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Couturiers Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla on their life and inspirations

Masters of their craft, each creation by couturiers Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla is akin to an heirloom piece. It’s no wonder then that their clientele features everyone from the Bachchans to Beyonce. We spoke to the master-duo about their life, challenges and inspirations.
Beyonce-in-Abu-Jani-Sandeep-Khosla-creation-IANS-Photo
Beyonce in an Abu-Sandeep creation 

You recently dressed Beyonce for the Coldplay video ‘Hymn for the weekend’. How did that happen? Tell us more about the process.
Beyonce’s stylist chose the dress and the coat from our JANI KHOSLA collection in LA. It was all very hush-hush. And when we watched the video, it blew our minds. She wore both the outfits to perfection. Beyonce is iconic for us too. We love her music and were awestruck like her fans! Interestingly enough this event is the perfect example of the two tenets that are central to our design philosophy.

That style never goes out of fashion.

Every woman makes an ensemble all her own.

An Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla is forever. It doesn’t fade or lose relevance with time. Clothes must have repeat value; they must transcend trends. The coat Beyonce wore in the Coldplay video was worn two years ago by Dame Judi Dench for a magazine shoot. Both women wore it in their own distinctive way. And it did them both absolute justice.

judi-dench-in-abu-jani-sandeep-khosla-for-vanity-fair
Dame Judi Dench in Abu-Sandeep for Vanity Fair

Dame Judi Dench is often seen wearing your designs. How has the experience of working with her been?
She is as wonderful off screen as she is on it. A class act all the way! She paid us the hugest compliment when we dressed her for the Oscars for the first time and she described our clothes as “the most feminine she has ever worn.” We are delighted in the faith she places in us and privileged that she has chosen to wear Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla time and again for the most important red carpet events.

Shweta Nanda in Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla at Hello! Hall of Fame Awards
Shweta Bachchan in a stunning creation 

Closer home, who’s your favourite person to dress up?
Every client is a celebrity to us. We don’t play favourites. We simply create and choose the perfect creation for each one. It’s a thrill to be entrusted with that faith. Of course our Pantheon of Goddesses—Jaya Bachchan, Dimple Kapadia, Amrita Singh and Tabu—are cherished. And now, the next generation—Shweta Bachchan Nanda, Sara Ali Khan, Twinkle Khanna. Sonam Kapoor are also favourites.

How would you describe your personal style?
Sandeep Khosla: When it comes to clothes, I believe the simpler, the better, Give me jeans and cotton shirts. When I dress for formal occasions its bandhgalas, sherwanis or chikan kurta pyjamas in cream.
Abu Jani: I like to mix it up.  I am naturally adventurous and inclined towards the stand out look, via accessories. I love shoes, watches and great jewels.

What are the challenges that you face in the business today?
Funding and infrastructure. Indian design houses have now grown on their own steam. It’s time we received private and public sector support to take us to our optimal sizes. There’s no dearth of talent. There is no limit to the creative or business potential of design. But it needs to be backed by big bucks if we are to make Brand India global. We also need strong and united lobbying from the industry as a whole. We must become and be seen as the fashion capital we can be.

Where do you find the inspiration for your designs, collection after collection?
Everything is inspiration for the creatively inclined. Whether it’s the impressions cast by the outside world or one’s inner life. It helps that we are also nitpickers and perfectionists, because it’s always about breaking one’s own bar. You are never content just resting on your laurels. One is obsessed with doing it bigger and better. Constant reinvention and a craving for growth are key.

You’ve also popularized traditional Indian crafts like chikankari, zardozi and mirrorwork. Can you tell us more about that?
We are unabashedly in love with India. Our arts and craft legacy is unsurpassed. It pains us as artists that that legacy is so undervalued. It should be cherished, protected and built upon. It has been and will always be our mission as artists to ensure that we take this miraculous DNA and create new beauty. So whether it’s our fabrics, embroideries or silhouettes, we focus on reinvention and regeneration. There can be no compromise on training artisans or rewarding them well. The downgrading in standards, in the value we place on craftsmanship is a heart breaking trend since Independence. We wish to change all of that and our work, we are proud to say is proof of our unswerving commitment to it.

Your label has completed almost 30 years. What’s the way forward now?
We wish to give our creativity new meaning, new expression and new arenas. We have just launched a diffusion label, ASAL by Abu Sandeep which carries forth all our couture sensibilities but with a more affordable price point. It’s also edgier and appeals to a younger woman. The initial response has been fantastic. We have two ASAL boutiques (in New Delhi and Mumbai respectively) and will be expanding that number in India as well as across the globe.

 

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