JJ Valaya on ‘Tabriz’, his Persia-inspired couture collection


When inspiration strikes JJ Valaya, he doesn’t cram it all into one collection —”I like to explore the nuances and incorporate it for at least a year,” says the Delhi-based designer. In his latest couture collection, Tabriz, which dropped on Saturday with an extravagant show at The Imperial New Delhi, he draws from the one-time capital of ruling Persian dynasties.

Valaya has spent the last three years on hiatus, but has kept busy nevertheless. Earlier this year, he was creative director and mentor of Be Bahrain, a craft based project that was showcased at the Bahrain Art Fair. In 2018, he celebrated 25 years of his brand with The Alika Project, where he collaborated with 24 other designers (including Suket Dhir, Pero, Ekaya, Antar Agni and Amrapali) on his signature jacket. He was also part of the Elephant Parade, designing the Kashmir Ki Kali elephant that was on display in Sloane Square, Chelsea.

Visually inspired

As someone who spends a lot of time and effort on research, Valaya says he turns to his massive library for details and information. However, he has never read a book in his life. “All of them are visual! That’s my world, so I turn to photobooks,” he explains, adding, “I have been intrigued by Persia and its manifestation across cultures. You won’t see a motif directly picked up or replicated, but there are details that cater to that part of the world.”

The 42 outfits in the collection — featuring lehengas, saris, skirts, peplum blouses, sherwanis and bandhgalas — are split into three distinct lines. The first is titled ‘Farsh’, inspired by Persian hunting rugs which are distinguished by their colours and motifs of flora and fauna. ‘Khayyam’ draws from the craft of the royal tent makers, and features antique mirror-work, rough cotton yarn and appliqué. “I have combined these inspirations with my love for Art Deco, and come up with a linear / ornamental form,” he says. ‘Naqshband’ is the grandest of the lot: florals in metallic threads and beads, borders with antique crystals and pearls, on rich reds and sage greens, in silks, velvets and tulle.

The entire collection has been created in collaboration with Swarovski, whose association with Valaya goes back almost 17 years, when they entered the Indian market. “I was their first brand ambassador; I don’t think I have done a single couture line without using their crystals since then,” he says. The highlight of the show was an embellished burgundy lehenga encrusted with almost 12,000 crystals. “We have had a lot of fun combining new age mediums such as Swarovski, with age-old techniques [of surface ornamentation] to create our own DNA,” concludes Valaya.

Images by special arrangement and from @jjvalaya on Instagram.

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