WHEN designers Ankur and Priyanka Modi of luxury pret label AM:PM decided to take a leap of faith into the big, bustling world of Indian couture, dialling up the volume on their understated and contemporary retelling of Indian classics, it proved to be a challenge and a blessing. For nearly 13 years, the husband-wife duo has sent out refined ready-to-wear collections that focussed on finesse and clean lines. Even as their debut couture collection “Zivar” hits stores, Priyanka reflects: “In the beginning, it proved to be difficult for someone who always works backwards to keep costing down. Then, we realised that we were in Disneyland. With no budget restrictions, we could go all out and play with fabrics, embroideries, colours and silhouettes. There was a lot of creative freedom.” They are now focussing on opening 15 stand-alone stores across the country by the end of the year. Excerpts from an interview with Priyanka:
Why did you feel the need to launch a couture collection now?
When we started out 13 years ago, there were a lot of couturiers and only a handful of designers doing luxury pret. We gravitated towards pret and presented the ‘India modern’ concept that has become popular lately. But, even as our customer base grew, we realised that they were also looking for the same aesthetics in occasion wear. They wanted the understated elegance to extend to a more dressy line. We have grown to nine retail stores on the strength of our pret collections. We felt the need to offer customers something else. So, we thought the time was perfect to transition to a heavier line, albeit with the same aesthetics and values.
Couture in India is associated with excess, which is not a word one would associate with your label. How do you plan to combat that perception?
When you’re so used to producing understated clothes, you naturally transfer those same instincts to other areas of your work as well. One can tone the look of a garment down with threadwork embroidery, choice of fabric and treatment. For instance, you can wear a heavy velvet threadwork jacket with a pre-draped lightly-textured ivory sari or team a peplum jacket with a woven asymmetric Chanderi skirt. You can play with separates and keep it modern, which means not necessarily covered in embroidery, overtly ornate or cumbersome.
Tell us about your debut couture collection.
We find inspiration in indigenous handicrafts and have worked on collections inspired by Iznik pottery from Turkey, the potters of South America and black sheesham wood inlay work from Hoshiarpur, Punjab, in the past. This time around, for ‘Zivar’ (which means silver) the basic inspiration has been derived from bidriware, which is a craft where silver inlay is done on black metal. Bidri work motifs have been translated into embroideries and prints. The collection starts with black and ivory, which is unusual for occasionwear, but the combination has been our signature for many years. There’s also some blood red and then a softer summer palette of rose, mint and sea green. The shapes too are different from what is available in bridalwear. There are printed capes, asymmetric pleated skirts, peplum jackets, wrapped and off-shoulder blouses —a hint of sexy with classic.