Elemental Symphony

Kunal Rawal’s gender-fluid, border-breaking collection at the ultimate leg of the Blender’s Pride Glassware Fashion Tour was a triumph of his mastery over luxury fabrics and sleek silhouettes, even as he celebrates 15 years in fashion. We spoke to the maverick designer about his oeuvre and why monochromes will always be in.

In its ultimate showcase of the season, Blender’s Pride Glassware Fashion Tour 2022, powered by FDCI, celebrated diversity and inclusivity in a high-octane fashion show by designer Kunal Rawal at the Library Ground of the Gymkhana Club in Gurugram, with the music of artist Harrdy Sandhu, as Bollywood star Vicky Kaushal closed the show. With an eclectic lineup of models and influencers from all backgrounds, Kunal Rawal – who also completed 15 years as a fashion brand – showcased the new, bold, and modern India, with a modern take on Indian silhouettes and fabrics. We caught up the designer after the show.

LI: How does it feel to complete 15 years in the industry? What are the milestones you feel you have achieved?

KR: I honestly feel I haven't achieved much. My journey has just begun. It's taken us 15 years to have this aesthetic, somewhat accepted. It's taken 15 years to understand this market, which also is equally challenging, but the excitement and beauty of India is that it's 10 countries in one country. Every 100 kilometres will have a new silhouette, a new drape, a new lifestyle, a new language, and so much diversity in the way people think. So it's taken 15 years to just understand this beautiful market. I feel now occasion wear it is finally cool again and you have occasions where crossing borders, it's not bound geographically, it's something that goes beyond, something people consume across the world today. So I see the next 15 years will be when I'll hopefully achieve a lot more. But since music is our collaboration, we are creating some interesting music for the show where we are celebrating music and diverse types of music. We've also created a bit of a story about the label for the past 15 years and what we want to do for the next 15 years. So watch out and keep your ears open to catch hints of where we're going for the next 15.

LI: What is one of your favourite silhouettes from today's show?

KR: Oh my God, that's really unfair to ask me. But if I have to choose a few, there are about 12 new silhouettes and shapes coming in occasionwear not only for men, as this collection is a super gender-fluid collection. I'll pick them out and I will show you because I have a favourite because you won't know the ones I'm talking about, like the cream bandhgala, which I'm going to copy immediately. I'm a black fiend, so there are about four black looks that I want. But there's a lot more. In the last 15 years, there's so much that the brand has not delved into and in this collection, we are playing with a lot of those elements, drapes, being one of them. A brand, in my opinion, has always been slightly more structured, slightly more tailored. But I'm currently enjoying some drapes, some balanced drapes, but drapes for sure. So I'm definitely into a couple of them for myself.

LI: How has it been being a part of the Blenders Pride Glassware Fashion Tour for the first time?

KL: Well, I think it says so much more. It totally talks about where we are going with the blenders pride glassware fashion tour with the kind of designers, the kind of collaborations we're doing. You will see that very, very clearly. You know, you'll see the messaging, you'll see what we're trying to do here. And the metaverse is, I think it’s phenomenal that our show is the first show to be showcased in India on the metaverse. That's where the youth is. Everyone is consuming digital, including the metaverse all the more after the lockdown, you know, from across generations from the younger generation, to our parents to our grandparents, everyone is so much more digitally connected today. And that's why I feel it's amazing. We are the first ones, I wish and I think it should have happened sooner but where there are people like us and blenders pride glassware fashion tour, you will always have something new and something exciting coming.

Vicky Kaushal walks the ramp for Kunal Rawal at the Blender's Pride Glassware Fashion Tour in Gurugram

LI: We find white has become the trendy colour for weddings. Do you think it's a trend that’s catching on?

KR: I feel there's nothing more beautiful than ivory, cream, white, beiges – that family and that bucket of colour is so classic, so ethereal, so timeless. It is in my opinion, the strongest. It's the Indian formal colour. So I don't see it as a trend. The beauty is it's in fact anti-trend. It's something that's so classic, that you have different designers, you have different people taking different interpretations of it and wearing it in their own way. White for the night is a big trend for this season too. So white and ivory is here to stay and it's something that is one of my favourites too.

LI: Are men embracing the white sherwani?

KR: Absolutely. In fact embracing it and also embracing new silhouettes and ivory for their big day too. And it's not only whites, it's ivory, beige, champagne, that world of neutrals where there's a lot more play. For very long in Indian fashion, it has been über-maximalist or completely simple. I feel there's so much to do with the vibe so you'll see a lot of exciting whites coming out of our label too.

LI: You've played a lot with monochromes and muted hues in white and black. What is your current hue, especially for this show?

KR: Well, tone on tone is a big trend so that's something we will be carrying forward but there are so many new fresher colours coming in for the season – talk about lilac, talk about denim blue. We obviously have ivories, neutrals, beiges, champagnes, we have a big infusion of military tones coming in in the form of charcoals and steel grey and olives and dark wines. Also, we have some tone-on-tone pops coming in the form of rust. You have a bunch of blacks and a bunch of ivory, Aqua being a big colour for us this season as well.

