Baroque and goth, yet feminine and delicate — Rocky Star is a designer whose design aesthetic is as versatile as it is firm in its beliefs. The celebrity fashion designer has many a feather in his cap, from being a costume designer in a number of Bollywood films — Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham to name two — to dressing divas like Beyonce and Paris Hilton, and owning the hip Rocky Star Cocktail Bar in Mumbai. With creations that amalgamate age-old Indian traditions and modernity of design, Rocky Star has completed 30 years in the fashion industry.
My Kolkata had a chat with the designer to know all about his newest collection, his design aesthetic, his show at the Milan Fashion Week 2023 and more. Edited excerpts from the conversation follow…
My Kolkata: How would you describe and introduce your new collection?
Rocky Star: Our new festive collection combines meticulous hand embroideries with our in-house craftsmanship — creating timeless and luxurious designs. The collection is designed for the contemporary generation, the contemporary bride, with an Indian blend using the best balance of colours, tints, forms.
Your new SS/23 collection has structured corset-style bodices and pastel colours with an inclination towards florals — fresh, but with an old-world charm. What was the inspiration behind this?
The collection is designed to evoke awe, and is inspired by baroque aesthetics from history, which emphasises contrast, rich colour, grandeur and a feeling of mystery, combined with our signature style. The influence of classic and antique baroque is defined by the colourful essence and the motifs are inspired by selected historical components from that era of art.
The collection is reminiscent of the ornate and bespoke styles of the years gone by while keeping the looks fresh — from the point of view of a designer, how hard is it to refresh an aesthetic that people are already so familiar with?
As a designer, refreshing a familiar aesthetic can be a tricky task. The goal is to update the best parts of the past to fit current styles and trends while keeping the essence of the original design. It’s a balance of old and new, and the key is to keep the design fresh while still respecting its roots. It necessitates a thorough understanding of design history as well as the ability to incorporate those elements into a modern context.
As a designer who has seen the ebb and flow of trends while setting trends yourself, do you think retro, recycled and vintage looks are here to stay? Is there something about the charm of the yesteryears that people can’t get enough of?
I’ve noticed an increase in the popularity of retro, recycled, and vintage styles in recent years. These have a timeless appeal and are here to stay. People are drawn to nostalgia because it evokes memories of simpler times and there is a sense of security in the familiar. Sustainability is also an important consideration, as incorporating vintage and recycled elements into design promotes sustainability and reduces waste. Finally, vintage and retro styles have a distinct and authentic backstory, making them one-of-a-kind and adding a touch of personality to any design.
Sensual Pop Minimalism seems to be a trend that is going to shine in 2023, what are your thoughts on it? How would you break it down into different elements?
I think it is here to stay. Sensual Pop Minimalism is a distinct design aesthetic that combines elements of sensuality, pop art, and minimalism — clean lines, streamlined silhouettes and a focus on functionality, but with a touch of whimsy thanks to the use of bold colours and playful pop-art elements. The style emphasises attention to detail, employing cutting-edge materials and techniques to create pieces that push the boundaries of traditional fashion design. Despite its minimalistic aesthetic, it incorporates sensuality through form-fitting clothing and suggestive shapes, creating a look that is both understated and provocative.
Last year (2022) saw the return of a number of trends including ’90s and Y2k designs. What are your thoughts on it?
I believe that the return of ’90s and Y2k fashion trends in 2022 demonstrated the timeless nature of fashion. The 1990s and 2000s were known for their influence on popular culture and fashion, and their resurgence allowed consumers to embrace these iconic styles in a new and updated way. It’s exciting to see these trends inspiring new generations of fashion designers and consumers, and it serves as a reminder of the long-lasting influence of previous decades on current fashion.
Do you think every fashion trend makes a comeback after a decade or two? With additions, changes, and enhancements, these trends seem to be making a strong comeback just when one least expects it. How do you feel about returning trends and the way they are being modernised?
Fashion, in my opinion, is a cyclical art form in which returning trends provide opportunities for creativity and ingenuity. Designers must strike a balance between paying homage to the past and creating something new and innovative, ensuring that the revival of a trend speaks to the values and needs of contemporary consumers, while also offering something unique and relevant.
What’s your take on the idea that runway fits and couture are not comfortable, and is ‘comfort’ and ‘wearability’ a factor that has changed through the years, if yes, then how?
The notion that runway fashion and couture are uncomfortably tight has existed for a long time. Still, comfort and wearability have become increasingly important in recent years due to the rise of athleisure and streetwear, as well as the practical demands imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, many fashion designers have incorporated more relaxed silhouettes and more comfortable materials into their collections, balancing high-end design and quality with comfort and wearability. This is something that’s here to stay and will shape the fashion industry in the future.
