Even though it is early on a Saturday morning, there is a fair bit of to-ing and fro-ing at the lower level of the Taj Palace, New Delhi. We are here for the fitting session for couturier JJ Valaya’s show at the FDCI India Couture Week 2022 in association with Lotus Make-up set to take place at the JW Marriott New Delhi Aerocity. Models are seen being attentive to details doled out by choreographers while make-up artists are busy revisiting looks that will make it to the event. Amid the flurry of activity, you find ace couturier JJ Valaya calmly meandering around the space, giving his inputs all while inspecting every single move carefully.
A lot has transpired this year for Valaya and his brand. To start with, he celebrates three decades in the industry. Then there was the recent launch of The World of Valaya, his flagship store in the city, which brings together his “three primary loves—fashion, interiors, and photography”. Next up, he will be launching a precious jewellery line with Jagdish Jewellers Chandigarh (1866) “Sketches are being done, we will be ready with that line in three to four months.” Overall, it looks like Valaya has reached the zenith of luxury that he often refers to, “Experientially, luxury has to be up there… There are no shortcuts. You have to take everything to the nth level—the experience, the space, the detailing, your staff; obviously your product comes number one.”
Stressing on how there is just about so much going on, we ask him if this was, in any way, a planned approach—something he chalked out amid the two-year creative sabbatical he took, which extended for a year and more due to the pandemic. “Whilst you can say it was planned, nothing in life is really planned. It [life] surprises you all the time.”Thirty successful years in the business of fashion is no mean feat. “Being 30 years… it is a milestone. So, with everything [this year] coming together, we are trying to make every single moment count. Despite that, there is a fair amount we are doing.”
You understand his sentiment when you realise that the collection—maximalism et al., aesthetics Valaya has embraced whole-heartedly—he will showcase in a few hours is titled ‘Alma’, meaning ‘soul’ in Spanish. The influences, on paper, are galore—the costumes of the Matador, the motifs on the Manila shawl, and the patterns of the Pericon fan. But Valaya explains, “I have picked up nuances from all my past collections—detail from one, motif from somewhere, colour from somewhere, a technique from another—and have incorporated it into the season’s collection. So, if you ask me today, you will see 42 collections in one collection. For the first time, we are showcasing a collection where each piece has its own little story.” There is also the added support from his daughter, Hoorvi Valaya (24), who styles his campaigns. “I trust her; she is a good critic.”
In this tête-a-tête, Valaya frequently talks about “going with the flow” while also revealing that he is going to be working on two Hollywood projects soon. “Such a complete departure from bridal wear, right?” We concur, all while asking him if he ever envisioned 30 years in the Indian fashion industry? “Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would create a brand that has national interest and, to some extent, international relevance. I am deeply grateful… to God who makes it happen, and to everybody who embraced the brand. Because you are nobody without your appreciators,” he concludes.