Every Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla collection is steeped in exuberance, and has cultural and cinematic significance.
Their latest showcase, Glory Of Giddha, is an homage to an iconic folk dance from Punjab. It seamlessly combines lyrics, music and dance to present a form of fashion that's traditional, extravagant and celebrates India's design heritage.
In an interview, the designers, Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla, discuss the collection and the idea behind it. Edited excerpts:
What makes 'The Glory of Giddha' so significant among your vast body of work?
What makes it special is that giddha is traditionally performed by women and girls, but our film features an all-male group led by Noor Zora, whose pathbreaking work has paved the way for men to perform this feminine dance. Noor Zora proves that culture and tradition are never static and always open to reinvention and change. Their beauty is only magnified and elevated by inclusion and the artistic breaking of rules and convention. This aligns with our belief that the purpose of art is to break borders and liberate minds, bodies and souls, so creation becomes possible with absolute freedom.
‘Giddha’ takes you back to your Punjabi roots…
We are fiercely proud of our heritage and cultural legacy. We are madly in love with our rich traditions. They form the building blocks of our creative imagination and expression. As artists, we look at the old with brand new eyes. We take pleasure in a renewed perspective. Our imagination is unfettered and seeks to reinvent that heritage by setting new bars and standards of craftsmanship and creativity.
How was the process of collaborating with the Noor Zora group?
It was a deeply satisfying experience. Noor Zora is gifted with both talent and audacity. It takes immense fortitude to walk a new path, defy convention and ignore criticism. He has such a deep love and dedication towards giddha; it is clearly a singular passion that he has devoted his life to. We had a ball shooting the film because it is always a delight to work with path-breakers who take an established art form and make it their own.
Your campaigns have often featured non-binary and LGBTQ artists. How important is inclusivity for fashion?
Art is meaningless without inclusion. In an ideal world, discrimination must have no place in society. Liberated hearts and minds seek to include, not exclude. Our lives and hearts are ruled by love and always will be. It is the foundation of our creativity. We don't just respect, but celebrate differences as artists and humans.
The collection underscores the saying, ‘life begins when you are absolutely free’. What does freedom mean to you?
The freedom to live the life of one’s own choosing. The freedom to dream bigger, to imagine the seemingly impossible and then bring that to fruition. And most importantly, the freedom to be who you are.
The ensembles in this collection put the spotlight on the traditional ‘gota’ embroideries. How was the process of conceptualising and realising this vibrant collection?
The clothes exude the heritage charm of folk costumes. The richest silks in a riot of colours are enhanced with elaborate gota embroidery in gold and silver, appliqué and patchwork. The traditional kali kurta is reinvented with multiple kalis and fabulous salwars and dupattas rule the mood. The beauty of traditional maang tikkas, jhumkas, bangles and necklaces casts a visual spell that is utterly Punjabi.
Haute couture globally is becoming increasingly edited. Have you attempted to scale back or edit down your couture pieces to make them more everyday as opposed to occasionwear?
Absolutely not. For us, couture is not about becoming minimalist. It is about complex craftsmanship, multi-layered embroideries, techniques and a zealous attention to detail. We’re dreaming even bigger because you only live once, so why not dress like it?
In India the term 'couture' is used very loosely.
Couture like luxury has become a hugely over-used and misused word. It means the finest and most original design expression. A lot of sub-standard or average fashion often passes off as couture today. Plagiarism, too, is rife. We need to ensure that contributors of true work are cherished and protected.