Designer Pallavi Mohan of label Not So Serious talks of her two big loves - fashion and food
‘Well, I'll eat it,' said Alice, ‘and if it makes me grow larger, I can reach the key; and if it makes me grow smaller, I can creep under the door; so either way I'll get into the garden, and I don't care which happens!'— Alice in Wonderland
Quite aptly, guests at designer Pallavi Mohan's “Alice in Wonderland” themed Autumn/ Winter 2010 show, at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week recently, were greeted with marzipan cupcakes that sweetly beckoned ‘Eat Me'.
So, when we meet Pallavi at The Atrium tea lounge in The Imperial, we meet a person who loves her pasta and pastries as much as her cuts and fits.
Besides being the designer behind the Not So Serious label, which she founded in 2007, Pallavi is also the creative force behind export house Magnolia Martinique, working with brands like Miss Sixty, Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano and Valentino Group. In fact, one role sprang from another.
A graduate in textile design from Chelsea College of Art and Design of the University of the Arts, London, Pallavi got her garment design lessons while working with her mother-in-law at Magnolia Martinique. Despite no formal training in pattern-making, Pallavi soon discovered a latent talent. “When you're working with an export house, there are certain restrictions. Say, even if you want to use Swarovski, you can't, as it is too expensive and most of the labels are price-conscious,” says Pallavi.
The existing gap in the market was a major push factor. “The whole idea (behind Not So Serious) was to give serious quality and good fit. What was available was either super-casual or very high-end. An in-between line was missing,” she says. Not So Serious now retails from stores like Carma, Ensemble, Aza and Ogaan.
Talk about food, and her eyes sparkle with unabashed glee. “I travel frequently, and whenever I travel I like visiting authentic local restaurants. I do not travel abroad and eat Indian food,” Pallavi says. “I like all kinds of food... Well, not everything that moves.”
Oysters, and clams with pasta, rank as favourites, with Italian cuisine is the clear first choice.
“In Italy, the smallest restaurants run by families serve the best food,” she declares, as she selects a Fruit Blast smoothie from the menu. “I carry cheese and pasta while coming back. Wherever I go, I bring in food with me… I learnt a lot about food from an Italian friend. He carries a Michelin guide in his car!”
Many a time, travel also finds expression through the clothes, like the trip to the legendary glassmakers' town of Murano off the Venice coast. “I saw the colours in a factory there and came back and used them in my collection,” recalls Pallavi. “Anything interesting can catch my fancy.”
Not all trips have been pleasantly memorable. Recalling a trip to Shenzhen in China, Pallavi says, “I kept scanning the menu for something edible. Then all I ate for four days was egg fried rice.”
Quality in simplicity
The flow of her work between Magnolia Martinique and Not So Serious has spawned a desire for clean, well-finished clothes where fit takes precedence over surface embellishment, says Pallavi.
“When you meet different designers and work with different brands, you get a sense of quality. I want to know how they are making a basic shirt look and fit so well. I'm not there yet but I have to get there,” says the designer, taking a bite from an éclair in the pastry platter. “For me what's important is, when you turn a garment inside out it should look as good on the outside as inside.”
There's something else Pallavi Mohan is good at – painting. But that, for paucity of time, has taken a backseat. “Sometimes I paint and send the painting to be developed into a print. But that's rare.”
Personally a fan of Moschino, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Chloé and Missoni, Pallavi Mohan envisages a label where the brand supersedes the designer. “There are brands that have outlasted the designers who founded them. I want to create a brand. The idea has to be carried forward, whether I'm there or not.”