When surrealism meets panache, the result comes out as a brilliant couture brand called Shantanu & Nikhil. Founded by these Mehra brothers in 1999, the eponymous brand has always presented modern India through its designs. This niche brand understands the dreams of those who wish to wear traditional and elegant, yet stylish and creative attire. With its contemporary designs and sophisticated tailoring, this label is adorned as a winner in the global forum.
We indulged in a quick conversation with Designer Shantanu and decoded:
Q. How and when did you join the fashion industry? How drastically do you think it has changed and in what terms?
Shantanu: Both Nikhil and I went to the US in 1995 for our further education. After my MBA from Ohio, I decided to move to LA where Nikhil was already pursuing his fashion career. During his graduation finale show, I was amazed by the way he fused the Indian craft and made it contemporary. The language was modern and I felt that India needed this at that point of time. Something that was fresh, modernistic, and a little bit on the edgier side, yet with a touch of classic undertone work. I felt that we can actually nurture this through a brand in India and that’s how Shantanu Nikhil was born in 2000.
Q. How did Shantanu and Nikhil came into being?
Shantanu: While thinking about giving this brand an identity, Nikhil suggested the name Shantanu and Nikhil for out brand. That’s how we were born, and one year later, our primary focus was marketing and positioning of our brand. We tried to focus on the approach of ‘business to consumer’ by putting the collection and merchandise out in the arena for people to see and know them.
Q. How did you get your first break in the fashion industry?
Shantanu: In 2000, the coveted Lakme Fashion Week was introduced, but we missed out on that and we felt bad because we had a desire to announce ourselves on that platform since it was a very new concept with a focus to bring fashion on the mainstream. So, we decided to be a part of the show in 2001. We were initially rejected, but at the last moment Raghavendra Rathore could not participate and that place was empty, so we were asked to fill in. That’s how we got the opportunity to showcase our talent on the runway.
Q. How would you categorize the Indian and the International fashion industry in terms of design, marketing and opportunities?
Shantanu: In the international scenario, if the starting point is design then everything surrounding it will be design oriented. But in India, design comes at the last stage. We try to build everything and then finally at the end somebody will ask the tipping question, what about the design or where does design fit in? So looking at these two markets, we already know that India has a long way to go when it comes to people understanding the design and aesthetics of creativity. But, what goes in our favor is the young urban Indian population, under the age of 35, who are digitally quick and know what is happening around them. Even the west is recognizing the potential of this market as a strong one, clearly because of the demographic condition and bridal couture.
Q. What do you think is the major contribution of your brand in the Indian fashion industry?
Shantanu: As a brand we have always thought of bringing contemporary India to the front. The whole perception of fashion in India’s Recipe of Brilliance: Structure and Style, is very traditional but extremely heritage specific and grand, but it has lots of traditional overtones to it. Right from the beginning, we have perceived India with a contemporary tint. We have always reinvented and re-engineered the traditional form. In fact, we were the first designers to have invented saree gowns.
Designer Nikhil also indulged in the conversation and shared his valued opinions with us.
Q. Any specific actor you love designing for?
Nikhil: I have always loved working with people who have a sense of existence, a sense of knowing why they are here and have a strong sense of giving others freedom to do what they are good at. Mr. Bachchan is amazing and has always given us full freedom to use him as a muse. Deepika Padukone has also been that one person who has never interfered in the thought process of our designs.
Q. Any international celebrity you would like to work with?
We worked with Serena Williams and she was amazing. She was like a nightingale with a gentle heart and it was fun working with her. But in the future, I would like to design for Justin Timberlake, as he is very quirky and stylish, and Morgan Freeman.
Q. Indian actors and actresses you would like to design for their wedding according to their personality?
Nikhil: Designing for Ranveer Singh is fun and quirky. For his wedding, we would work on those little details and would keep it more fitted and structured. We will do a lot of jewellery on him but we will keep his sherwani simple. For Ranbir Kapoor it would be an old jamavar Indian traditional embroidery with a bit of tone on tone stuff. For Arjun Kapoor, I would design a simple bandhgala suit and accessorize it with beautiful buttons and crest that will represent his personality. For Salman Khan, I would do a Pathani or draped kurta with leather details because he has a massive body structure. For Deepika Padukone, we would do a gown in which the upper part will be corseted and the lower part will be very gentle, but with a lot of volume. For Alia Bhatt, it would be a gown with silhouettes and no embroidery. It would be lingerie style, corseted, seek through, with lots of net with the sparkle of Swarovski.
Stunning Designs from their Summer Spring 2016 collection: