September 22, 2020 Asmita Aggarwal

Gentleman’s Code

With clothing becoming expressive, Kunal Rawal, versatility and optionality in ensembles wins the vote

By Asmita Aggarwal

Sometimes the best thing that emerges out of crisis, is refreshing ideas. Maybe that’s why this year for the India Couture Week 2020, in association with HT, many designers have pushed the boundaries of what was the norm, in fashion to unveil a hurricane of ideas. Mumbai boy Kunal Rawal, known for his nifty menswear offerings is no different.

The film he presented was shot at the Asiatic Library, Mumbai, with a history that dates back to 1804, surrounded by the aroma of thousands and thousands of books, man’s best friend and of course, its stunning neo-classical edifice. Kunal’s almost 80 looks, in his ICW collection is for a forward thinking man, and an ode to happiness. “It is the first ever ICW in the digital format and for me it is a matter of prestige to be associated with an event that embraces the future, wholeheartedly,” he exclaims. Thus, the styling this year, is more individualistic and personality driven, making menswear, his forte, cleaner and tone-on-tone. He hasn’t abandoned his love for French Knots, a constant in his trek to finding a niche on the business of style.

The designer known to be experimental, took the plunge and gave more than the ordinary, with his photosensitive line, that would change hues in light, some months back. “It is how clothes make you feel, more than look. That’s another reason why I chose the Asiatic library to showcase my work, as Mumbai has been such a big part of my journey, shooting at such a landmark is historic. Due to the lack of space, human interaction is inevitable in Mumbai, the people I’ve met along the way, have inspired me to create a narrative that is holistic,” he adds, making him the first designer to be able to get permissions to shoot there.

Despite the template changing, Kunal believes, six months of your hard work gets showcased in a 20-minute physical show, it’s all nerves and adrenaline. “Frankly, the person I am, it is a big rush for me. But couture is far more personal, it’s all heart and emotion mixed with passion,” he says.

Men today are equal spend as women and the customer wants both comfort and versatility, fit, along with pattern play, thus, he offers separates, making each garment multi-functional. The approach is quite “bang for your buck”, so came the invention of new silhouettes, with updated versions of the jacket and sherwani, with deconstruction being the leitmotif, intertwining mobility with classicism.

“I believe in the democratic nature of menswear, very important to pursue optional-ity to suit myriad personalities, body types, moods and flavours. This can be done in a sensible way, if you create pieces which have a whiff of your signature, but the range is diverse,” he adds. This line is homage to modern luxury, without forgetting traditional functions.

For a boy, who grew up with a garment exporter father, factory runs, were a part of his childhood, but he also evolved to understand the subterranean layers of the “show” business. When he began, he was often told, “You won’t survive here dressing men” “get out when you still can” but he stuck to his belief system and crossed the Rubicon. “Menswear is a huge industry today and it has changed dramatically in the last ten years, as grooms appreciate the work we do, the finer details, the attention to finish,” he explains.

With reams being written on the end of shine, and big weddings, due to the pandemic, Kunal on the contrary believes, it is an essential part of the big day and is here to stay, but clients now look for things that can wear in different ways or “expressive” clothing. Things that make you happy and for a brand, it becomes all about story-telling, therefore the film was a customer-forward approach to display brand ethos. “Adapt and evolve is the mantra we live by now, or fade away, as post-show we will put up all our looks for sale to get orders. This is the only way for progression, tweak the existing storyline,” he adds., his e-commerce platform launched four months ago will give a chance to his loyal clientele to buy from him, selling clothes is no longer tactile, the first nine steps will be online and the tenth and final step will be actual trying, by appointment only.

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