You’ve been in the industry for 30 years now. How has your interpretation of design and creative process changed?
In terms of design interpretations and the creative process, the fashion industry has changed dramatically over the last three decades. Technology and digital media have had a significant impact on how I approach my work. From paper and pencils to iPads, software and now 3D printing being widely used along with the rise of AI, inspirations are now just a click away although I love to physically explore the place to get inspired. Cultural and social shifts, such as an increased emphasis on sustainability, have also had an impact on the materials and techniques used in design and production.
From the point of view of being creative and constantly needing to innovate, how easy or difficult is it to stay relevant with social media being the central point of influence in everyone’s life?
Staying relevant on social media can be a difficult but rewarding task for us. We use social media to showcase our work and reach a large audience, but with the constant influx of new content, it can be difficult to stand out and get noticed. Designers must constantly innovate and push the boundaries of design in order to produce unique and impactful designs that capture the attention of users. Furthermore, having a strong online presence and a well-planned social media strategy can assist designers in reaching their target audience and growing their reputation in the design community.
Gender-fluid fashion and anti-fit silhouettes are being embraced increasingly by people, what are your thoughts on it? Does clothing being gender-fluid give your creativity a wider playground?
Gender-fluid fashion and anti-fit silhouettes reflect shifting attitudes toward gender and fashion. Fashion has become a way for people to express their individuality and break free from stereotypes. As a result, there is a demand for clothing that can be worn by anyone regardless of gender identity. From my perspective, the trend of gender-fluid fashion opens up a larger canvas for exploring design possibilities and breaking free from norms. Designers are no longer constrained by traditional gender norms, and are free to experiment with new cuts, shapes, and styles, opening up a world of creative possibilities. The trend also allows designers to question notions of beauty and create clothing that celebrates diversity and inclusivity, promoting a more accepting and inclusive society.
The Haute Couture Week this year saw some unique designs and more than wearable off-the-runway looks, it was more about the extent and possibilities of fashion as an expression — for example, Schiaparelli and Viktor & Rolf — what are your thoughts on this?
It's great to see Haute Couture Week evolving and showcasing the breadth and scope of fashion as an expression. The inclusion of unique designs and avant-garde styles by brands such as Schiaparelli and Viktor & Rolf demonstrates the fashion industry’s innovative spirit and desire to push the boundaries of what is possible in fashion design.
These designs show that Haute Couture is more than just making wearable clothing; it is also about experimenting with new techniques, materials, and concepts to express creativity and artistry. The emphasis on artistic fashion expression highlights the importance of haute couture in shaping the future of the fashion industry and inspiring new generations of designers and artists.
Haute Couture Week continues to be a platform for the fashion industry to demonstrate its creative potential and the limitless possibilities of fashion as an art form.
Do you think couture is going to make a comeback in the upcoming seasons? What would you like to see and create more of?
Couture has a long history in the fashion industry and has long been associated with luxury and elegance. It is still popular among fashion enthusiasts and has seen a recent resurgence, with many high-end fashion brands showcasing their haute couture collections on the runway. In terms of what I would like to see in couture fashion, I would like to see the trend toward sustainability and eco-friendliness continue. Using sustainable materials in couture garments, such as organic cotton, linen, and recycled fabrics, would be a step towards making the fashion industry more environmentally responsible. Furthermore, I would like to see a greater emphasis on versatility and practicality, so that couture pieces can be worn with a broader range of outfits and lifestyles. This would make couture more approachable and appealing to a wider audience.
You have been invited to showcase at Milan Fashion week 2023 this season! How was it to get the invite?
Being invited to showcase my collection at the Milan Fashion Week is a huge honour and a dream come true. It demonstrates that the industry recognises my hard work and creativity and that I am on the right path to success. I am exhilarated, proud, and grateful for the opportunity to present my collection on such a prestigious platform.
How are the nerves, considering the show is right around the corner on February 25?
This is my second time showcasing my work in Milan, and I’m thrilled and excited, but also nervous and anxious, because there’s a lot of pressure to deliver a memorable and impactful show, and to be able to inspire the audience with my vision and craftsmanship, that will leave a lasting impression on the audience.
From the first draft of the sketch to bringing my vision to life, casting the models, creating mood boards, hair and makeup, and so on, the preparation itself has been a special journey that I have embarked on with my team, and now it has arrived at its final destination, which I am delighted to present to everyone.
Rapid fire with Rocky Star
How would you describe your aesthetic in one word?
How would you describe your personal style?
- Cool and Casual
Which is your favourite season to design for?
Which is your favourite kind of silhouette — anti-fit or curve-accentuating?
How would you encapsulate 30 years of your brand in three words?
- Divergent, Modern and Enigma