes with clean and minimalistic aesthetics have created a brand value, giving him a distinct place in the Indian fashion map. That’s not all, he is also one of the first designers to extend androgynous aspects to womenswear. His chic, structured clothes have found place in celebrity wardrobes and global runways alike. However, there’s one aspect of him that not many know about. He is an avid traveller and he takes time off each year to go on road trips around the world.
Excerpts from the interview with Ashish N Soni
T+L India: You have completed 30 years in the industry and broken many stereotypes. How would you describe your journey?
Ashish N Soni: Each decade has had its own flavour to be honest. The first decade in the ‘90s held a lot of uncertainty as the industry was naïve. There were few clients especially for western wear and even fewer stores that sold designer wear. So, one had to take charge and design, create their own studios that doubled as stores, organise fashion shows, etc. It was a dynamic time and being amongst the first 10-12 designers in the country allowed us to build a strong brand recall.
In the next decade, markets started getting organised and the Indian fashion industry started getting attention from foreign buyers and fashion weeks. From 2005 to 2007, I participated in New York Fashion Week and discovered the international fashion scene. The second decade of this century is seeing a consolidation of sorts where only the fittest continue in this ever changing business.
T+L India: You have collaborated with different brands; do you think collaborations are the way forward?
Ashish N Soni: It’s definitely the way forward. It allows the designer to work with different mediums and create an interesting mix that can be amplified and most importantly, allows design to broaden its reach and test new markets. The ultimate beneficiary is the customer who gets to experience designer wear at a more democratic entry point.
T+L India: Tell us about Indya and the festive line you designed for them?
Ashish N Soni: As a designer, I’m always looking to work on projects that challenge me to step out of my comfort zone, so when Indya approached me for a collaboration, I was excited. The brand has established itself at a reasonable price in the women’s occasion wear industry. More importantly, their contemporary design values merge beautifully with mine. They gave me a free hand to develop a collection that represented my sensibilities. Together we’ve created an exciting Indian wear collection with a chic and modern edge.
T+L India: How does travel inspire you?
Ashish N Soni: I am a true believer of the benefits that travel has on one’s mind and soul. I try to take at least two vacations with my family every year. Apart from providing me with much-needed rest, it is also my biggest source of inspiration. I feel my international exposure has added to my global design voice.
T+L India: Which are some of your favourite cities and why?
Ashish N Soni: It may sound like a cliché but London and New York are my favourite cities. Europe is special and I really enjoy the cities and smaller destinations in Italy and Spain for their food, scenic views and joie de vivre.
T+L India: Which city do you feel is rife with fashion inspiration?
Ashish N Soni: Paris, undoubtedly has the most stylish people and forward-thinking fashion. One just needs to sit on a roadside cafe to experience Parisians’ confidence in fashion and individualistic style quotient.
T+L India: Your favourite shopping destination?
Ashish N Soni: I love shopping in Italy, whether it’s at the big names in Milan or the tiny stores in Amalfi, there is always something exciting to find.
T+L India: How does one build a travel capsule wardrobe that would work anywhere in the world?
Ashish N Soni: It’s an art that’s not easily achieved as we all have a tendency to overpack. So, my first advice is to pack whatever fits into a small carry on. Choose pieces that work both for business and pleasure, and ones that require least ironing.
T+L India: What is your happiest travel memory?
Ashish N Soni: In 2015, I had the most wonderful holiday with my family, where we drove for almost 10,000 kilometres across Switzerland, Austria, and Liechtenstein. It was a special trip.
T+L India: What’s on your travel bucket list?
Ashish N Soni: I want to go to the Caribbean and experience its phenomenal beaches.