As the Van Heusen India Men’s Week gets under way today in New Delhi , well-known designer Rina Dhaka reveals why it took her so long to get into menswear.

Even as Indian fashion witnesses its first exclusive Men’s Fashion Week, there was another first: renowned designer Rina Dhaka opened her new menswear line. Rina’s name is synonymous with feminine designs, glamorous silhouettes and fresh appeal for nearly two decades now.

A designer who bagged plentiful accolades nationally and internationally, including the Yuva Ratna award, she is a debutant at the Van Hausen India Men’s Week (VHIMW) 2009, organised by Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI). She has no regrets about being called a debutant; rather she says, “At least this way, I’ll start. If I don’t get ready now, when will I? I thought, let me just plunge into it.”

Never-ending process

Although, most Indian designers begin with women’s wear and gradually shift into menswear too, with Rina it never happened. “I always thought of men’s wear, kids wear, teenage wear, home, accessories, but the production, manufacturing is a never-ending process. You cannot get out of it. There is always a delivery; there is always a deadline. Moreover, menswear needs a separate thought process. Today I feel I am not losing anything; there’ll be another deadline in the list, which is manageable.”

“I think, in men’s wear, you have to play it very safe. Most of the men are paranoid that we are going to turn them into fashion freaks, so you want to give them fashion but you want to keep it wearable too. There is more wearability here, quite restrained I think,” admits Dhaka. When it comes to what kind of men she would like to style, her preferences are clear. “I want a straight guy to like my clothes as I want him to buy it. I want to create something user-friendly.”

At the creative end too Rina doesn’t want to keep ends loose; she’s opting for the safer path as a beginner. “Mostly I shall be using plains, limestone, and stripes in my collection. I want to use asymmetry and classicism also. There are various surface texture styles, but there are also the masters around. I like kurtas so shall put some Indian pieces as well. I think I am good in Indian too.” And, has she decided to name her line? “I’ll call it Rina Dhaka for the moment. If it’s a shirt it’s understood it is for a man; if a girl wants to wear it, well, I won’t mind.”

Breaking the mould

Men have always been style conscious whether it’s a casual moment or a formal occasion. But Indian men have depended on brands rather than designers. Can an exclusive men’s fashion week break the mould? “It is a first step and this is how women’s fashion began. When we started the fashion week, we had no orders for the first few seasons. We didn’t understand the need, we didn’t put up stalls, we had no stands?,” admits Rina.

She further adds that the steady retail too helped in creating value. “With Kimaya’s, Assembles, Aza, we started creating a market value for Indian designer brands. Today people are happy to own Indian designer clothes.”

Rina — who already has her shows lined up from Jakarta Fashion Week, Bridal Asia, the prestigious London Fashion Week — is showcasing her men’s collection not on the ramp but in the stall this season. She firmly says, “A fashion show is not a must to get orders. This is my first time, so I depend much on the reviews.”

Rina is also a firm believer that India as a country has talent in abundance. “Our industry has great potential but we need a strong professional team willing to handle everything. We struggle so much to go abroad and get selected in these international fashion weeks. Although, those shows are much smaller, some are really tough to get into. They don’t care who you are, your product needs to be fantastic. There is no greater scale than ours, in terms of its size, population, enigma and press but the industry needs support to bring it to international levels.”

Whether we get international acceptance or not we surely have created a market for stylish brands. Now it’s time for men to take a plunge into designer fashion!

Brand Rina Dhaka

Where is it available?: In stores like Aza, Design Studio, Kimaya, Selfridges-London, Anthropologies US, Coin-Italy and Lord and Taylor-New York. Her clientele includes names like Naomi Campbell, Uma Thurman, Susan Fales Hill, Lara Dutta, and Diana Hayden.

Price Range: She caters to the hi end market. Her collections generally range between Rs.2000 and Rs.30,000. Her recent pre-fall collection at Kimaya range between Rs. 19,000 and Rs. 25,000.

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