Designer JJ Valaya is in his usual uniform a black waistcoat,his hair gathered in the customary knot. Theres a hint of new energy as he bounds up the steps of his 10,000 square feet flagship store on MG road,flamboyantly titled the JJ Valaya Life,housed in a new,still desolate mall,The Gallery. Life,he confides,has constantly been throwing surprises in the last few years. The economic slowdown had resulted in lethargic business and rumours of being in the doldrums have been circulating for a while. With the opening of the new store,many now feel that the tide is finally turning for Valaya. The man himself though is quiet about it. Its not a turn-of-the-century year for me. You keep surprising yourself, said Valaya,shrugging off the big-moment tag,asserting that theres only some more new enterprises to come this year.
To begin with,the closet photographer is ready for a grand coming out with a gala show in December. It was a hobby which I have started taking seriously when people kept saying my work compares with art photography, laughs Valaya,who usually shoots his own ad campaigns. In his sprawling office in Manesar,his photographs are framed around the office from images of his daughter to that of a young street urchin,from a campaign shoot to a family photograph. Then in November,he is readying for the launch of a new line of lightning and glass installations in collaboration with Klove,the Hauz Khas-based design studio.
However,all attention is trained on his new flagship store at the moment. The store,designed like the home of a well-heeled collector,shows the designers ready-to-wear fashion line. There are mannequins showcasing his latest runway collection,photos by Valaya of models in his creations,interspersed with collectibles such as vintage ceramic bulls,and antique Jamavar shawls and rich tapestries lining the walls. The JJ Valaya Life outlet also houses the designers other labels Valaya Home,the ready-to-wear labels,Valaya Quantum and Valaya Base.
His latest muse a fictional character named Alika has inspired him to come up with a jacket he wishes to immortalize. I want to make it the staple look,a single silhouette which will never change till I die, says Valaya,about the limited edition jacket. Twelve pieces would be made each month and the first in the series will be in jamavar. But will there be any takers for this high-on-embroidery must have with the advent of such trendy ready-to-wear brands like Zara? The Alika is a not a low-key piece. It is dramatic and needs a certain amount of elegance to carry it off. After 20 years in fashion,Im sure there will be people who would love to wear it, says Valaya as he greets socialite Nishi Singh.
The red-carpet opening on Friday with the capitals stiletto set seemed to substantiate his faith. Singh pronounced the setting stunning as she took a tour of the The Muse Chambers a space for the elegantly up-to-date clients complete with a trial room and a dining area. In one corner,the rose-tinted showstopper lehenga,worn by actor Kangana Ranaut at its unveiling at a recent fashion week,finds pride of place.
Designers Hemant Sagar and Rohit Bal added their own awestruck narrrative to it. The place is magical and has a feel of luxury, said Sagar,as he swivelled his wine while Varun Bahl found the collectibles interesting. I liked the few digital prints on the walls, he said. Socialite Neera Nath,who showed up togged in an Hermes scarf and black skirt drummed up the old rhetoric, The Alika jacket is more than a creation,it is a work of art and since it is a singlet it can be paired with trousers as well as over a gown, she said. The making of a good year to come? Valaya only shrugs.