Rising To The Challenge

Varun Bali Talks with You & I
How did your fashion journey begin?
I always wanted to be a designer. It was just one of those things that came to mind when I was still in school. I was fascinated by clothes, and my family was in the garment export industry, so I sort of grew up watching them being made. I’d decide what my parents would wear when they went out, and I was told that I had a good eye for fashion. When that interest kept growing, I made a profession out of it, and I’m now living my dream. My entire family has good taste in clothing, so you could say it kind of runs in the genes!
How do you create so many unique collections year after year? What is your thought process?
A lot of thought goes into each collection. You have to sketch and conceptualise what you are going to make, and you also need to pick up from where you left off with the last one. What I do is look at the last garment of my previous show and think of how I can improve on that.
Where does inspiration come from?
It can be anything, many different things, actually. Colours are my biggest strength. My collection has a good balance of colours, so there may be a strong one on top with ivory at the bottom. I like colourful ensembles, as well as beige and neutrals.
Do you have a specialty?
It’s got to be embroidery and surface texturing. I like designing Western outfits, but I can’t build a business in India with that. However, Indian clothes are so much more challenging. You can count the number of silhouettes you have in Indian wear, but within that, you have to keep creating something new. There are very few techniques for embroidery, and only three or four auspicious colours for the wedding market. To make something new within such tight parameters is a great challenge.
What’s your target audience like?
I go after people with discerning eyes for detail and quality; people who understand the pain that goes into making a garment. A well-travelled career woman with great taste, someone who is elegant and at the same time has quirk and edge; that’s who I go after. Definitely not someone who wants to buy what looks heavy and shiny.
Why is it you don’t devote much attention to menswear?
I have had some of the biggest shows for menswear in this county, but the bottom line is that women’s wear is a much bigger market in India. There is no fashion week in the country dedicated to menswear, and that’s why I don’t venture into that line too often. But it’s a great idea to have shows for men now, though it’s still not that big. Men don’t like to change their brands that often. A man knows which brand suits him, which size and cut fit him well. It was always difficult to get a man to shop, and now that everything is available online, it has become even more difficult!
Who is your favourite designer?
What is your favourite fabric?
I like a couple, but at the moment, I like working with net.
If you had a million dollars, how would you spend it?
I would get a new wardrobe. Making clothes for me is my team’s last priority, so designers don’t have it that easy.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Happiness is a relative term. For me, a good meal is happiness. An evening out with close friends is happiness, or a good holiday. Making people laugh is happiness; making a good collection or a successful show is happiness. I’m a happy person.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
My weight.
Which living person do you most admire and why?
My parents. They’re lovely, and they inspire, encourage and support me a great deal.
Tell us more about yourself.
I like watching English soaps; my current favourite is ‘Downton Abbey’. I like watching period films and shows, and in my spare time, I play Candy Crush. I like trying new restaurants and food joints, but sometimes I like to just sit back at home, and watch television with one or two close friends. I’m an outgoing, fun-loving person who can be borderline schizophrenic at times. I have great family values, but I’m also a man of contradictions.       

..... as told to Niharika