He hardly has the airs of being the man who dresses up the who’s who of tinsel-town. Fashion designer S wapnil Shinde has no qualms as he takes you on a journey through the troughs and peaks of his career. The designer who made it big in Bollywood with his collection for Priyanka Chopra in Madhur Bhandarkar’s critically appreciated ‘Fashion,’ was in Kochi recently to be part of a workshop. Excerpts from an interview.
I, Swapnil Shinde
Creative and artistic I thought fashion is a good bet to prove my mettle. I gave the entrance test at the National Institute of Fashion Technology but made it only for the second attempt after which I did my Masters in fashion from Milan, Italy. I came back and joined the Kimaya Fashion Store in Mumbai as sales boy and went on to become a visual merchandiser in the one-and-a-half months I was there.
My big break
The reality show ‘Lakme Fashion House’ in 2005 gave me a platform to showcase my talent. Fifteen of us from across India had to present a creation each every week for six consecutive weeks before a panel of judges comprising Abu Jani, Sandeep Khosla and celebrity judges. The show introduced me to socialites and Bollywood celebrities. I was the first runner-up and my prize was six months of internship with the House of Versace, one of the best known Italian fashion brands. Although I was disheartened that I could not emerge the winner, the encouragement I got from all quarters gave me a new high. I focused on evening gowns. It clicked and I have been a regular at Lakme Fashion Week since then.
Critics are highly judgemental of my work. They call me the ‘Britney Spears of the fashion industry’ for breaking the rules! I’ve been at LFW for 11 consecutive seasons. My tastes have been refined, I’ve matured as a person and designer, I developed my own prints and have been giving more attention to accessories as well. My collection of neck pieces will be introduced this December. The designs I make are mass production-friendly; experimental yet wearable.
Milan taught me...
Aesthetics. It showed me a broader perspective of fashion and that there’s more to fashion than the sari and the lehenga choli.
Brand ‘Swapnil Shinde’
My target group falls in the 18 to 25 age category and I try to make my creations cost-effective. Brand Swapnil Shinde is a three-year-old label that tries to find the possibility of a balance between ‘sexy’ without being cheap or crude, and ‘elegant’ without being boring or matronly. The brand does not scream aloud that it’s from India but hints that it has something Indian about it.
The road to ‘Fashion’
I knew actor Mugdha Godse from her modelling days. She wanted me to do her clothes in ‘Fashion.’ She recommended me to the film’s stylist and they were more keen on using my collection for Priyanka Chopra. The film clicked; so did her clothes. Later I designed her dresses for the Sunsilk ad and for her events. The fits and finishes pleased her and she recommended me to her acquaintances. Priyanka is my brand ambassador of sorts (laughs)!
Post ‘Fashion,’ I went on to design for Lara Dutta, Kangna Ranaut, Mandira Bedi and Soha Ali Khan in their films. Recently, I designed for both Kunal Khemu and Soha Ali Khan in People Pictures ‘99’ and for Sanjay Leela Bhansali Productions ‘Guzarish.’ I created a special wardrobe for Femina Miss India Pooja Chopra for the Miss World 2009 pageant.
I’m on board the team of ‘Meethi Churi Number One’ on NDTV Imagine, Miss West Bengal and an event with Gitanjali. Coming up in September is the LFW. I have in store a dramatic collection set in the 16th century Renaissance Spain. There’s an exciting showstopper outfit as well. I’m planning to do a Phd in fashion from Germany.
At the workshop conducted by i-Met Institute of Fashion Design, Vyttila, I came across many aspirants but they are hesitant and unsure. My life is the biggest example before them. Break the barrier and pursue your dreams. I am ready to guide students who are serious about a career in fashion. I believe education is the key to life.
It varies from collection to collection! Amrit Maghera, the face of Lakme, inspired me a lot. My current muse is Shahzan Padamsee. Italian architecture too inspires.