Setting the Fashion Barometer - Neha Khullar Talk with You & I

It’s only been three years since designer Neha Khullar launched her eponymous label, and already it’s made the leap from fledging brand to fashion insider favourite. Celebrating heritage and tradition with aplomb, Neha’s collections are regularly spotted on the red carpet. You & I caught up with the Delhi-based designer to find out more.

How did you get into designing?
Despite having an MBA background, I was always inclined towards fashion. And even though I don’t have any formal training in it, I have an inbuilt fashion sense, which motivated me to follow my passion. I started with my collection, which was well received. This appreciation prompted me to expand my horizons by supplying clothes to stores nationally, as well as internationally. I also started participating in fashion shows under different categories, which has finally gotten me to this point of being called a designer.

How have you evolved as a designer?
Initially, when I started my line of clothing, my primary focus was on trends and innovations. However, the more I got involved in this, the closer I grew to the roots and culture, which I tried to incorporate in my collection. My evolution as a designer and growth of the brand is the only constant that I have in mind, and the only concrete inspiration that I believe the brand needs.
As far as my design goes, it represents my journey. I always try to find new inspiration from heritage, literature or anything in the world around me, and then I adapt them and make them my own.

It’s been said that the fashion industry is all style and no substance. Agree?
I personally think that it is more of style with substance. Style wouldn’t be able to create much of an impact if you can’t deliver substance. If it is just style dominated then it would be hollow; hence style and substance work hand in hand. For instance, most of the Indian fashion industry is based on a very strong textile base. Maybe the Indian fashion industry is known for more of the style part, but it has a lot of depth.

What are your favourite materials to work with?
Since my collection incorporates a lot of hand embroidery, I mainly work with French wires and metallic threads, as they result in beautiful hand embroidery. I also prefer using sheer fabrics like organzas, cottons, silks and other fabrics.

Are there any particular designers whom you most admire?
Ellie Saab and Valentino are my designer aspirations. There are very few designers who I feel manage to create magic on the ramp. Both these designers have a strong aesthetic sense, and I aspire to be as great as them in the near future.

What would your ideal muse be like?
My ideal muse would be someone who can carry herself with infallible ease. She has an Indian face with global appeal, someone who understands fashion, its impact, and influences – someone like Deepika Padukone. I would love to style her someday!

Tradition versus innovation - how do you maintain the right balance?
An amalgamation of both tradition and innovation is very important. I tend to derive the tradition from my roots and culture, and incorporate it with today’s trends. They go hand in hand. As I experiment with different fabrics and silhouettes, I try to innovate an outfit keeping the modernity and tradition in mind.
What single item is a must to update a woman’s wardrobe?
Saree, without a doubt. A classic saree is a must-have in every woman’s wardrobe, as it never goes out of fashion.

What do you feel are the top trends for 2016?
Cold shoulder blouses with ruffles or puffy sleeves (like in the Victorian style) are in vogue this year. All of these styles incorporated in sheer fabrics can add grace and style to your outfits.       
– as told to Anisha