15 Years Of Kunal Rawal

When you think of deconstructed jackets, the only name that comes to mind is Kunal Rawal. With his eponymous brand that he started 15 years ago, Rawal has grown into a personal favourite, and is the go-to designer for Bollywood, which, in turn, influences the country’s fashion sense to a great extent. His clothes speak the language of the newer generation with their functionality, comfort, and structured silhouettes. Recently, the designer worked on another unique idea — a glow-in-the-dark bandhgala — a concept that was birthed during the pandemic. We sit down for a candid chat with Rawal.

Completing 15 years in the industry, what are the major groomswear changes you see now, as compared to when you started?

When I started, fashion was not taken seriously, even womenswear wasn’t. Earlier, whenever I did my R&D and market study on occasion-wear, menswear used to be about your everyday retail brands. When you asked consumers about occasion-wear, the answer used to be ‘I don’t decide, and my mother or my family decides how I will look at an event. From then to now, I have consciously tried to educate my customer by involving them, putting in details and elements that they need to know, so they have a say. That’s when this whole journey of educating men on how to wear things their way started. Now, men are very different, they come very prepared. They know your collection names, they know your concepts, and they know what they want.

What was that one thing that wasn’t a part of your aesthetic in your initial days, but now it is?

When I just started, I was not one for traditional embroideries. For the next season, I am working on brocade. In my younger years, I had seen bad examples in brocade, and that had made me fearful — I felt the same about paisleys and velvet. I had seen versions that were not relatable to me at all. But now with my understanding, I am working on my own versions of these. For the next season, I am taking elements of everything I hated last season, and putting my spin on it.

You have changed the take on the traditional bandhgala. What is your thought process when you innovate techniques and cuts?

I heavily believe in trial and error. You have to keep trying to create something new because designers today, especially in menswear, have a responsibility to take this aesthetic ahead and across the globe. Every state has a different language, a different lifestyle, and completely different traditional wear. So, I always wanted to contemporise one silhouette every season to make it relatable to my generation because the people we are catering to are around my age group. Inspiration for me is the people around me.

But colours are still pretty muted in menswear. Do you feel grooms are playing it safe when it comes to wedding colours?

I don’t think the word ‘safe’ is anywhere close to the men’s market today. Especially after the pandemic, you have seen a lot of rebellion and a lot of trends like customisation and personalisation. The approach is so individualistic that garments have to be uniquely created for men. So I don’t think the colours men are choosing are boring, and it is the complete opposite. Men are having a lot of fun with what they wear for the functions and for the wedding celebration. It’s just that on the wedding day, I always suggest a classic ivory jacket or whatever silhouette the groom likes because for me, it is the epitome of traditional Indian formal dressing. An ivory sherwani is like a black tuxedo, it’s something that can never be trumped.

There’s also enough gender-fluid, androgynous aspects to menswear now, but are they being accepted and experimented with?

We believe in gender fluidity, and androgyny is something we have been doing from the start. I buy clothes from whichever section they were in. We have always borrowed from the girls, and have always taken their accessories and kaftans — things like that are for everybody, so why would you restrict yourself from half of the world’s clothes?

What was your vision behind the glow-in-the-dark bandhgala?

Glow-in-the-dark is something that I personally love. I love manipulation. and I do that a lot with my fits and my embroideries, as well as with my fabrics. During Covid, we were debating on how we could have fun but also intricately create a handmade product. The idea was to try and give the formality of a wedding but with a surprise factor in the form of design, a motif, or a message that you don’t see at your ceremony but something you just get as a surprise. We tried to create outfits that were formal enough, but at the same time, fun enough, so that’s where we thought of adding hidden details that light up only under certain light. and that’s how the glow- in-the-dark came about. 

Fashion is moving into the world of the metaverse. Will we see you becoming a part of it too?

Yes absolutely, it is something that we would get into, and we have been toying with the idea, but I think everything has a time. Honestly, I think it’s like an add-on, not a replacement. It cannot replace the real world, and I see metaverse as something that’s just offering you unique experiences that the real world can’t.

What’s next for you?

You know, it’s taken 15 years for us to make this aesthetic mainstream. So we are not going to take this lightly, and we are going to extend our aesthetic a lot more because honestly, I haven’t even scratched the surface. Once people are on your wavelength and consumers are where you want them to be is when you can start communicating strongly, and you can have a lot more fun. I have been toying with multiple product lines already that are ready for launch some time in the next year. I am just going to feed the market with more ideas, and take our product to the right consumer.

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