Falguni Shane Peacock is hitting the refresh button— something that became clear on 11 September, when the homegrown designer brand’s ready-to-wear spring 2024 show started at the New York Fashion Week (NYFW).
A model in a cropped gold tuxedo and an embroidered long, sheer skirt paired with a white shirt, big hoops and a black cap, opened the show. It delivered. For one, the moodboard of the collection, titled 2.0, was streetwear meets luxury, quite different from what consumers and loyalists are used to seeing from the house of FSP, or Falguni Shane Peacock.
A glittering bodysuit, and an embroidered bralette with joggers made by artisans from West Bengal, had replaced their usual fare of mermaid-silhouette dresses and bow-shaped blouses. Subtle shades of white, grey, blue and black dictated the colour palette, instead of their go-to bright colours.
The message was clear: The wife-husband duo of Falguni and Shane Peacock wants to create a fresh identity.
The Peacocks made their debut on the Indian runway in 2004 and soon began work on building an international identity with Western wear that emphasised animal prints and traditional embroideries. At a time when most Indian designers were busy working on wedding clothes in India, they showcased regularly at fashion capitals like London and New York, and dressed international A-listers such as Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Fergie.
Building a strong base in India wasn’t really on their mind till eight years ago, when the bridal space, worth crores of rupees, seemed too attractive to keep away from. From 2015, they began focusing on expanding in India though the brand, still self-funded, continued to make news in the fashion world internationally. Last year, the two received the prestigious Shiromani Award, which recognises Indian talent across the world, at the NRI World Summit 2022 in Dorchester, UK, for their contribution to the world of fashion. A year earlier, Carrie Bradshaw (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) had flaunted an FSP lehnga in the Sex And The City reboot, And Just Like That.... Among NRI brides-to-be, FSP is now among the top choices.
“With this new (NYFW) collection, we want to build a new identity globally,” says Falguni. Helping them in this collection was Law Roach, the stylist who has worked with icons such as Zendaya, Celine Dion and Priyanka Chopra Jonas. This is perhaps the first time an international stylist has worked with an Indian design house on a full-fledged collection.
In a Zoom interview from Mumbai, Falguni and Shane Peacock talk about their return to the New York runway after a seven-year hiatus, bringing Roach on board as creative director for the collection, and writing a new chapter in the brand’s almost two-decade history. Edited excerpts from the interview:
Shane (S): Yes, we have always been known to do so much with colour. But this time, it’s a fresh take. When we started designing this (NYFW) collection, we did a lot of pieces. Then Law came on board as creative director and we started ideating on what the end collection should look like. It had to have a fresh appeal, a different sensibility from whatever we have done in the past, but it had to look like it came from the brand. So, we pulled back from colour and went monotone, like there’s white, black, silver...
S: When you are working with masters of an industry, it’s good to take advice and let them make decisions for the brand. That’s because they are constantly working in this field; they have an authority in their position.
Whenever we visit New York or any other city for work, we see people mostly in black, white, grey and blue. And then you walk around with that colourful jacket, and you are the odd one out. Even at high-profile parties, everything is just minimal, and then you are wearing this over-the-top coat, and everyone says it’s not the Met Gala. So, when we decided that we are going to do a collection with Law Roach, we decided we will keep the collection more towards what they do.
S: Most big brands get creative directors on board. Like Louis Vuitton got Pharrell Williams; it added a completely different perspective to the brand. We thought, why don’t we get someone to bring a fresh take on our brand? When you are ready to get creative geniuses to work with you, the output is going to be different. It may not match your style but I think it elevates the brand, makes it grow in ways you can’t perhaps imagine and takes it in a different direction.
Falguni (F): This show is a defining moment for us. We need to see how this collection will be received and then decide the path forward. We have grown in different paths since we last presented in New York in 2016.
From 2012-16, we did about seven-eight seasons in New York. And then we were dressing celebrities like Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Madonna, Paris Hilton, Fergie, and doing a lot of Western wear. Our work was growing bigger internationally but we weren’t really there in India. We just had one store (at DLF Emporio mall in south Delhi). And then, in 2015-16, we decided, you know what, India is a booming market and we should capture it.
In 2017, we had our flagship store in Delhi...we got into bridal wear, couture. Two years later, we launched a store in Mumbai with (interior designer) Gauri Khan. In 2021, the Hyderabad store was inaugurated. Later this year, we are launching a store in Kolkata. Our ready- to-wear store is coming up in Dhan Mill, Delhi, towards the end of this year.
We decided to put all our energies, time and focus on India and take a break from the New York or London Fashion Week because we had covered those markets.
F: At that point, we were quite young, and it was never anything about strategy. It was just about us wanting to be creative and going with the flow and be, like, chalo, let’s do London Fashion Week. One day, after the London Fashion Week, I got a call from (stylist) B. Åkerlund asking if we could make four outfits for Fergie in a week’s time. We did; it started our journey in celebrity dressing in 2011.
F: Celebrity dressing has always been really big, whether it is for an Indian brand or an international brand. But eventually, it is all about whether you are doing something which is like a commercial look. Eventually, the commercial stuff sells. It (celebrity dressing) just leads to strengthening the brand’s perception.
S: I think it’s your craft that makes people want to wear your clothes, and that trend continues till today. What has changed in the past decade or so is the storytelling. Social media has become this place to show, “Look who I dressed up.”
F: You know, people are now saying that India is on the map. That the world is looking at India, not just as a place of craft but also as the place for the final product. But that has been happening for a long time. We ourselves were doing this 10 years back. What’s changed is the storytelling and it has a lot to do with social media. Feathers have always remained a core part of all your collections, including the NYFW one...
S: When we started out internationally, we showed feathers and it was well received. That really made us think we should enhance this thing. Then when we were doing it in India, many were, like, “This toh looks like a bird”...“Why are you adding bird feathers to clothes?” But we continued because feathers are considered luxury in places like France and the US. Today, many brands are using feathers, and we are trying to slowly move away from them.
Travel, though, remains part of all our collections. As a creative person, when you travel, you see so many different styles, just while walking on the road. I think that inspires us both, because that’s the time we are not working, we are just sitting and observing people. Museums, churches, roads, architecture, we don’t realise it, but these sights really open up your mind to things you would have never thought of otherwise.
S: Craftsmanship is always something that is true to India. Our kind of craftsmanship doesn’t exist anywhere else. So, what we do is take the old techniques but modernise them. We don’t want to create clothes that make you look like you walked from 1970, or 1980. The wearer should feel that they are on trend, they are cool. I don’t want to stick to one particular form of embroidery; you get too caught up in it and you become only that.
S: The NRI bride is very inspired by the Indian bride. Five years ago, when we used to have trunk shows in the US, the brides-to-be wanted only gaudy or dark colours. Now, after spoon-feeding them through these social media campaigns by so many designers, they are no longer stuck in the era when they left India.
F: I feel that people who left India, like, 20 years back...their sense of fashion is stuck there. So, earlier these parents would dictate to the children what clothes they should pick up for their wedding. Now, because of social media, these brides are like, “No, I want a mint lehnga".
S: We are working on a perfume line, expanding our home décor offerings. We have stores coming up in Kolkata, Delhi. We are also looking at opening stores in Bengaluru, Chennai, Chandigarh. Once all this is done, then we will look at expanding internationally.