Making the cut
From dressing up Bollywood biggies to creating out-of-the-box bridalwear, ace designer Payal Khandwala is making all the right moves, says Susmita Saha
Payal Khandwala’s a hit with Bollywood A-listers. Tinseltown stars including Kareena Kapoor Khan, Deepika Padukone, Sonam Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Kangana Ranaut and Anushka Sharma have been seen in her creations at big ticket events. On a roll with Bollywood, she has also just launched her first bridalwear line, The New Emperor.
Khandwala’s bridal designs are different for a variety of reasons. For one, she has stayed clear of over-the-top embellishments and bling that are the hallmarks of Indian wedding ensembles. Instead, she has let luxurious handwoven Benarasis do all the talking. “The collection is aimed at the practical bride, who is more concerned about her personal style,” says the designer.
Thinking out-of-the-box she has fused several menswear-inspired silhouettes — like long jackets and sherwanis — in her bridal portfolio. “Tiny cholis have been replaced with shirts in our bridal line,” she says. Of course, the strong menswear vibe is balanced out with delicate, feminine silhouettes in her signature jewel colours.
Besides putting her newest line together, she’s just opened her second store in Bandra in Mumbai. This is in addition to her flagship store in Colaba and a shop-in-shop in Ogaan in Delhi’s Malcha Marg. Also, her label is stocked by multi-designer outlets in Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai and Calcutta. And all this has happened on fast-track since she launched her signature brand in 2012.
Says designer Kavita Bhartia, the designer behind Ogaan: “Payal’s creations in solid colours, textured fabrics and smart cuts are finding favour with buyers. She’s one of the popular designers at Ogaan.”
Relaxed fits, rich colour stories, layered separates and unique drapes define a Payal Khandwala collection. Dramatic yet minimal, her forte lies in her geometric silhouettes. So, she begins by creating squares, rectangles and circles and then uses these to create more complicated designs. The silhouettes are then further enhanced through drapes, twists, loops, pleats and tucks to sculpt the clothing around the body.
Although the designer has launched her first bridal line, her label was all about ready-to-wear collections before this.
Bollywood has taken a fancy to Khandwala for a reason. An entire community of Bollywood stylists that’s omnipresent at fashion weeks and is scouting for new fashion talent, likes her label for being different yet comfortable. They are also in love with the jewel tones she uses. She’s also a go-to designer for celebrities because her label offers different outfit options that can seamlessly take one from day to evening. So, airport, brunch and wedding looks for the glitterati can all be put together with outfits from the same label.
Although Khandwala is the designer to watch at the moment, fashion is something that she chanced upon. “I was passionate about painting, so I decided to study fashion assuming that sketching beautiful fashion illustrations would be a big part of a career in fashion design,” she says. She graduated in fashion design from the SNDT Women’s University in Mumbai and kick-started her career by working with designer Krishna Mehta.
She switched tracks in 1995 when she decided to go to New York to study Fine Arts at the Parsons School of Design. She studied there till 1999. She explains the change in her career trajectory: “I wanted to pursue art more seriously.”
Armed with a degree in Fine Arts, Khandwala stayed on in New York for few years before moving back home in 2002. Even in India, she continued painting for a decade or so before she said hello to fashion again. She was back to designing when she got an opportunity to showcase her first collection at the Lakmé Fashion Week in 2012 at the recommendation of couturier Wendell Rodricks.
She hasn’t looked back since. The designer’s Spring Summer ’16 collection was inspired by American artist and sculptor Richard Serra and American painter Franz Kline, with a focus on shapes such as circles, triangles and parallelograms. In addition, lines, symmetry, asymmetry and angles found an echo across the outfits that gave a big thumbs-up to handwoven detailing as well as tailoring. While her accessories start at Rs 2,500, the prices of her clothes begin at Rs 4,800 and can go up to Rs 1.25 lakh for the lehengas.
Before this, her Autumn/Winter 2015 line stood out for its signature colour blocking and distinctive silhouettes in handwoven brocades and silks.
“I wanted to use the Benarasi textiles to create designs that aren’t associated with them,” says Khandwala who created maxis, palazzos, pleated skirts and shirts with handwoven brocade.
Although, she has no time for art now, she did manage to squeeze out some time to paint a mural at her new store in Bandra.
Despite her fast pace of work, she makes it a point to keep a balanced schedule. “I try not to work on weekends and instead spend time with my daughter,” she says. Weekdays are busy but she says that she’s not a workaholic and occasionally likes hanging out, doing absolutely nothing. And clearly, that’s a winning formula for the ace designer.