Designer duo Amrita Khanna and Gursy Singh have, in time, become (unintended) trendsetters in the Indian sartorial space. The co-creators of Lovebirds have often been inspired by their travel pursuits. However, due to the pandemic, Khanna and Singh were compelled to change their outlook and “looked outside and around for creative stimulus”. The result, rightly called ‘Indian Summer’, is an assortment of vibrant outfits that were visualised keeping in mind nostalgic memories—you’ll find an abstract touch of Delhi’s Amaltas trees, ripples in rivers have been transformed into a wavy stripe, rocks from the river banks of Himachal are given a graphic twist, so on and so forth. We speak to the duo about their summer ’22 collection, how in sync are they as creative partners, and more. Excerpts from an interview…
Unlike your previous collections, this one has seen you experimenting with colours (deviating from the regular muted palette) and even trends. Tell us what is new in ‘Indian Summer’?
For this collection, we wanted to challenge our belief and explore varied body shapes and sizes, and be as inclusive as possible as our brand focus has been mainly on character rather than body forms. Thus, we have designed this collection for the consciously-driven, modern, independent woman.
Coming to the colour palette, we wanted to give it a mood lift and drift away from what we usually do. People have gone through enough and more during the pandemic and we all could use some vibrancy and pop of colours. To give effect to this, we explored newer, special fabrics, and dug into our bank of prints that we keep building year after year. Gen-Z was kept in mind as well—they have a fresher perspective, and a more confident and evolved outlook toward gender norms, body forms, shapes, sizes, etc., and that is part of our brand philosophy too.
I see your clothing as a perfect blend of form (anti-fit) and function (comfort/utilitarian). What is the kind of consumer you design for?
We have always been a favourite among extremely confident, urban women who have travelled enough and whose values emanate from the beauty of mind than the body. Our consumer knows that it is the intellect that counts and not the shape or form. Our consumers are professionals, entrepreneurs, artists, etc., who keep making a name for themselves on an everyday basis.
For them to be on-the-go and hands-on, and yet express themselves through fashion, they seek design and silhouettes that are functional in approach and appealing to their own design sensibilities. For example: our consumers have to have pockets in their outfits. There have been a couple of instances when they have sent back their purchases asking us to put pockets—the outfit has to be utilitarian for today’s women.
As a brand, you have worked against the conventional ideas of fashion, especially at a time when the average Indian was naïve with respect to embracing a non-conformist sartorial approach. Has the average Indian consumer embraced your aesthetic?
When we first started out, people doubted us for venturing into a market where a sea of brands already exist and where minimalism doesn’t work. It was a challenge because we were (and have been) all about simple cuts and silhouettes which have no embroideries. We were one of the forerunners in bringing minimalism, timeless fashion, and quality in the country.
There have been times when people would pass by our counters at trade shows saying our offerings are akin to menswear. So, it was tough to make people understand our design language at first. However, what worked was for them to simply try on a piece, and that turned out to be essential for conversion. Since then, while there has been a considerable customer evolution, it is also the education that we undertook to understand the demographic better and speak to them via our clothes.
Your clothing reflects Amrita’s strong background in fashion and Gursy’s expertise in graphic design. Creatively, are you both in sync at all times (difficult for most creative partners)? And when not, how do you balance it out?
On the contrary, we seem to have achieved a great sense of balance now that we have been working together for so long. While Gursy handles more of the creative aspect, I lead the business front although, we both collaborate creatively and consensually on all decisions.
I have read that your design inspirations are limitless: there are Japanese and Nordic aesthetics along with Dieter Rams’ principles. ‘Honest and unobtrusive design’ is common to all three. Tell us if your brand has evolved to embrace other similar/different inspirations over time.
We are always trying to evolve ourselves and take inspiration from our travels, key art movements like the Bauhaus art scene, or architecture, shapes, and even Gursy’s hometown–Chandigarh. Due to the pandemic, we have gone inwards because there was no opportunity to find inspiration from outside. We indulged in getting inspired from our memories and nostalgia because that was what kept us going and instilled hope that there will come a day when we would be out again to relive those memories.
You have moved into embracing trans-seasonal clothing. Do you plan to bring out capsule collections instead of adhering to the fashion calendar? Also, did the pandemic influence this decision?
For our collections, we are mostly inspired from our explorations and travels. With limited mobility owing to the pandemic, it’s difficult to envision and build new things when you are in complete isolation and lacking in inspiration/newer experiences. We found ourselves in deep introspection while brainstorming on reinvention.
It made us savour the slow way of life, breaking us out of the inevitable loop of ‘hustle and grind' and pushed us to make more responsible choices. It has been a few years since we moved away from creating typically ‘seasonal’ collections to more story and design-driven ones that feature timeless, versatile pieces that can be worn throughout the year.
Lovebirds launched a debut menswear collection in 2019. Do you plan to focus on menswear in the future?
Menswear is a totally different ball game—for us especially. We have done two collections in the past and while they both were successful, we would love to focus on menswear in the future because we feel it is a proper commitment and requires investment from our side.
We do keep receiving requests about our menswear offerings, also because our tailoring is inspired by the cuts and fits that reign the segment. But the category is too demanding for us at the moment.
Many Indian and international designers have moved from clothing to accessories, and are now focusing on home collections. Any such/what are your future plans for Lovebirds?
We do this exercise every year where we venture into design and not just clothing. Every year, we have a blueprint ready with design and products that we want to bring in our portfolio. But each category is demanding in its own way.
Nevertheless, this time around, we have brought bags in collaboration with Tanned. We have developed jewellery as well. We also have shoes in the making, which will take some time. And we are also working on Indian elements like chataai [mat], hand-held fan, and ceramics, which we are very excited about.