In 2000, a young fashion graduate Alpana Mittal bagged the most coveted job among all her contemporaries. She became the design assistant of noted couturier JJ Valaya. The National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) graduate worked with him for years before starting her own label with Neeraj Chauhan. “Those were the most enriching five years, and the experience and knowledge I gained working with JJ helped me start my own label,” reminisces Mittal.
At the upcoming Amazon India Fashion Week Spring-Summer 2017 finale, Mittal will relive and re-engage with her teacher once again. Only this time, as a designer in her own right. The fashion week begins in Delhi on October 12, and the finale on the fifth day will see a unique guru-shishya presentation. “The theme of the show is ‘Modern Festive’. The aim is to showcase the current set-up of the Indian fashion industry that boasts a mix of veteran designers and newer labels, and their take on the theme,” says Mittal.
Ever since the announcement was made and the designers were approached for the show, the brief was clear. “True to the tradition of guru-shishya, my work as a mentor was to plant a seed, an idea, and steer the shishya in that direction. I didn’t want them to break out of their existing style,” says Valaya, who admits that working with the two young designers was exciting.
While the veteran designer represents the old guard of Indian fashion, Alpana & Neeraj are the new order. Apart from a generation gap, the two have a radically different design aesthetic. Opulence, traditional embroideries, rich textiles are Valaya’s forte, while edgy, new-age design and structured silhouettes are what Alpana & Neeraj are known for. So, will the twain meet and roll out a fusion line?
“No. The idea is not to deviate from one’s signature style. There will be two collections and each will be true to the design ethos of each label but they will look cohesive. There will be commonality without confusion,” says Valaya.
Going back to Valaya, admits Mittal, was like reviving an old bond. “One of the most important lessons anyone can learn from JJ is clarity of thought. He didn’t interfere in our designs but just nudged us in the direction that was in line with the larger picture,” she says. Till now, Alpana & Neeraj have steered clear of traditional embroideries. “The challenge was how to fit our thought process in the theme of modern and festive. This is where JJ helped us. We have incorporated embroideries in this collection, but the interpretation is our own,” says Mittal. For the collection, the duo has got fabrics woven, and inform that while Valaya’s collection will be all about the festive aspect, their own range will add the modern element.