July 25, 2019 Asmita Aggarwal

House of Worth

Debutants Pankaj and Nidhi go back in time to Christian-Greek period of Rome to dig out treasures creating splendour with Trapunto quilting and hand-cut appliqués, their two signatures which have found a place of pride in their first couture offering

By Asmita Aggarwal

They are the anti-thesis of the 20 kg zardozi lehenga and they hope the new-age modern woman, who has possibly bought their pret collections in the past, will associate with the aesthetic that has been established and like what they offer for her most special occasions.

Showing for the first time their couture line “Mosaiq” paying homage to the Byzantine empire and the mosaic art that thrived during that era, Pankaj admits couture is a tough space to exist. “People have this notion that it is a money-making machine, it’s not that simple, the costs associated with it are huge, be it infrastructure, materials or the craftsmanship. For us it has been a natural progression, it hasn’t been an overnight decision, we have consciously worked towards building our brand name in ready-to-wear fashion in the last ten years. We knew couture was a direction that we were walking (or should I say climbing) towards, the timing of launching it this year felt strategically right,” he adds.

The duo has been informally doing couture for the past several years, only there were few pieces each season. They have been showing the line since 2016 in one of the prestigious Paris showrooms at Place Vendome, where buyers from all over the world have been coming, but they did not develop it into a full-fledged collection.

The demand existed and clients wanted more and “we personally also wished to express it wholly and expansively, hence the show at FDCI India Couture Week, we couldn’t have a better platform to showcase this, not just in India, but to pique the interest of our international clients, who are keenly following this development and waiting for it to unfold,” he adds.

The husband-wife team’s pret collections have been often seen as borderline couture interpretations — the workmanship, skills, intricate techniques and embellishments have always been there so the transition has not been difficult or abrupt. “It hasn’t been easy, we had to work very hard in getting the construction right and the challenge was to make the clothes look texturally rich and yet appear and feel as lightweight as possible. We did not want to make clothes that would weigh the wearer down, we wanted to make her beautiful, dramatic and to be able to do cartwheels in them if she wanted,” he laughs.

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Mosaiq embodies their design ethos — how it takes a brick to build a monument and a how a collection of words or verse make a song. For them, it’s a hand-cut fabric petal, or scalloped trim or jagged edge crystal that when assembled painstakingly in the hundreds and even thousands makes a Pankaj & Nidhi piece.

With designers like Anita Dongre who have been successful in establishing their business in pret and the revenues for the same would probably leave many couture businesses far behind, in India the bridal market has the money because comparatively, there are far fewer prêt success stories (like Anita Dongre or Ritu Kumar) he explains.
“Our collection is for anyone who wants to try a new vision of couture, of lightness, modernity and yet having the texture and luxury of craftsmanship. She would probably be well-travelled and would consider us for her special occasion, a milestone birthday or cocktail/reception, celebration at a destination wedding or on a luxury yacht,” he explains.

Mosaiq witnesses their signature hand cut appliqués (“tiringly sometimes referred to as laser-cut”) which have been done in a richer avatar of metallic gold and silver. They have also developed special crystal components in jagged shapes and sizes to achieve a true mosaic-like pattern. There is a reappearance of Trapunto quilting, but done in rich duchess satin, a bit of lattice-work and fringing embellishments too.

For most designers it is often a challenge to create a balance between form and function; as brides are moving away from reds and pinks and there is a seismic shift in thinking, Pankaj admits there is a great shift towards wanting new colours and visual texture. “We are happy to be catering to that, however, we have great respect for traditional Indian embroideries and also feel reds and pinks will continue to be worn. It’s just that tones may become a bit more new – a fuchsia has given way to a salmon pink, and the bright red has become more coral,” he explains.

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Light is now right, and keeping this in mind, they have worked quite hard to keep the embellishments weightless, but more so a lot of effort has gone into engineering the construction, how to achieve volume and yet appear and feel light.

For debutants like them creating a shelf life is imperative and they admit many of their pret collections have had this heartening feedback of being worn over and over again. They are hoping with couture they make pieces that are relevant today and also remain so for longer. “I think remaining classic in silhouettes can achieve eternity,” he confesses.

The new-age bride could be a lawyer, pilot, musician, chef, and designer so they find it hard to pick one who can be called their ideal brand ambassador. “There are so many beautiful, empowered women across all walks of life who inspire us…when we design, we often think of such people who we know, or who we have met, or read and hear about – they inspire us immensely,” he concludes.

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