Table For Two: Threads and beans

Keep it simple: Designer Gunjan Arora at Olive Beach in Hotel Diplomat in New Delhi. Photo: Shanker Chakravarty  

It's been a decade since Gunjan Arora and Rahul Jain formally brought out their clothing label, Sirali. It's been an eventful decade, where the designers' own ranking of fashion in their creative space has had a relook. A hot May afternoon is when we meet Gunjan Arora for lunch at Olive Beach in Hotel Diplomat, New Delhi. He's a few minutes early and, oblivious to temperatures that send most people scurrying for air-conditioned cover, keeps himself busy on his phone outdoors. “It's too noisy inside,” he explains.

As we go in, one is aware it is noise their label's kept away from. While not abhorring surface embellishment, the overall effect has been towards simplicity, even in bridal wear they introduced two years ago. “We prefer there should be only one or, at the most, two elements in the garment that should really be the highlight. For us comfort, the use of the fabric and colour is important. If there is an interesting technique, a tie-and-dye or print or embroidery on the garment, then the rest of the garment should be simple. Eventually, the whole sight of you should become very pleasant and not like you're carrying everything on you,” he adds. Over lunch (which comprises rocket, feta and apple salad on one side of the table and a summer melon salad on another), Arora explains how, of late, more things have piled up on their plate. Leftover thread and fabric from clothes led to the start of Thread Arte. Using thread, waste fabric and even steel filaments, a kind of felted textile was developed, and what started with panels that could be framed and hung on one's wall has moved to partitions and windows. Thread Arte has already had shows in venues like the Nehru Centre in London and the Capital's The Stainless Gallery.

While working on a few hotel projects with a consultant, the home side of things opened its doors. An old customer offered the duo a project to design furniture. Arora and Jain took it up on one condition — that they wouldn't execute it. With contractors unable to translate their vision, they had to get more involved. “We then looked around for somebody we could work with, like a workshop where we could sit and get things done to our specifications. We did that, and we really liked it… It's been three years since and we still have enough work there. It just seemed a natural progression. We didn't sit down and plan anything,” says Arora.

“Fashion was our full-time preoccupation and art was a hobby. It has now changed — fashion would be about 50 per cent, about 35 to 40 per cent is art, and 10 per cent would be furniture.” Art, he says, has been more fulfilling, with the pressure of putting oneself out there considerably lower. “Our fashion sensibility and our line is not a very competitive, fashion-forward line. We did not feel the need to be in that race, trying to push ourselves too much, which is largely the case in fashion. Not that we did not try it. We did, but the more we tried the more we realised that was not what the label was. Even in fashion, what is a niche space for us was our shirts, stoles, jackets and shawls — more perennial, more ongoing fashion. If you pick up a jacket, you would want to wear it for a few seasons. If you pick up a very fashionable dress, it just has one season's life… We're happy where we are. Even if it is 50-odd regular customers that we have, we've reached a stage where they can just say, ‘We're coming in next month, just make 10 shirts for us.' We don't even need to ask them what shirts; we have the freedom. We enjoy doing that. We don't even want to move away from that road.”

More than 12 years ago, Arora, on a whim, turned vegetarian — a code he says he's managed to keep to quite well. Rahul is a strict vegetarian. While Arora can cook enough to save his life, the latter, he says, “can cook anything.” What Arora is an expert on is coffee.

With home housing an assortment of coffees from all around the world — from Jamaican and Kenyan to Sri Lankan and South Indian — word has spread, and once a week Arora plays host to bunch of coffee-loving friends. The beans are crushed at home and the coffee brewed.

“Most of my friends know that if they can't find anything else they can pick up some coffee for me,” he laughs.

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Printable version | Jul 29, 2021 6:34:48 PM |

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