tête-à-tête textures and tones
Kunal Rawal speaks about his range of menswear, Dhoop Chaon, which was recently unveiled at the FDCI India Couture Week
A sucker for texture by his own admission, new-age designer Kunal Rawal has always appealed to the discerning young crowd of men for his innovative and aesthetic take on men’s luxe occasion wear. His new couture festive occasion wear, Dhoop Chaon (light and shade), has many firsts that Kunal had previously shied away from in his 15 years of designing career. Recently unveiled at the FDCI
India Couture Week, Kunal shares about the range of menswear.
What can we expect from the new collection?
Since last year, that urge to work with things that I was previously uncomfortable with has reigned supreme. This collection has a touch of that. It’s about couture and making our own materials for surface textures. We believe in versatility and repeatability and offer six different looks with one garment. We don’t enjoy doing bigger motifs, and our storytelling for the season comprises micro motifs and texture embroideries. We have just about found acceptance as a brand, and, I am excited and confident to push the design boundary more.
We have also played with new brand shapes and colours like metallic highlights. There are a lot 3D-printed materials for our embroideries, and we have used technology to evolve occasion wear. With an eye for sustainability, we have also employed zero-waste pattern cutting. I believe in a lot of washes, which end up using a lot of water. During the lockdown, we worked out sustainable ways where I could create washes for individual pieces.
Gender-fluid androgynous clothes are peeping into the occasion wear scene, and I have incorporated it into our latest collection, where we have our first androgynous lehenga. The drape is another thing I have played around with this time. Our clothes are more structured and less asymmetric but this time, there are lots of drapes. It’s an aesthetic-based collection that’s relevant for red carpet events and traditional weddings.
We are enjoying pastels but I like them whitewashed for a fresher look. You have bright lilac, whitish mint, icy and whitish blues, and an array of pinks, including blush and salmon pinks. There are signature industrial tones and military shades coming into occasion wear. In addition to jewel tones like navies, burgundies and teals for the night, we also have a good number of olives in dark and pastel shades. I’m also trying to make charcoal grey the new navy, which is my second favourite colour after black.
In terms of new silhouettes, besides the lehengas, there will be gender-fluid gharara, some cropped jackets and jacket blouses. We will be launching our stoles for the first time and also creating bits and pieces of jewellery for the show.
Will we see you entering the high jewellery space any time soon?
Definitely. We can’t wait to come up with our own range since these are all menswear elements that have not been explored well so far.
What are a few must-haves in men’s occasion wear wardrobe?
A deconstructed sherwani from our label is a prudent night silhouette since you can wear the sleeveless jacket and the kurta separately. Have a classic bandhgala – it never goes out of style. I am a fan of kurta shirts since they are versatile. Invest in ivory bottoms and good mojris, which have modern yet festive designs, and are in dark and light brown colours. If you are wearing an exciting bundi, keep the rest of the look clean. Go for small accessories in the neck. Buttons are a great way to accessorise too. Celebrate your individual style rather than following what you are told.
How has the men’s occasion wear scene evolved over the years?
When I started out, it was the family who primarily decided how a man was supposed to dress and it was slightly more traditional. When we did the wedding wardrobe for Shahid Kapoor, there was a clear evolution of the aesthetic. Menswear is evolving and changing fast. Now, the groom is more involved and people understand that luxury is for yourself and not to just standout from the crows. It’s so exciting being a menswear designer now with younger designers pushing the boundary and using the rich bank of heritage fabrics and jewellery with a new perspective.
How much have you changed as a designer over these years?
I have grown quite a bit. I wanted to explore and do so much, still trying to change how Indian men dress. I started a label called D Stress, and then I went on to become the creative head of Provogue, and also designed the first menswear collection for Being Human. All this I did to understand what India wants and how I can impact a change. Films being my second love after fashion, I started designing film costumes — starting with Aisha, then Desi Boyz, Once Upon a Time In Mumbai and Shootout
in Wadala happened. I was into costume designing for five-six years before returning to showcases and starting out my own retail. The lows teach more than the highs. Earlier, it was about how I looked at things and wanted to put it out there. All that is still there, but I have learned to incorporate different perspectives.
Your other upcoming collections?
I am working on a few more collections and we would be shooting for another couture collection right after this show. Once that’s out I am planning to work on a diffusion line.