Since his ramp debut at Lakme Fashion Week in 2006, designer Arjun Saluja’s label Rishta has been known for embracing the unconventional and sidestepping stereotypes. With its exaggerated shapes, artful symmetry of structure and drape, and its gender-blurring silhouettes, Rishta’s non-conformist and unapologetic style stance has found a staunch following, much like its reticent maker. So, when Saluja decided to launch his diffusion line called Essentials, which he calls “a derivative of the Rishta label”, it came as a pleasant surprise to fashion watchers.
Launched at Atosa in Mumbai in August, Saluja unveiled the line for his Delhi clientele at Ensemble, DLF Emporio, last Wednesday. Essentials offers stylised renditions of some of Saluja’s trademark silhouettes — dhoti pants, pathani tunics, salwar pants, lehenga pants and bushirts. “We wanted to take our cutting techniques, tailoring and design aesthetics, simplify them and offer a more muted look — something that can be worn anytime, anywhere. It’s a simpler version of a Rishta garment,” explains Saluja. “The idea is to take the essence of something that’s everyday and mundane, from the streets, and make it infinitely interesting. Here, we’ve used the concept of overcoats and outer wear to create basics,” he adds. Subdued shades of brown, blue, rust and green bathe Saluja’s signature non-fussy and eclectic fusion of western and Indian shapes that comprises Essentials.
While Rishta is often branded as being conceptual and androgynous, Saluja shrugs off all labels with an emphatic: “Androgyny is a state of mind. It’s not just about a shirt or a pair of pants.” But he doesn’t deny that Essentials has a more approachable aesthetic that buyers will identify with.
With more and more designers toying with the idea of affordable and lucrative lines, Saluja also admits to being prompted by this “newer, younger market”.
“Initially, we pushed boundaries to make people understand the essence of the brand. Now, it’s time for us to see what we can offer in terms of diffusion or pret, and how we, as a design label, can also be part of this growing market,” he says. Free of seasonal restrictions, the Essentials line will be developed year-round, informs Saluja.