Shantanu & Nikhil collaborate with Disney Channel to create a line for the channel’s contest winners

Brand extensions aren’t a new phenomenon. While giving a large-scale corporate entity a fresh creative input, for those responsible for the latter it is a chance to step out of perceived comfort zones. “Fun”, if you may, which is how designer Shantanu Mehra of Shantanu & Nikhil describes their latest collaboration with Disney Channel. Shantanu & Nikhil have created outfits for the 30 winners of Disney Channel’s “Jet Set 2” campaign, an on-air contest that, apparently, drew in 8.3 million entries in a month. (Two of the winners, Manan Kakkar and Anusha Chopra, both seven-year-olds, are from Delhi and they, along with the other winners, will be flown to Disneyland Hong Kong with their families.) The entire collection will be showcased at a fashion show on June 17, where a Disney-branded aircraft will also be unveiled.

Elaborating on the line created for the children, Shantanu says, “This is a fun project, and there’s a lot of emotional connect to the stories. It all started with the ‘Jet Set’ campaign that kicked off last year, with the kids being the real heroes. We understand how kids can think with joy and a vivid imagination. We’ve used Disney from a micro perspective as inspiration, and just brought in the whole emotional connect with fun and fantasy. The collection is obviously an ode to all the 30 children who are heroes. It’s a fun show, the clothes are fun, it’s all kinds of pop colours…”

Doodle art, he adds, “will form the pivot around which the entire inspiration is based.”

But Shantanu & Nikhil don’t usually do very casual clothing that you could visualise shrunken down or distilled to a children’s wear line. Shantanu counters, “What we do in our couture lines is really no different from what we’re doing here; there is a strong storyline of emotion and vivid imagery that will come into play. They’ll have the strong silhouettes of Shantanu & Nikhil, the drapes on dresses, which for girls we’ll pair with full-on printed leggings, mid-thigh umbrella skirts, T-shirts. And there’s a lot of layering for boys — T-shirts and shirts with cargoes, shirts, jackets…”

While this is a capsule collection, one of the important brand extensions that Shantanu & Nikhil have entered in the past was the one with Adidas many moons ago, where they created a full-fledged line for the sports apparel giant that retailed from stores across the country. “Collaborations have worked out well in the past,” he ponders. “That was our first brand collaboration of muscle; with them we learned how to go about creating a line starting at Rs.650 and going to Rs.3999. That was complete design discipline, and it kind of taught what prêt-a-porter is and how it can be managed.”

And, despite the parameters and guidelines that a collaboration works within, Shantanu says it isn’t restrictive. “In today’s age, brand extensions work on synergy. With the one that we’ve just formed with Walt Disney, we were given whatever freedom we needed, they haven’t interfered in any aspects of our design philosophy. In today’s day there is pretty much a clear understanding of where the designers’ philosophy comes from, and I think they respect it…”