Mumbai-born fashion designer Abhishek Advani has carved his own identity in London after he set afloat his eponymous luxury menswear label ‘Advani’. It all started when his designs caught the eye of the British Fashion Council, and he was invited to launch his label at London Collections: Men in January 2015. Shedding light on his journey from India to the UK, Advani said: “I grew up in Mumbai and left for Oxford when I was 17”. Thereafter, he moved to London and also lived for some time in New York, Tokyo and Singapore. Ask him why the decision to start his design label in the UK and not India, and pat came the reply: “I felt India had a story to tell not just to Indians but to the rest of the world. A story about textiles, fashion, heritage and luxury and no one was telling it outside of India.”
Advani’s silhouettes quickly became a red carpet favourite for some of Britain’s top stars — from Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne, Imitation Game fame Alex Lawther, Jason Statham, Jamie Dornan, Tom Sturridge, Pedro Pascal, Jack Savoretti and Gabriel Day Lewis, the son of Daniel Day Lewis. In a conversation with indianexpress.com, the fashion designer, who draws from his family heritage and childhood memories, spilled the beans on his fashion inspiration, wedding style statements for men and tips for the festive season.
What made you gravitate towards designing menswear?
It all started with the bandh gala, or as it is otherwise known, the Nehru jacket. It originated in London and became popular in India and then in London again. Then it went into decline in London and I wanted to revive it there. As a man, I felt more passionate about menswear and closer to it. Menswear is having its moment all over the world and I wanted to be a part of that.
Your designs have an Indian touch even though they are mainly for men in the UK, so where do you get your design inspirations from?
Traditional Indian costumes especially Mughal clothing, kurtas, dhotis, jodhpurs, and the like. Advani’s heritage comes from my grandfather, the uncrowned king who combined the sartorial codes of London and Bombay like no other, and had a very unique, individual style.
Do you see people abroad getting inspired by the Indian fashion, and how?
Absolutely. India’s influence on the fashion world has never been stronger. Rich patterned fabrics, intricate embroideries, silk brocades, all originating from India, are commonplace in all the most recent shows. Above and beyond fashion, Indian practices – be it Ayurveda, yoga, wedding traditions (and parties!) or food are at the top of any global citizen’s list. This year in London, Jamavar and Jikoni, two top Indian restaurants, both very recently opened, received a Michelin star.
Men’s fashion has seen a change in the last few years as compared to earlier when they were comfortable in the basic shirts and trousers. What do you think?
It has never been as exciting a time in men’s fashion as each man is keen to have his own individual style, however subtle. Dressing up is a choice, no longer a necessity, and the way this is expressed is equally interesting in men of all ages. Blazer silhouettes vary from short to long, boxy to fitted, and people no longer follow trends, but stick to styles and colours that suit their body shapes. The result is the most flattering. The influence of luxe sportswear such as bomber jackets and brightly printed shirts have brought a much wider variety of silhouettes to the classic man’s wardrobe.
What are the challenges you face as an Indian designer in the UK?
Surprisingly, none that I can think of, if anything people find it very interesting… At least, so far!
Do you think Indian designers, when designing for a foreign clientele, tone down their style and colours to suit a different mind set? Or do you think that’s not true at all?
Yes, I think so, and I do understand why. Foreign clients are often used to less embellishment than we are. However, this line is becoming far more blurry and many Indian clothes in their traditional form fit right in with global high fashion.
While women have a variety of style to experiment during the wedding season, how can men spruce up their wedding attire?
For the first time, men’s evening wear has become about being different to everyone else, rather than conforming to a very classic black tie look. Colour is far less of a taboo and burgundy and navy have become the new black. Velvet is the fabric of the season in a variety of rich, dark colours, including emerald and teal. While ties are becoming less common, small accessories and jewellery are a great way to accessorise. Personalised buttons, cufflinks, or perhaps a bracelet or ring. A vintage watch also adds a beautiful touch.
Would you like to venture out into womenswear as well, perhaps sometime in the future?
Yes, certainly, however it can start off with women’s tailoring. Nehru jackets, blazers, Jodhpuri trousers and shirts for women.
5 tips to style yourself for the festive season?
* Be yourself
* Less is more
* Invest in better quality, classic pieces
* Grooming: hair, nails, skin and sleep(!) are as important as clothes
* Wear velvet
What kind of styles can we expect from your future collections?
We will continue to develop the tailoring with a combination of classic and very special fabrics. This will be the core. Separately, we will push all the boundaries to create truly unique pieces that tell the India story in a contemporary way.