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Tracing designer Payal Singhal’s inspirational moodboard

As the designer celebrates 20 years of her eponymous brand, she take Lounge through her canvas of creativity behind her fusion-focused clothing and accessoriesFrom the tribal jewellery of Rabari women and Pichwai art to Islamic architecture and Victorian-inspired pastel colours, Singhal’s aesthetic is a smorgasbord of cultural references

“My creative process is visual.... Some jewellery that has inspired me is the silver jewellery worn by the women of the Rabari, Bhil and Banjara tribes and gold jewellery inspired by the temples of south India."

“I personally love pastel colours such as pale grey, rose pink, mint green, cream, etc., as they were popular during the Victorian and Elizabethan periods. I love Jane Austen. Lately though, I have been incorporating some brighter colours to offset the pastel hues."

“Floral and animal motifs are some print motifs we have worked with extensively.... We have created some special animal prints such as the khargosh (rabbit), the chidiya (bird). They are inspired by Pichwai art."

“I am fascinated by Mughal and Islamic architecture, and borrow either a sense of pattern or texture from them. I have been inspired by the inlay mirror work at the Sheesh Mahal(Hall of Mirrors) in Jaipur’s Amer Fort and Islamic calligraphy on the walls of the monuments in Agra."

Payal Singhal.
Payal Singhal.

Founded in 1999, Payal Singhal’s eponymous brand has come to be known for its distinctive motifs and fusion silhouettes, like her signature embroidered blazers, dhoti-style pants with a sari pallu, lehnga skirts and shararas.

The designer’s workshop and office in the western suburbs of Mumbai reflect the same aesthetic—pastel-hued rooms strewn with fabric swatches, sketches and finished ensembles. Curiously, however, she is dressed in all-black; trousers paired with a blouse with billowing sleeves and frill accents on the bustier. “My personal style is relatively minimalist and gothic, as compared to my brand’s, which is eclectic and bohemian," she says.

Singhal, 41, grew up in Mumbai at a time when economic liberalization was leading to widespread exposure to international fashion trends. She and her peers would keep track and incorporate the trends into their personal styles.

When she started her brand, at age 21, she was inspired to fuse the country’s rich textiles and crafts with these trends. “I questioned why (these textiles and crafts) were only available to us in the form of Indian clothing and couldn’t be translated into the clothes we wore on a daily basis," she says. Singhal adapted traditional Indian clothing and contemporized it. “I added Western influences, such as pants, skirts, spaghetti straps, strapless, backless or sleeveless tops, etc., for my consumers to relate to the brand."

While womenswear remains the mainstay of the brand, Singhal has expanded to menswear, kidswear, stationery and accessories, even tech accessories. She has also collaborated with brands such as The Label Life, Fizzy Goblet, The Bombay Shirt Company and Macmerise.

The brand’s core design aesthetic, which Singhal describes as “fashion-forward and timeless", still remains true: pastel colours, floral designs and understated embroidery.

As Singhal prepares to celebrate two decades of her brand with a special show on 21 August at the Lakmé Fashion Week’s Winter/Festive 2019 edition, she revisits her leitmotifs with Lounge.

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