He’s dressed the who’s who of Bollywood and the international jet set — from Varun Dhawan and Shahid Kapoor to Giambattista Valli and Peter Dundas. Always impeccably dressed, Kunal Rawal’s suave and sporty personal style often reflect in his collections. In an exclusive interview with Outlook’s Eshita Bhargava, the ace Bollywood designer Kunal Rawal spoke about his journey, the latest menswear collection, what keeps him going, common mistake men make when curating their looks, and much more.
Excerpts from the interview:
When did you first realise you wanted to pursue a career as a designer?
As a kid, my father used to take me and my sister, Sasha, to the factory for late-night drives. Shasha and I used to run straight into our favourite room, which was the fabric room. We used to sit upon a tower of different materials and play a game. We used to close our eyes and try and guess which fabric and texture each fabric was. Ever since then I’ve always been intrigued by to process of fabrics and the process of how the become a full outfit. I think that’s when I knew I wanted to be a designer.
Very early I realised that men’s fashion wasn’t a prominent industry in India – Back in the day, we didn’t even have aspirational male iconic because fashion decisions were made by the woman of the household. I wanted men to walk into my store and be overwhelmed with the number of options they had! We launch around 15 pieces every fortnight and all most all our pieces can be customised for different body types - so that there’s something for everyone!
From your first venture in 2006 to 2021, describe your journey?
I think over the years the focus has shifted to comfort and personalisation. I think that men today have got involved in the process of picking and purchasing their looks as opposed to 2006.
I think the biggest shift that has taken place between 2006 and today is the fact that fashion has become more acceptable and more individualistic. I think men's fashion is shifting to “You be you”!
Creative freedom in menswear has been the need of the hour and it's nice to see men coming in who are open to playing around with silhouettes, cuts, and even the styling of each outfit, making it personal and individual. We are finally reaching the stage where male beauty and styling is as important as it is in womenswear.
Today’s customers are interested to know whether a piece is handmade in India or machine produced. People are looking for versatile separates, something that they can style differently at a later day to look completely different rather than restoring an old outfit.
They are looking for multitasking garments that can be used for functions as diverse as a red carpet event to a Sangeet look or even intimate gartering to a destination wedding.
How would you depict the modern Indian man?
Today’s customers are interested to know whether a piece is handmade in India or machine produced. People are looking for versatile separates, something that they can style differently at a later day to look completely different; offering the client a bang for their buck. Overall I feel like today’s customers are moving towards conscious consumption rather than mass-produced garments and we’ve always focused on creating for the customer rather than a mass audience.
What is the common mistake men make when curating their looks?
Fit is key and so is grooming, an “Out of bed Look” is not an out of bed look.
Who is the one celebrity you love to see your designs on?
I think all of them! Each of them has had their style and that what I enjoy. I believe that style is a very personal thing so I love to incorporate each person's style is what I’m curating for them! I've loved working with Ranbir, Arjun, Harsh, Sahid & Akshay! If you go back and look at the looks we’ve done for them you’ll realise that all the looks are catered to each individual's style!
Describe your work in one word.
Tell us something about your latest collection. When did you start designing your new collection and what is the inspiration behind the same?
Our latest collection is called “Bonnie & Clyde” and it's shot in live locations all around New York City! I’ve always felt that our clients are not bound by geographic locations and are linked by a common mindset! This collection is inspired by people on the go and the move. We’ve created outfits that have increased mobility and are a culmination of versatile separates. Each piece of this collection can be put together or broken down to create multiple silhouettes and styles. You get more looks which increase the garment’s wearability and ensures value for your money.
What makes your latest collection different?
This year is all about pastels and we wanted to try something we’ve never done before. It’s the first time we explored the colour lemon.
I have always believed in the versatility of clothes. In this collection, our 3 piece vanilla set can be broken down into around 7 looks if you break up the set.
I feel like this piece represents the “New Aesthetic”. With tone-on-tone embroidery with beautiful geometric patterns and versatile separates coming together to make a great piece, this piece amalgamation of everything we love.
You can break this outfit and wear it just as a kurta, or a Bundi kurta set, or a 3 piece suite depending on the occasion. I also gravitate towards this look the most because our philosophy has always been that our clients are not bound by geographic location. We design keeping in mind the global modern man and this piece draws inspiration from both deep-rooted traditional and modern-day luxury to create the perfect fusion.
What you do expect menswear trends to be in 2021?
Needless to say that the events of 2020 will play a major role in setting the mood for 2021. I think 2021 will be a year of comfort, customization, and personalization. With weddings getting more intimate and efforts shifting towards sustainability I think men will be looking more for one of a kind, hand-made personalized pieces. Comfort will become a very important element for a man, whether it's comfortable fabrics or comfort driven silhouettes. Versatile separates will be a big trend too, I think men will buy pieces that they can later multitask to create multiple looks giving them a bang for their buck.
This year, in my opinion, will see a lot of rebellion, when it comes to fashion. People have been restricted in 2020 and will now seize the opportunity to stand out. I believe we will see layers of streetwear make their way into occasion wear - I can imagine a pair of drop-crotch pants being styled with a sherwani. Another trend that we have seen this year that I think will continue in 2021 is military tones for occasion wear. I think men are moving towards more versatile shades and military tones like olive, gunmetal grey or our deep charcoals are here to stay.
If we ever got a sneak-peek into your wardrobe, what would we find?
I believe dressing up is an impulse. So I take it as it goes, depending on my mood during the time. I love to dress us & I love to mix and match versatile separates to create a look. So if you go into my closet you’ll find a lot of versatile pieces that can be put to create different looks. I also love to layer a lot of outfits so you’ll find a lot of different coats, waistcoats & jackets in my closet.