Interview Fashion

Sandeep Khosla: We don’t hang out with people our age

Sandeep Khosla at the Asal store in Hyderabad

Sandeep Khosla at the Asal store in Hyderabad   | Photo Credit: G Ramakrishna

Designer Sandeep Khosla looks back at the success of his three decade old label in partnership with Abu Jani, and talks about diversifying to cater to the young

Sandeep Khosla breezes into the ‘Asal’ store hours before its launch in Hyderabad, dressed in a white shirt. His team wants him to change into something dressier, but he prefers the fuss-free white shirt. And why not? Whites have played a significant role in the rise of Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla label.

The design house has diversified in recent years — apart from the premium AJSK couture, they introduced the diffusion line Asal, menswear Mard, Gulabo for the young and free spirited, and Khosla Jani for an international clientèle.

Asal, which means real and original, was introduced when Abu and Sandeep grew tired of the many knock-offs of their collections. “So when we started something new, we thought we’d name it Asal, the real thing,” laughs Sandeep, seated in the tastefully designed studio inside the store. This diffusion line, he reveals, also stemmed from the need to create a slightly more affordable line than his couture, to cater to an aspirational clientèle. He’s quick to add that there’s no compromise on quality and finish. “People would walk up to us and say ‘I wish you were more affordable’. They loved the AJSK story but found it too expensive, because everything was handmade,” he says.

Asal relies on both hand and machine embroidery. Sandeep insists, “We don’t do computerised designs. It’s still a craftsman who’s doing machine embroidery.”

Their signature techniques, like the mirror work, found its way into Asal. “We’ve been doing mirror work for a 100 years now,” Sandeep laughs, recalling how he and Abu first designed a mirror work jacket for Reema Kapoor’s (Raj Kapoor’s daughter) wedding three decades ago. Mirrors were the highlight for an ensemble for Madhuri Dixit in Devdas.

Sandeep Khosla and Abu Jani

Sandeep Khosla and Abu Jani   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

The real deal

Talking of Asal and knock-offs, Sandeep explains how the design house’s legal team monitors social media and sends legal notices to those who copy them and adds, “they just disappear from social media for a while; it’s impossible to track everyone who rips off our designs. It’s laborious.” The duo laugh it off or get annoyed when someone posts an AJSK jacket worn by Amitabh Bachchan and claims they’ve made it. They just focus on the next big thing for their label.

Abu and Sandeep have been catering to Hyderabad buyers and Sandeep terms Hyderabad, as an evolved market that doesn’t compromise on quality, “People here love the good life — amazing food, they party during the week, are well travelled, and still simple at heart. They are not snobs.”

When the duo started their label 34 years ago, fashion wasn’t a vibrant industry. “We were glorified darzis (tailors),” Sandeep remembers. He reveals how both of them were born into wealthy families but as they grew up, their families lost some of the wealth, and they had to begin from a humble setting. “Our families encouraged us to pursue our dreams.” Both of them aren’t trained designers and Sandeep argues, “a fashion school can teach you the technicalities of garment construction, not how to think. Today everyone in India think they are designers, just like many people draw a ‘bindu’ [like Raza] and call themselves artists.”

Love for cinema

For the untrained Abu and Sandeep, what triggered the interest in fashion? “We were obsessed with movies,” says Sandeep. He and Abu grew up on Hindi classics like Pakeezah while Abu’s father treasured a postcard collection of Hollywood stars. It was poetic that when they opened their first store called Mata Hari, among their first clients were Dimple Kapadia and Jaya Bachchan. “And the rest is history,” says Sandeep, mentioning that their resort wear label Gulabo was named after Waheeda Rahman’s character in Pyaasa.

The designer duo have come a long way. Sandeep credits Abu to be the more creative one of the two, and mentions how he sketches the embroidery pattern outlines for each of their collections. “Abu was less ambitious of the two. I wanted to be someone important. Back then, I thought I don’t want to be just another Sandeep Khosla in the world of Sandeep Khoslas at age 40.”

Cannes story

A game changer in the AJSK journey was when Sonam Kapoor wore their sari with frou for the red carpet at Cannes. “For a few years we were catering to an older clientèle. No complaints, the business was good, but Abu felt we also need to think young. Sonam wearing our sari at the Cannes brought in the young energy, and then we designed for Veere di Wedding,” he shares.

Asal and Gulabo were introduced to focus on the young audience. The constant reinvention helps the designers ward off creative stagnation. “We mostly meet young people to think fresh; we don’t hang out with people our age. It’s so boring to hear about knee pains or sagging cheeks,” Sandeep guffaws, signing off.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 6:41:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/fashion/fashion-designers-abu-jani-and-sandeep-khosla-launch-their-label-asal-in-hyderabad-to-cater-to-an-aspiring-clientele/article30769765.ece

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