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Saturday, October 31, 2020

Everyone is a front-row audience now, that’s the beauty of digital shows: Shantanu & Nikhil

Sibling couturiers, Shantanu and Nikhil talk about their eponymous label's latest collection 'Resurgence' where they revisited their classics such as goth-like applique work along with classical zardosi and more which was showcased at the ongoing ICW 2020.

Written by Shambhavi Dutta | New Delhi | Updated: September 22, 2020 6:55:17 pm
"As a brand, we have always aspired to do a digital show" says Shantanu. (Photo: PR handout/ Designed by Gargi Singh)

Leading courtier siblings Shantanu and Nikhil, who recently completed 20 years in the fashion industry, showcased their collection, ‘Resurgence’, at the ongoing India Couture Week on September 22. Talking about their latest show, which saw models sashay down the digital runway in luxe bridal wear, the designers reveal that their latest collection had a central emotion, ‘Hope’, “a message for us and for the world — that it’s time to leave behind the uncertainty & sorrow that gripped us.”

In an interview with indianexpress.com, the duo that refers to themselves as ‘chalk and cheese’ talks about the inspiration for the latest collection, their experience of showcasing as part of a digital show, if they feel it will open more avenues for them, and about the “long journey” they say still lies ahead of them.

Excerpts: 

Could you elaborate on the ‘new sustainable practices’ you have adopted as part of your design process? 

Deep down, sustainability has always been a part of a couturier’s profile. Haute couture is as slow as it gets; we make designs for a certain season and everything is made to measure. The most important thing about recovering revenues post-lockdown has been about ‘how can we possibly bring our consumers to full price with most consumers looking out for deep discounts’. But the whole idea of bringing back consumer confidence led us to create an initiative called Buyback. This is where we invited customers who bought our creations until five years ago. We will buy them back at a certain price by considering the quality and the condition. Post that, we give them credit vouchers for the value at which the old creations were sold to us in order to purchase new creations. Later, we reinvent the old creations and bring them back to life.

This was your first-ever digital show, how was the experience? If given a choice, would you prefer it over a physical show?

The current times have reinforced the belief that technology is certainly the way forward. Fashion as an entity has been a distant runner when it comes to amalgamating technology. As couturiers, we have always felt the need to have our brick and mortar, which lends a certain aspect of consumer experience where spoken confidentiality becomes the mainstay. For us, technology now is a little more further than just using social media. Now that digital has become a part and parcel and we will continue to explore, it was only natural for shows to become digital.

As a brand, we have always aspired to hold a digital show — even though a traditional show has its own charm — where the focus is only on clothes. However, by going digital, one happens to democratise fashion because it is more engaging, there’s a wider reach of audience, one is not restricted by a certain runway size or an amphitheatre. Not only that but luxury which is nichè becomes available to many. We have thoroughly enjoyed doing this, and with 6-7 minute shows becoming the need of the hour, we believe that this is not a fad. Digital shows are here to stay because they have a longer gestation period. 

READ| FDCI chairman Sunil Sethi on haute couture, Prêt-à-Porter and holding the first-ever digital India Couture Week

Are digital shows more lucrative in terms of audience and opening up creative avenues for designers? 

Absolutely, because you are cutting through geographical boundaries. Our e-invites have been sent to thousands of people who could be sitting anywhere in the world in different time zones. That is the beauty of it because everyone is a front-row audience now.  The rules of engagement have magnificently changed. There’s so much more that going digital brings to the table. However, editing here becomes the key. You may shoot the whole day but if you can’t crisply put it together in 6-7 minutes, then it doesn’t hold value. All the more, it definitely leads the artist to think in a different direction. As artists, it allows us to focus on a lot of things we always wanted to focus on but never had a chance to do so.

READ| Tech, newer platforms, reinventing: How designers plan to weather pandemic and beyond

Did the pandemic inspire your collection?

There’s a saying, ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going.’ This time changed the way we all think and reshaped a lot of values. This pretty much led to a shift in our mindset where we wanted to bring in our fundamental values by engaging our consumers. When this happens, your creativity becomes a precious commodity. This time triggered us to have a conversation with the best couturiers like Tarun Tahiliani, Sabyasachi, Manish Malhotra and Rahul Mishra and the important takeaway was that there will be a revival of the archival values and classics. We believed that couture will bounce back by reinventing and the focus will be on artisanal value and craftsmanship. In short, the pandemic provided us with the belief that it is all about design, creativity and providing our consumers with world-class products with world-class quality. 

READ| Tarun Tahiliani marks 25 years: The ace designer on his most memorable show and what continues to inspire him

There was a lot of metallic influence along with gold work done in handwoven silks AND brocades in your collection. What goes into weaving each of these fabrics? What was your thought process? 

Our collection, Resurgence, is broken into five different facets. It is an emotional representation of hope and also symbolises strength. We have always shown our women to be stronger and fiercer but our collection features seamless fluidity where the masculine meets feminine with lighter fabrics and drapes we are known for. The collection had women turbo-charging and paving the way for everyone to follow. For us, she is the beacon of hope which is where the metallic influences came into play to portray the power she exudes. Not only that but a lot more dramatic shades represented women while men were layered with feminine drapes. As far as the gold and sheen work, we have never presented the gold in an ostentatious manner but rather goth-like. This pretty much represents hope, the pillar on which resurgence is standing.  

READ| Miss the drama of physical shows, but the new format is more democratic: Falguni Shane Peacock on digital ICW 2020

Twenty years in the industry is a long time, could you talk about your journey? Also, how do you describe yourself as a team? 

As siblings, we are very different from each other, like chalk and cheese. Since childhood, Nikhil was rebellious while I (Shantanu) was more structured. We both had very different ways of looking at things, and had never thought of working together because Nikhil was studying fashion and I was studying finance but our time in the USA brought us together. When Nikhil showcased his graduating collection for his degree back then, it was way ahead of its time. I witnessed a lot of art and commerce coming together in his designs and from there onwards, I started studying about fashion while we set up a small unit to start our brand. This is when the brand was born in 2000. 

 

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A post shared by Shantanu and Nikhil (@shantanunikhil) on Sep 20, 2020 at 4:26am PDT

Here are some of the pieces from Shantanu and Nikhil’s Resurgence 

Resurgence collection by Shantanu and Nikhil at the India Couture Week 2020. (Photo: Karma Production) Resurgence collection by Shantanu and Nikhil at the India Couture Week 2020. (Photo: Karma Production) Resurgence collection by Shantanu and Nikhil at the India Couture Week 2020. (Photo: Karma Production) Resurgence collection by Shantanu and Nikhil at the India Couture Week 2020. (Photo: Karma Production) Resurgence collection by Shantanu and Nikhil at the India Couture Week 2020. (Photo: Karma Production) Resurgence collection by Shantanu and Nikhil at the India Couture Week 2020. (Photo: Karma Production)

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