LI: You have been big on the mix-and-match trend. Can you tell us how to cop a Kunal Rawal look?

KR: The beauty of what we do is we strongly believe in versatile separates; we believe in making looks out of separates that you could break and make multiple looks out of even in today's Social Media generation. That's what makes mixing and matching and copying a couple looks from different looks fast to make one look very, very easy. Most of our hems from the last seven years are planned in a way that they could be styled with anything else coming out of the label. So layering is a big trend for us and we are a big believer in versatile steps to create looks over a mannequin look. So you will see a lot of separates on the runway today, a lot of gender fluid separates.

LI: How was it to collaborate with Harrdy Sandhu and Vicky Kaushal? How does Harrdy express his style?

KR: I've known Hardy and Vicky for some time, and I think they are amazing. They are youth icons for a reason. They're amazing at what they do and I'm a big believer that today's the day and age of specialists you know of people who work hard on their craft and excel at it, I feel the energy but today we've got you know, we've got two really young collaborators, two youth icons, collaborating with us on the show. Expect nothing short of phenomenal.

LI: Your favourite Indian textures and fabrics? Where does the garment tread the line between art and functionality?

KR: I feel fashion always has to tread a line between art and functionality. Gone are the days where the designer was the hero or the Muse. Gone are the days where we could choose one dramatic muse – this guy, this girl who travels with us. Today the consumer is the muse. The big, big, big principle for the brand also is we cater to what we want to say the voice of the label into the who, what, where, when, who's wearing it, how they're wearing it, what is the usage, what is the functionality. I feel without the functional aspect, fashion and art doesn't work. It needs to be a combination today. That's what we require from our clothes right, that's the lifestyle young India lives and that's what we want to cater to. Also what we do is we put in the elements for you to have fun and to mix and match. I believe that who are we to tell you what to wear, you will are supposed to be empowered enough to choose what you want to wear we're supposed to just give you the options and the variety for you to choose.

LI: You recently spoke about your collaboration Ekaya. You hadn't done brocade before. How do you take something so common for Indian weddings and turn it into something very delicate?

KR: I feel brocade has not been designed for men, it's always been a dominant fabric in womenswear. And that fabric has been used to create menswear. Brocades for men is a completely different ballgame. It's something that I had seen terrible versions of and I had decided to never do brocade. But that was the child a few years back. Next 15 years you will be seeing brocades but then our way, the same way we are playing with things we've been averse to in the last 15 years like paisleys, like drapes and you'll see a lot of all of that in the show to come but it will be done our way.

LI: What is your moodboard for the current season?

KR: The moodboard is: Be yourself Be happy, Enjoy what you do. 2022 was an amazing year for me. So I look forward to finishing the show and putting my legs up and enjoying the last week of the year because this year has a lot of excitement coming up.

LI: What does winter mean to you for fashion?

KR: Layering, smart layering.

LI: You have been the go to designer for Bollywood Actors Arjun Kapoor, Vicky Kaushal. How has it been to dress them? How does your fashion influence their style?

KR: I feel with every creative like you know for us also we feel that every celebrity we collaborate with it unlocks a new side of us, unlocks a new side of our designs. So it's something I love doing. These guys are trend drivers of the country for a reason. They all have such unique fashion personalities that it I just see this as my pleasure and I'm just really grateful I get to work with all these guys and create diverse stuff for all of them.


Priya Kumari Rana

Lifestyle Insider is a kind of junction point, connecting people with diverse interests that touch on the more luxurious aspects of lifestyle – fashion, design, travel, food and spirits, art, watches and jewellery, cars, yachts, and aviation, and technology. People today don’t fit into boxes and categories. In our individual ways, we are interested in diverse themes, products, and the challenges that face our world today. You will judge how well this effort of mine caters to your passions and proclivities.

Lifestyle Insider is a showcase of all that is beautiful and luxe. Behind every creation, is a designer, chef, entrepreneur, or a design maison. I have delved into my own appreciation for objetsde luxe that I have admired over the years – be it a love of fashion from the world’s top Parisian and Italian fashion maisons and their ’90s muses, or the care that goes into sari and Indian textile collections in my own family. Growing up on four continents, as the daughter of a former Indian Ambassador, I’ve seen a remarkable array of historic places and met a myriad people. My aim is to bring my world view into this website, a curation of what I find particularly stunning, unique, and newsworthy.

It’s an exciting time for brands all over the world. With change comes opportunity. With the global ‘reset’ and uncertainty on many fronts, there is a chance to write a new script. Let’s be those pioneers.

A bit about me:
A luxury and fashion journalist with 25 years of experience in publishing and magazine journalism, I have edited some of India’s top fashion and luxury magazines. I got my BA in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley, and went on to receive my Master’s in English and French from the University of Strasbourg, France. I have also studied German and Film. I live in Gurugram, India, and look forward to once again exploring our world with a new-found freedom.

Priya Kumari Rana

Founder and Editor

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