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Bollywood, celebrity culture are important for every fashion brand, says Mohit Rai

The creative director and co-founder of label ITRH talks about the Lakme Fashion Week x FDCI runway debut and future plans

From ITRH's latest collection
From ITRH's latest collection

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Celebrity stylist Mohit Rai is super thrilled. He's just wrapped up the debut runway show of ITRH, a fashion label brand he co-founded with Ridhi Bhansal. The show was presented on 10 March as part of the ongoing Lakme Fashion Week x FDCI in Mumbai. 

Distilling his vast editorial and red carpet styling experiences into ITRH, Rai's aesthetic is synonymous with upbeat sass and unapologetic glamour. For ITRH's debut showcase, the duo embraced unbridled maximalism. "Most importantly, we went back to our love for disco and music…  it's super glamorous, absolutely filled with red carpet drama and just a whole lot of Indian contemporary sexiness," he says. 

In an interview with Lounge, Rai talks about the runway showcase and future plans for the brand. Edited excerpts: 

ITRH has already been popular among movie stars and influencers. What made you embark on a runway debut?

I think it has to do with the inherent glamorous nature of our clothes and our outfits. Having said that, I do feel a brand journey is never complete without showcasing on the runway. 

Both Ridhi Bansal (designer) and I are very old school, and we do believe in the power of the runway. We believe that a brand has to showcase on the runway to have a full circle and a full-fledged moment. We're extremely thankful and blessed for having the opportunity to showcase at Lakmé Fashion Week x FDCI this year. It takes a long for a brand to reach this stage, and the rate of the journey for us has been quite fast. I believe it was essential for us to showcase on the runway and we are beyond grateful for this opportunity.

How much has your experience as a Bollywood and editorial stylist impacted your design process for the brand?

My individual experience as a Bollywood and editorial stylist has obviously impacted the overall brand aesthetic. I am very influenced by the glamour industry, the realities and the ergonomics of how that works and how the industry drives trends and economics.

Editorials are my first love and have also impacted our overall brand aesthetics. We always believe in the bigger the better. We look out for something that has visual impacts, shoots beautifully, and gives you that sort of extremely editorial moment when you wear it. I think everything has a sense of maximalism attached to it. Having worked in design for almost more than a decade helps us perfect our technicalities and execution of pretty much everything that we can imagine and dream. 

ITRH has been evening-centric, with bodycon shapes, sparkle and bridal pieces. What’s your take on the antifit, indie, street-inspired aesthetic? 

Yes, while we have been glamour oriented, we as designers recognise the importance of what is current and what language the current generation is relating to. Anti-fit and street style is not something we are versed with, but it’s slowly becoming a part of the brand with our extended commercial pieces. You will start seeing a lot of those in our main collection pieces as well. 

We love what is going on in the world because while you can be true to your aesthetics, it’s essential to stay relevant and current. We don’t want to be artists. Instead, we want to be designers and offer solutions to the world with our own aesthetics.

What’s the next step for ITRH?

After the runway show, we are looking at expanding into standalone stores. We would love to do brand collaborations. There is a lot brewing up for the brand and 2023 is definitely an exciting year for us. We look forward to more international placements. Paris Hilton donning ITRH was definitely a dream moment for us. Hopefully, 2024 turns out to be a magnanimous year for the brand.

Any dream muse you'd love to dress and who epitomises the values of your brands?

Beyoncé has always been a muse for the brand in terms of her overall maximalism and the sense of glamour that she epitomises. Her sense of musicality really inspires me and she is definitely our ultimate muse. We are hoping for this dream to come true one day. 

How do you conceptualise each collection? What's the process like?

Each collection always starts with a texture and colour for the season. Post that we move on to swatches and other processes. The process is very textile driven since both of us are textile design students. The process then moves on to the body and we always start with dupattas or sarees.

How do you cater to the un-gender taste of today’s evolved customers?

We do cater to the current un-gender sensibility in fashion. A lot of womenswear pieces are sold to men and menswear pieces such as bomber jackets and bandhgalas are being worn by women. The world should not be segregated into the binary of gender. These tags should disappear in the long run and there should be individuality and individual expression towards fashion.

How important is Bollywood for your brand?

Bollywood and the celebrity culture are extremely important for every fashion brand. This is because it impacts how consumers are consuming fashion and also drives global trends. We cannot escape celeb culture in terms of fashion. While we do follow it and understand the importance of it, we don’t let it become the central character. We work with celebrities for visual impacts and to become aspirational in terms of fashion.

Do you see fashion becoming increasingly trend-less in 2023?

I personally see fashion becoming trendless in the long run. I personally love fashion that you can look back at and it still seems relevant.

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