Season after season, designer Monisha Jaising has proposed new codes of evening glamour, boho-luxe holiday dressing, athleisure and bridal wear. Whether it's her embroidered bathrobe or the famous leather lehnga, her label's core philosophy has always been about letting the customer be the stylist.
Synonymous with athleticism-tinged sensuality and red carpet moments, the designer has now opened a flagship store in Delhi's upscale Defence Colony area.
In an interview, she talks about the new store, reinventing the kurti and her lifelong penchant for Baroque architecture. Edited excerpts:
You were initially retailing at the DLF Emporio Mall in Delhi. What made you open a store in Defence Colony?
During covid, the lease period of my store at the Emporio had come to an end. Due to lockdown and uncertain times ahead, we shut shop and I have been looking for a good space to return to Delhi. Defence Colony has always attracted me as a retail hub because of its location. Given the crazy traffic that has now become a permanent feature in Delhi, I feel Defence colony has an edge over other retail areas.
You've showcased at the FDCI-led India Couture Week in Delhi for years. How would you define your Delhi clientele and how are they different from your Mumbai loyalists?
Delhi loves dressing up and, therefore, loves and understands good quality fashion, tailoring and dress making. The Delhi clientele is either bold or classic; there is no in between. Such extremes inspire designers to either take risks and experiment or stay true to tradition. The Mumbai clientele prefers to play safe but at the same time loves to follow current trends.
You've started creating menswear in your recent campaigns. What inspired the move to venture into menswear?
The co-ord kurti sets have become popular among the men too. The kurta is unisex and since that’s the core USP product of our brand, my female clients have always asked me to come up with a similar range for their brothers, fathers, boyfriends, husbands. Therefore, yes, you do see menswear selectively shown in my collection too.
You were creating glam-leisure even in your earlier collections like the Polo tees, sequinned cricket vests and tracksuits, and now it's become a major street movement. How does it feel when you look back?
Athleisure or more likely glam-leisure has always been my forte. I love the idea of mixing bling with sport. That way it kind of gives it a more laid-back feel and reduces the gaudiness from the shine. Sport motifs like sporty stripes, slogans and numbers enhanced with shine and embroidery textures bring luxury to streetwear making it look glamorous yet cool.
What are the demands of the new-age customer?
They're spoiled for choice. Online shopping has made it so easy for a client today to get a variety of styles to cater to their needs just by the click of a button. Today, the new-age designer has to adapt to instant visual advertising and selling to keep the client engaged. Gone are the days of fashion's trend cycle of two seasons a year. It’s now what’s in this week.
In your recent campaigns, you've stayed true to your core Baroque appliques and also introduced feather accents…
The Baroque era has always inspired me; I get a lot of my embroidery motif and technique ideas from Baroque ceilings that adorn churches and from palaces like the one in Versailles. I first used feather accents on a sari collection I had designed (With Love From Notting Hill) in the fall of 2010. Since then, I have been using it as accents in my couture collection.
You reinvented the ‘kurti’, lending it new silhouettes: kurti dress, kurti gown and top. How do you see the classic ‘kurti’ evolving in 2023?
It’s currently trending at MJ (Monisha Jaising) in the form of co-ord sets and mini-shift dresses. However, in the future I am working on bringing back the sporty vibe to the humble kurti, something I had done way back in early 2000.
What have been your key learnings in the luxury retail space?
Well, it’s easier to be a designer in this country than any other country. Every other housewife today runs a tailoring business from home. I guess because we still have cheaper and a very large labour force in india.
How important is Bollywood for your brand?
Bollywood is huge. Its reach today is not only in India but worldwide. The supermodel at runway shows has been replaced by the showstopper. We have dressed most of the leading ladies of Bollywood and will continue to do so, as they in a way educate the masses in the country on fashion and trends.