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It’s intriguing to see the world shrink into a 4:3 screen: Designer JJ Valaya

Eminent couturier JJ Valaya, who recently showcased his latest collection at the India Couture Week 2020, talks about his experience of going digital, what about the Ottoman empire inspired him, and possible post-pandemic trends for bridal wear

Written by Shambhavi Dutta | New Delhi |
Updated: September 21, 2020 8:13:20 pm
Valaya narrated the Ottoman saga with his latest collection called 'Bursa'. (Photo: PR handout/ Designed by Gargi Singh)

He may have taken a sabbatical in 2017, but JJ Valaya is not new to the world of fashion — something he proved with his comeback collection, Tabriz, in September 2019. The designer, whose creations are synonymous with being larger-than-life, once again created a wave with his recent collection Bursa, inspired by a city in northwest Turkey.

The couturier’s latest collection, which comprised 48 pieces, was a visual delight on the ramp when it was showcased at the ongoing India Couture Week on September 20. “In our legacy of many endearing firsts over nearly three decades, we looked forward to being a part of yet another first in India, the FDCI Virtual India Couture Week. The latest collection, which has a nostalgic yet royal resonance, is inspired by the famed Ottoman silks, Ottoman miniatures known as ‘taswir’, and the famous ‘Topkapi’ palace jewels,” he said.

In conversation with the, Valaya talks about his experience of going digital, what about the Ottoman empire inspired him and possible post-pandemic trends for bridal wear.


What about the Ottoman empire inspired you?

This season’s collection is an ongoing journey of the royal nomad, which is the very basis of our brand. From last year to this one, we decided to continue taking the silk route and meander into 14th-17th century Turkey and the Ottoman Empire. We always get into the culture, history and hidden mystery of every period. There is so much to discover that we often feel one inspiration can last you a lifetime. But we are greedy and hop from time to time.

This year is going to be all about Bursa, a medieval city which also happens to be the first-ever capital of the Ottoman Empire and is still relevant in modern-day Turkey. But free-spirited and whimsical that we are, you may see us back in India or any other period next year.

What is your collection all about?  

Entire showcase revolves around the 3 key silhouettes of Indian weddings and celebrations: the lehenga, the sherwani and the sari along with the label’s latest addition: the IKA jacket. which is a younger sibling to ‘Alika’, one of our cult and iconic jackets.

What are your views on sustainable fashion, given that everyone is advocating slow fashion in the wake of the pandemic?

I am so glad that all this advocacy towards slow fashion is happening after my sabbatical. The only reason I took a sabbatical was to cut off from the rat race and have a marathon of my own. It’s not a sprint or a race and my competition is only with myself. I have always believed that couture is primarily sustainable as we create stuff which is top-of-the-line and endures. In other words, you are buying lesser clothes, but good quality clothes which last you longer, service couture has always provided.

We have brides from 27 years ago, who are coming to us to get their bridal clothes altered in their daughter’s sizes, which is a fine example of sustainability, as we have stood the test of time and generations. I expect more consumers of sustainable and conscious fashion, now that the pandemic has changed the pace of fashion and made it slow, just how it should be. Sustainability is going to be a keyword, which also means people will invest in only garments which are top and high quality, something that they can pull out and use again. We have always followed this belief and I’m glad the whole world is coming to terms with it. Values of tradition and values of craft are going to play an important role.

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What are your personal favourites from the collection? 

I don’t like to play favourites, but the two most special silhouettes are the saris and the lehengas. I’m impartial towards the craft, therefore all appeal to me in one way or the other.

How would you describe haute couture in the context of modern Indian fashion?

Haute couture, especially Indian haute couture, has to strike a perfect balance between being modern and timeless. It has to be relevant today, yet has to endure the test of time as much as possible. This is what makes it special and at the same time a challenge, because personally for me it is this very quality that is also exciting.

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What do you expect bridal trends to be in the post-pandemic scenario?

In terms of colour, it is still oscillating between reds and pastels, but we also have a distinct third category where we ombre our lehengas. We don’t stick to one colour but go through 3-4 shades in one single outfit. The biggest change is that since the events are smaller, the amount spent on weddings is not as much as it used to be. Given that the size of the events and gatherings are going to be much lesser, people are gravitating towards lighter and intimate clothing as opposed to heavier ensembles. Also, a significant segment of buyers is inclined towards conscious and sustainable luxury.

In the official ICW video, you mention that you are a geek. How was it holding a virtual fashion show? 

I have always been fascinated by technology. It’s intriguing for me to see the world being shrunk into a 4:3 screen. Even though it’s very important to stay connected to the past because so many beautiful riches and memories lie there, at the same moment, to be blind to technology is also silly. I think when you find that perfect balance, life becomes fabulous and even more interesting to look forward to.

I think as long as we get to create beauty, how we show it and how it is embraced is something we need to be in sync with the times. What’s exciting for me is that this is the first time the couture week is happening virtually, which is quite an experience, because when we were shooting and filming the entire show, it turned out to be significantly different from doing a 20-25 minute live presentation. We spent a lot of time to put it all together in the course of the day, but to then convert it into a 10-minute film is what is exciting, and more than that is the fact that suddenly you have an audience from anywhere in the world.

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So, the reach and the eyeballs go to another level, which according to me, is a big positive of doing this virtually and launching something online. We are a visual medium, and it makes perfect sense for people to see us onscreen, so it’s not an unnatural fit. I feel that given the circumstances we are in, and given that going digital was the only way to showcase the couture collection also aligns us to a wider audience; I think we may have unearthed an opportunity, which may become our way forward, where virtual and real-time stores and shows will co-exist, but the virtual will become even stronger.

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Here are some of the pieces from the designer’s Bursa collection

Bursa collection by JJ Valaya at the India Couture Week 2020. (Photo: Anx media, Anchal Seth) Bursa collection by JJ Valaya at the India Couture Week 2020. (Photo: Anx media, Anchal Seth)  JJ Valaya, JJ Valaya designer, JJ Valaya indian designer, india couture week 2020, india couture week 2020 dates, india fashion week 2020, fdci, JJ Valaya bursa collection ICW, JJ Valaya Bursa collection 2020, digital couture fashion week, digital couture fashion week 2020, India Couture Week 2020 news, india couture week 2020 JJ Valaya, fdci couture week 2020 Bursa collection by JJ Valaya at the India Couture Week 2020. (Photo: Anx media, Anchal Seth) Bursa collection by JJ Valaya at the India Couture Week 2020. (Photo: Anx media, Anchal Seth) Bursa collection by JJ Valaya at the India Couture Week 2020. (Photo: Anx media, Anchal Seth)

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