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