First-timers Harpreet & Rimple Narula are worshippers of the beauty of Islamic art and its intricate motifs; at ICW they will enliven the catwalk with ivory, beige and splashes of classic black with of course, their signature gold.
You wouldn’t expect a Hindu College, economics graduate to ever think about fashion design, but Harpreet Narula, also a trained lensman, of the duo Rimple and Harpreet will surprise you with his studied insights on what occasion wear really means for an Indian woman, who had declared her independence from anything that weighed her down years ago.
Growing up in one of Punjab’s richest industrial towns, Ludhiana, Harpreet met Myanmar-born Rimple, who studied arts in Hansraj College, and they tied the knot in 2000, which was also the year they launched their label. Rimple’s family moved to New Jersey after the Sikh riots in 1984 and set up businesses in Nigeria, but she longed to come back to home, which she eventually did. “Harpreet and I knew each other for a long time, and it was also the love for designing that got us together,” says Rimple.
Ready for their first ever India Couture Week 2014 showing at the Taj Palace Hotel, Rimple and Harpreet have come a long way from a small studio in Ludhiana to two boutiques (Ludhiana and Defence Colony). Harpreet comes from an affluent industrialist family, Allied Engineers, which are one of the biggest dealers in automobile spare parts and they also own the Gujranwala College, Ludhiana. “We stared with zardosi, with just two karigaars, today we have 400 in our Noida factory. Vasli, kasab and dabka is what we have adopted and luxury kitsch remains our ideology,” says Rimple.
For ICW, they have designed a line, which will see a multitude of cloaks, jackets and capes, drawing inspiration from nomads and wanderers from the North-West Frontier province, Persia and Syria, which they found particularly intriguing. Using handcrafted textures, manipulative hand stitches and crochet, along with monogrammed coins and colourful thread work, they hope to tell the story of people living in parched desert areas who haven’t let the colour drain out of their lives despite their daily hardships. “Modern women’s tastes have changed, with the advent of satellite TV, foreign travel and glamour magazines; plus, fitness has given rise to a new generation of sculpted bodies, who now want shorter, fitted cholis and opt for sheer duppattas,” she smiles.
One of the few designers, who have kept the sanctity of the sari alive, in their new bridal campaign Harpreet and Rimple Narula have gone back to the nine-yard sari, not the pre-stitched version, but hand pleated one, which was teamed up with a full-sleeved short jacket. “Many girls hate pleating and draping and the hassle of the pallu, but I tell brides, this is the way to go, when they come to me for consultations,” she adds.
The duo believes in keeping the textures of textiles alive, so Bhagalpuri silks, Jamevars, old brocades are used along with vivacious embroideries. “I recently converted my mom’s old Banarasi woven sari into a duppatta, its beauty lies in the fact that it has managed to deal with the travesty of time, in its own quiet, graceful way. So luxury for me has always been my mom’s old ruby ring not an expensive, Swiss-made timepiece,” she adds.
It is this philosophy which has motivated the couple to invest in French paisley throws, antique shawls that they picked up from flea markets in Paris, the roots of which could be traced back to India. “This year at ICW, we will be showing a combination of ivory, beige with a smattering of black, which is traditionally considered a taboo. “Indian brides like to stick to conventions for special occasions, so yes, there will be reds too with lots of gold, with capes which seem covered up but are actually quite a powerful silhouette, as you can team them up with a tulle skirt, or roomy sharara pants,” she explains.
Being lovers of Islamic motifs, Harpreet & Rimple, have admired the intricacy, fine-ness and purity of Mughal monuments, whether you look at their floor or ceilings. “We have created textures taking inspirations from these riveting motifs and added modern techniques like laser cutting to give them a new-age interpretation,” she confides.
Despite being in an industry where couture sails almost all the boats, Rimple & Harpreet feel they may have been late starters, as earlier they were based in Ludhiana before they shifted base to Delhi. “I have no regrets whatsoever; what is meant to come your way will certainly come,” concludes Rimple.