From working towards reviving traditional textiles and crafts to dressing international style icons, designer Payal Jain is all about promoting Indian sensibilities on the global platform. Here, she opens up about her journey, sustainable practices in fashion, and what drives her passion. By Priyanka Chakrabarti
What does your brand signify?
My creations speak a global language, and yet are strongly Indian at heart. They are subtle, minimalistic and appeal to international citizens. I feel design is about translating an idea into form, shape, colour and texture, whatever the medium may be. I follow a simple approach of ‘less is more’ when it comes to design.
From humble beginnings in Delhi to dressing global trendsetters such as Victoria Beckham, Priyanka Chopra, and many others, your journey seems incredible.
I started my career almost two decades ago when I returned to India with a degree in fashion. It has been an incredible journey from the cobblestone streets of Hauz Khas Village to London’s Regent Street, Faubourg’s St Honore in Paris, Fifth Avenue in New York and San Francisco’s Union Square. The first few years of struggle still remain my most cherished memories, as they taught me to be self-reliant!
When I started my label, fashion was a grossly misunderstood term. We designers were treated as glorified tailors. Today, designers have a huge fan following and are treated like celebrities, but the journey to this has been long and hard. I feel blessed to have been a part of this evolution. Today, my creations sell across the globe and I have had the privilege of dressing some very discerning and successful women, who continue to be my inspiration.
What is the Indian fashion industry doing to promote Indian craftsmanship?
We are blessed to have such a rich and varied heritage of textiles and crafts, where each state has something unique to offer: from weaves to embroideries, and prints. Personally, it has been my prerogative to uphold our craft heritage. My team works with experts and clusters across the country to drive this tradition forward. However, it may not be possible for one single design house to change the landscape. It is my sincere hope that all Indian designers work with crafts in some way to create a strong revival. Having said that, I do feel we have made headway as far as promoting Indian textiles and crafts are concerned, but it is still a long journey ahead. Much sustained work and commitment are required from everyone in the fashion and textile industry to better the lives of weavers and artisans across India. I am happy to see the government creating so many new initiatives to promote textiles, and I sincerely hope this movement will gain momentum. It is up to our generation of designers to bring this heritage to the world, and make sure it translates into income for our talented craftspeople.
Sustainability is an emerging trend in Indian fashion. According to you, what does it really stand for?
I think it is time for the youth to start looking at sustainable fashion as a cool choice, besides being mindful of the benefits it would have for our planet. The design community must collectively become cognizant to the grave threats of rampantly growing landfills on Earth. A big culprit of this crisis is the garment industry and the concept of disposable fashion, where things are bought and discarded, simply because they are cheap! It is imperative for fashion designers to start using fabrics and yarns that do not simply collect somewhere and outlive us, humans. Also, mindlessly producing garments and turning them into trends must change before it is too late. We must all do our bit to minimise the burden on the planet and mindfully reduce, reuse and recycle.
Any advice for budding fashion designers who wish to carve a career in this industry?
You need to be passionate and madly in love with what you do. There is no short cut to hard work. It’s a long and arduous journey to the top, but one that can make all the hardships worthwhile, if you have faith in yourself and are willing to give it passion, integrity and commitment. Strong technical knowledge, the ability to reinvent yourself each season, skills to overcome hurdles, the ability to take both positive and negative feedback in your stride, forward-looking attitude, creative mindset, and resilience are attributes you must have to survive and succeed in the fashion business. It is also very important to be humble and learn to accept failure with the same grace as success.
What inspires your creations?
Travel, nature, history, and art. I feel that each garment should be an heirloom piece, to be passed down generations with pride. It should take the wearer on a resplendent journey of heritage and textile while telling a unique story. My love for India and its glorious past, rich culture, vast textile heritage, incredible costumes, musical legacy, art and architecture, have also been major inspiration.
How do you adapt yourself to the ever-evolving fashion industry, while retaining your individual style?
My fashion label is an extension of my personality. Fashion in India, in the past decade, has become experimental and very adventurous. It has been about the discovery and celebration of our glorious past and roots. Indian design has finally come of age, and its rich textile heritage is being rejoiced by designers and artists across several mediums. ‘Indianness’, which was once disregarded by the global audience, has become our biggest strength and identity. The world is looking at India for inspiration and we are at the helm of this revolution—a creative journey of exploration, experimentation and expression of our textile and craft legacy.
When it comes to conscious styling, what kind of breathable fabrics would you recommend that are good for the skin?
I think it is time for the youth to start looking at khadi as a fashionable choice for their wardrobe. The ruling perception is that khadi is a boring length of hand-spun cloth, which can be used only in saris, dhotis or kurtas, at best. This is far from true, as khadi cotton and silk can be used to create Western, Indian, Indo-Western and even couture silhouettes when used creatively. It is our responsibility, as Indians, to create new avatars of khadi and other handloom woven fabrics.
Fashion designers you look up to:
Elsa Schiaparelli, Paul Poiret and Azzedine Alaia
Top three styling advice for modern Indian women:
● Comfort, simplicity, understated elegance are important for a great corporate look
● Less is more. Don’t overdo your style statement
● Let your personality dictate your fashion and not the other way round!