Wearable Wonders

Pankaj & Nidhi Ahuja talk with You & I
You’re known for your signature prints and patterns. Did you always place your faith in them?
When you start off in design, you can’t really predict what will work and what won’t. The only thing we had an inkling of was that we would express our creativity visually, in the form of graphics interpreted via prints and embroideries. That’s what we worked towards. It feels overwhelming to know that they have been accepted this way.
How has your signature developed over the years?
It has evolved to become more wearable and desirable, so we think it’s grown magnificently. When you’re part of a team, things don’t work individually, and that has been in our favour. Over the years, our ideas have become refreshingly different – quite international, so to speak. In this day and age, we’re affected by globalisation to the extent that you no longer think of just Indian audiences when you design. Work is about meeting the demands of the globe. While Europe is divorced from colour and focuses strongly on structure, we work with textiles, structure, body, colours and patterns. There’s a riot of things happening out here!
As designers, how do you deal with creative differences?
Luckily, we don’t have very many!
Fashion design in India is still a burgeoning market. Do you have any collaboration efforts in mind?
Collaborations are in fact the way of the future, whether that’s with e-commerce specialists or manufacturers. Two is better than one.
What are the current trends?
Creating an identity in the age of information, as well as retail overload.
When people look at your work, what do you want them to see?
An idea of the colours and shapes for the season, coupled with style and wearability that are not intimidating.
Not everything you display on the ramp is wearable in daily life. Why is that?
We wouldn’t agree with that line of thought. We focus a lot on wearability. Daily life is a relative term; we don’t make clothes for college students or for women to wear to the market. The definition of ‘wearable’ varies from person to person. For the ramp, you can either throw in pieces, presenting them in a dramatic, eye-catching way, or you could simply choose to display what a contemporary woman can wear. No matter what we do, we always see our collections find their way onto racks, and that’s a great feeling. It is another prize when our target audience finds our work wearable, both on and off the ramp. After all, that’s the entire reason we do what we do.
Why do you think many professionals retail at multi-designer and concept stores, rather than at stores dedicated to their work only?
It has a lot to do with economics and the affordability factor. Setting up a standalone store means you’ve got to have a good place, a high margin of investment, and the willingness to take risks. Apart from the design aspect, one has to have a concrete business and marketing plan to make the most of an exclusive outlet.
Tell us about your clientele.
Anyone who values craft and workmanship.
Define your work in one word?
We’re not linguists, so it’s hard for us to pick just one. We live by the three Cs of design: craft, colour and contemporary.
Of all the celebrities who’ve sported your pieces, who is your favourite?
Each has her own sense of style, so it’d be unfair to name just one. We admire them all.
What’s your USP?
Originality, and staying new and inventive season after season.     

..... as told to Anahita