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Updated: November 20, 2013 20:18 IST

Draping the inner soul

SWATI DAFTUAR
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Fashion designer Payal Jain
Fashion designer Payal Jain

Couturier Payal Jain tells about her new collection Âme, which explores the abstract reflection of the inner soul

Couturier Payal Jain describes her brand’s ethos as having ‘a western body with an Indian soul’, and in her new collection, titled Âme, she brings to life a concept that explores and experiments with the very concept of an eternal, everlasting soul. Excerpts from an interview:

Could you tell us a little about Âme, the conception and execution of this collection?

To begin with, I was inspired by Rumi. I had been reading a lot of Rumi and I wanted to bring his ideas to life. But I also didn’t want to limit myself to just Rumi. I believe that the soul is much larger, much more all encompassing.  In this collection I wanted to explore the abstract reflection of the inner soul. The divinity and various faces of man. The soul speaks one language and becomes a melting pot of so many different emotions. It didn’t need to be limited to just one spin. So I’ve brought in a lot of ideas, very abstract, and very difficult to put into words. Even the concept note about the collection is abstract.

Could you explain the process behind translating a concept this intangible into a physical, tangible form of fabric, cuts and colours?

I think it has to happen naturally. It’s just a personal interpretation of an idea. No two people are going to have the same perspective on something. Of course, I kept the spring/summer colour palette in mind. The 14 to 15 season colours that I splashed on the whites and blacks spelled the different moods a human mind can experience. There were the blues for thoughtfulness, the orange that I felt stood for envy, the reds for love, and so many shades in between. These are the physical interpretations of the concept. There were also the silhouettes, above all the floaty, flowing capes that connected the points, brought it all together. Ultimately, the clinging silhouettes, the jerseys, everything had to blend in together. It couldn’t be jarring.

There’s a very clear marriage of Indian heritage and western perspective in your work. Would you say that this combination is necessary for the survival of Indian handicrafts and traditional art forms?

I don’t think it’s necessary but sometimes it’s the only way for that craft to live longer. It’s very sad how so many artisans, weavers and craftspeople have just stopped doing what they did best. With no way to reinterpret their craft, they move to cities and become drivers and manual labourers. The craftsmen I used to work with for the last twenty years are disappearing, moving to jobs that are more commercially viable. Someone has to revive it. And while marrying the Indian and western perspective is my strength and I feel like I can do it well, it’s not always necessary to reinterpret traditional art forms like that. You can just as easily have a beautiful sari inspired by traditional handicrafts.

From working with abstract and intangible ideas to designing corporate uniforms; how different is it, to work within a specific structure and palette?

It’s very different! That doesn’t mean though that it’s not a challenge. You have to remember, while still being creative, that your clothes aren’t being put on six ft models. Real people of every size and shape and height will be wearing them. You also need to keep the designs easy to maintain and cost effective. It’s a very different hat to wear. The feel good factor is also very important. You can’t put someone in black and grey and blue and expect them to get on with it. It’s important that people who wear these uniforms feel good about themselves. I believe that first impressions really matter. You walk into a very good, very successful hotel where the staff is dressed smartly and it’ll instantly add to your impression of the place. Dressing well affects productivity, be it a hotel, an airline, or any other professional set up.

A few years ago, you launched a textbook on fashion studies, a very clear first step towards introducing fashion as a serious academic pursuit. Has there been any development there?

I was approached by the Principal of DPS. The school was introducing a two-year course on fashion studies and needed a textbook. It was very exciting. I did plan to do a second book for class twelve students but somehow that hasn’t happened yet. Also, unfortunately, I’m not very sure what happened but I think they found it difficult to find teachers for the course. The first year, a lot of students took the course up, but slowly, the numbers came down. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that people don’t realise how much hard work is required to be in fashion. A lot of students begin by thinking that it’s only pots of money and page 3 photographs. Both are misconceptions. Because of how it’s covered by media, fashion looks like just those few minutes on the ramp. It isn’t.

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