“I had to con­vince peo­ple I was not a glo­ri­fied tai­lor,” says de­signer Payal Jain

India Today - - SIMPLY DELHI -

We have a rich tex­tile her­itage, ex­quis­ite royal cos­tumes, shin­gar tra­di­tions and in­cred­i­bly crafted jewellery. The pack­ag­ing, pre­sen­ta­tion and glob­al­iza­tion of tra­di­tional crafts and cul­ture, how­ever, is only a few decades old. In­ter­na­tional trends are what we now per­ceive as fash­ion to­day.

When I moved back to In­dia in 1993, ‘ Fash­ion’ was un­heard of in Delhi so­cial cir­cles. Most of the city felt that fash­ion de­sign­ers were just spoilt young kids or bored house wives killing time. I started my stu­dio in Hauz Khas vil­lage. I was young and in­ex­pe­ri­enced in the ways of In­dian busi­ness in­tri­ca­cies, had stars in my eyes, big glit­ter­ing dreams and the en­thu­si­asm to make them come true. The first few years were the hard­est with a con­stant strug­gle to source the sim­plest of ma­te­ri­als, to con­vince clients that I was a qual­i­fied de­signer, not a glo­ri­fied tai­lor or a bored brat and the com­plete lack of ap­pre­ci­a­tion or re­spect. Add to that the toil of sin­gle hand­edly run­ning a male­dom­i­nated busi­ness, the bur­den of some very ex­pen­sive mis­takes and the pres­sure of achiev­ing the goals I had set for my­self.

The fash­ion sen­si­bil­ity of In­dian women has come full cir­cle in the two decades that I have worked in this coun­try. Most In­dian women work­ing or oth­er­wise, wore In­dian clothes like sa­rees or sal­war kameez. Even the most mod­ern and ac­com­plished women pre­ferred to dress tra­di­tion­ally for work and con­se­quently, the mar­ket for Western clothes hardly ex­isted. The bat­tle to cre­ate a niche for western wear for women was end­less and ex­haust­ing. Em­bel­lish­ments con­tinue to rav­age the In­dian women who still be­lieve that em­broi­dery is needed on ex­pen­sive out­fits. I crave to see an au­di­ence which will fall in love with a beau­ti­fully tai­lored, im­pec­ca­bly struc­tured and painstak­ingly fin­ished western out­fits with ex­quis­ite fab­ric and clas­si­cal de­tail­ing, and absolutely no em­broi­dery!

To­day, I men­tor young­sters who aspire to be­come fash­ion de­sign­ers, not al­ways for the right rea­sons but, all the same are look­ing at this as a se­ri­ous ca­reer op­tion. When I thought of study­ing fash­ion, it was sim­ply un­heard of as a ca­reer choice. I can proudly say to­day that it is pos­si­bly the best choice I made.

The author is a prom­i­nent fash­ion de­signer

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