Travel + Leisure - India & South Asia
DESIGNING FOR THE GLOBAL NOMAD
The designer who gave Indian wear a functional, fun, and modern update, Payal Singhal tells CHIRAG MOHANTY SAMAL how New York shaped her brand’s ethos, Paris offered her constant inspiration, and Tokyo appealed to her design aesthetics.
DESIGNER PAYAL SINGHAL is known for fusing boho chic aesthetics into Indian wear and lending it a universal appeal. Elegant, comfortable, functional, and playful are some of the epithets that best describe her designs. However, when she started out in the ‘90s Indian wear was associated with stereotypical tropes. In an exclusive interview, she tells Travel + Leisure India and South Asia how evaluating her designs through a “versatile, global lens” helped shape her repertoire of work and change the consumer mindset. And how travel played a big role in her journey by inspiring her to constantly innovate and evolve.
Excerpts from the interview: Your collections are known for lending traditional Indian wear a global appeal. How challenging was it?
It wasn’t challenging to me as a designer, as it’s a natural extension of my own mindset and style preferences.
I’ve never believed Indian occasion wear should be limited to traditional events alone. Our patrons are world citizens, and the clothes we offer them need to fit into their lifestyle. The mindset wasn’t commonplace when we started out in 1999, though its become the universal design language today.
How did the pandemic affect your designs?
It’s pivotal for a brand to be cognisant of the changing world and the preferences of their consumers. The pandemic led to a drastic change in consumption patterns and people’s daily routines, and it was necessary we adapt to that. We focussed on kaftans, easy co-ord sets, loungewear, and even launched our first-ever Indian athleisure line.
Tell us about the inspiration behind your latest collection.
Our SS’22 collection ‘Folklore’ is a vibrant ode to native storytelling, borrowed from a time when fables were passed down through generations by word of mouth, folk tales, and beautiful paintings. In the collection, Otomi embroidery from
Mexico mingles with kantha of Bengal, kashida of Kashmir and phulkari of Punjab to create a cross-cultural amalgamation.
How does travel inspire you as a designer?
For any creative peron, seeing the world is as inspirational and stimulating as it gets. I design for the global nomad. So, I thrive on experiencing new cultures, different ways of thinking, and interesting
people. It helps me think beyond the conventional.
Which is the one place that had an impact on you both personally and professionally?
New York! I lived there for six years during the early days of launching the brand, and it immensely shaped the brand’s ethos. It is the birthplace of our tribe of Payal Singhal (PS) Girls, and our India Modern approach to traditional occasion wear. Personally, it is my second home, where I return every summer to visit loved ones and host our PS Travelling Trunk Shows.
You travel around the world for work. Which city do you love going back to?
As a designer, I love revisiting Paris, the city is like a constant fashion show. Inspiration hits you everywhere, whether you’re in a cafe, store, or on the streets. I find European fashion exciting. There is so much innovation in mainstream fashion—not just high-end brands—compared to anywhere else in the world.
What is your favourite shopping destination?
I love Tokyo and local Japanese designers; their cuts, silhouettes, and the way they think about fabric, stitching and structure is amazing.
Tokyo Plaza is a mecca for young contemporary Japanese designers. Dover Street Market in London and Le Bon Marché in Paris are other favourites.
Tell us about your happiest travel memory?
My favourite holiday was the one to the French village of Bonnieux in Provence with my family. We stayed in a beautiful boutique hotel and spent our days driving between the villages. Every frame and view was stunning.
How to build a capsule travel wardrobe that will work anywhere in the world?
Build a wardrobe of versatile separates that can be styled in different ways. A capsule travel wardrobe needs a little bit of imagination. Start with a few basics, and add statement accents to it that can make a simple piece pop.
What are your travel essentials, things you don’t travel without?
My phone, a Dyson Corrale hair straightener (so often I am getting ready in a cab or on my way to an event, so it helps that this is cordless), an SOS medicine pouch (which has everything from balms to tablets), my Longchamp Le Pliage bag, sneakers, and a light jacket. I also love my PS travel wrap, which doubles as a blanket on the flight and a picnic mat when in Hyde Park!
At T+L India & SA we believe people make places. Is there any place where you really felt connected to the people?
I felt a strong connection with the people of Scotland. I found them warm, lively, easy going, and welcoming. I absolutely loved their philosophy of work hard and party harder.
What’s on your travel bucket list?
There are so many places! Christmas in Lapland; Greece; Turkey; Mexico; and South America are some of them.