Exclusive: Celebrity designer Kunal Rawal on 15 years of his brand, evolution of men’s fashion & much more
It’s 15 years of Kunal Rawal, the brand has dressed Arjun Kapoor, Varun Dhawan, Sonam Kapoor and so many more A-listers. Read on our exclusive interview to know more!
There is nothing wrong in saying Bollywood style is incomplete without the groom in a Kunal Rawal number. The ace designer specialises in men’s fashion and has set a bar catering to men of different ethnicities and body types with his chic style and design aesthetics. An advocate of gender-less fashion, Kunal Rawal has completed 15 years in the industry and has emerged as a strong brand name, setting a loyal consumer base for himself. With his signature multi-functional approach to design, Kunal recently showcased his new couture collection 'Dear Men' at FDCI India Couture Week, for which the designer drew inspiration from the medley of cultural and traditional influences prevalent in India. In our exclusive tete-a-tete with the designer, we got a scope of all things that went behind crafting up his refreshing collection.
It’s 15 years of Kunal Rawal. How do you feel about achieving this milestone and how has the brand evolved over the years?
The first thought is that I don’t know whether the time has flown but there most definitely has been an evolution. There's been an evolution in the market. Menswear has changed so drastically in the last few years and for the better. So it's definitely a very exciting feeling and a lot of excitement about what the next 15 years will look like because it's taking us 15 years to get us heading to the mainstream and accepted and they are looking forward to where the next 15 years go.
When we started off, the market was very different. Today the market has evolved so much that I feel menswear is far more democratic today. In the last few years, India has been more progressive and you have the strongest correlations. So, that is a big part of inspiration and that is what keeps me as a designer evolving and adapting.
Fashion being a business where change is witnessed almost every other day, how do you work on keeping your designs and silhouettes relevant?
More than designs, concepts are relevant. Thoughts and ideas are relevant. When we started this journey four to five years ago, things like men not having the luxury of charity, making sure that couture was looked at as functioning and having smart design elements that need comfort all these concepts are to me relevant. The concepts that you know that personalization and customization are relevant and we've always factored that in. Today there are a lot more people who are looking not only for detailed products but also at multitasking products that are slightly more functional and could be worn in multiple different ways.
So these are the concepts that are relevant and which are getting more prominence because people are looking at multitasking occasional wear.
Your recent collection at ICW was fabulous! What was the inspiration behind the collection and the story behind naming it 'Dear Men'?
Thank you so much! The collection was literally like an ode to the men in our lives, in my journey and my life and also celebrating 15 years of the brand. So, in my journey, I've realised how the evolving market is such a big aspect of my inspiration and the men we cater to are such a big part of our starting point. In a country like India, where every 15 km you have a different style, silhouette, and lifestyle; as a designer, it’s very exciting to cater to an audience with such vast diversity figuring out the major design elements. It is so much more rewarding than something because you're in a country where you have so much diversity and so many different opinions. and that's the fun. That itself is such a big inspiration for us and hence the name ‘Dear Men’ to enjoy and appreciate different perspectives of Indian men. The collection caters to the whole spectrum of celebrations ranging from modern luxury to deep-rooted traditional wear. We want you to pick and choose and be fair and look the way you would want to be.
The ramp featured models of different ages, heights and body types in aesthetically pleasing outfits. Which section do you think is most challenging to work as a designer?
Possibly the section that does not know what they want is the most challenging because I personally feel that there's no specific section that is tough to deal with. Pattern cutting is one of our USPs so I love playing with different body shapes. I think that's what makes it all-inclusive. It's a perfect representation of the market I cater to, which is India which is very diverse and I don't see why a lot more designers don't do this because it makes too much business sense.
What were the key designs and craft works used in your recent collection? Which was your favourite silhouette from it?
It was a celebration of our DNA. The collection showcased a lot of beautiful embroideries, texturing, thread works, structured drapes, and new variations of the classics with fabrics like jute, and velvet. And there's another storyline where we played with things that we've not introduced to the brand in the last 15 years that was absolutely so much fun because in addition to our french knots which is our signature we explored mirror work for the first time and that was you know that turned out to be a hit.
My favourite silhouette from this collection is a sherwani with a jacket made with side hidden slips and hidden pockets. So it's something that fits like a glove. It's a tight fit and that's something I think will be very popular this season as it has many technical details to it.
While the rise in androgynous fashion trends has let women explore the men’s fashion elements with no reins attached, how far has the men’s fashion been able to explore feminine fashion elements?
I feel menswear, definitely is having a lot of fun with genderless silhouettes, not specifically menswear silhouettes, or womenswear silhouettes, but genderless silhouettes. And of course, You see that happening a lot today because there's so much inspiration today from India and the different Indian cultures and the different Indian traditional attires which are majorly gender fluid (lungis, dhotis, etc.), and are being seen on by men in occasion wear today. So I think men are taking a lot from the girls and that's how it should be when it comes to fashion.
You have been the go-to designer for several Bollywood A-listers. Tell us your experience working with the actors.
With a lot of diversity in India, cinema is one way that holds us all together. I found it as a strong platform to connect and bring about a fashion change in India. The experience had been both professionally and personally rewarding. Just like in movies, every actor too brings out a different side of aesthetic, a different side of a designer and each is a unique experience. I love catering to all these different actors because they all bring out a different side to my work. They all have different personas, different designs, and different body types, and it all brings out a different side of you. So I'm currently enjoying my journey working.
As a designer, do you ever experience creative blocks or the pressure to be creative as a designer? If so, how do you deal with it?
Blocks happen all the time and I'm sure everybody has their good and bad days. One thing that helps is taking some time off mentally from getting your head out of the game and making sure you distract yourself whether it's in the show, whether it's with travel, whether it's with a conversation. I just step out alone for a quick spin around the city and refresh my mind.
According to you, what are the current trends in men’s fashion?
Tone-on-tone textures, multi-tasking products, micro-motifs, personalisation and customization are a big trend this season.