Self-care takes precedence over perfect fits as Kunal’s 14 different personality inspirations find a “you” in his 15 th year, as brocade takes centerstage at his ICW 2022 showcasing.
By Asmita Aggarwal
Fragrance of mogras wafting through DLF Emporio’s show area, glitter on the floor, Malaika Arora in the audience to cheer for Arjun Kapoor the celeb show stopper, if there is anyone who knows how to get you excited about menswear it’s Kunal Rawal.
He is in a “positive headspace” despite the challenges the world faced during the two-year-long wrestling with the pandemic. Maybe that’s why Kunal likes the energy of a physical show, the thumping adrenaline and palpable unpredictability and the magnificent runway lit at the ICW 2022.
Though known for dressing a bevy of Bollywood beauties, Rawal believes people think the film universe is all about shine and glamour on and behind the 70 MM screen. “But there is a lot of hard work involved here and the opportunities in India are booming as covid has changed the way the consumer reacts to clothing,” says Kunal.
This change in thought process has been part of the menswear designer’s inspiration, along with how social media came to the rescue, making an entire generation shift online as we stayed home alone waiting for the proverbial storm to blow over. This digital India is what he is a part of, and shares the same aesthetics, and men too want to be a part of this sociological shift. “Today hand-made, textile driven and functionality are the edifice of any collection. You can’t make a generalized collection and sail through. Understanding your target customer is imperative,” he adds.
The secret to the success of the label is the designer’s astute understanding of wardrobes and personalities and he will admit that the latter is always an ignition point for his collections. “This time, for my line “Dear Men”, I have been inspired by 14 different personalities—- minimalist, maximalist, textile lover, traditional to flamboyant. The line is gender neutral and each piece is character-driven, which is what makes the entire experience invigorating for me to design,” he adds.
It is occasion wear, luxurious, glamorous but still holds within its heart the KR signature. Men now are careful and mindful about their choices and anything that is not sustainable is deleted. The storytelling is layered, and he is not a womenswear designer trying to do menswear, this is his calling and it has been for 15 years, as the two are as different as chalk and cheese he confirms. “But in India, men were never interested in occasion wear, as they felt it was too prissy, though they loved buying street wear and casual clothing,” he smiles.
It is this thought that Kunal has been trying to alter, occasion dressing can be as pleasurable, with his introduction of brocade, paisleys, innovative fits catering to a diverse age group. “We have such a rich heritage and it is the right time to try new things, as you have an intrepid customer, who is willing to give it a shot,” he admits. Thus, his dhoop-chau embroideries and subdued threadwork is much-loved.
Don’t buy off the mannequin is his advice, as he will give you seven styling options, so look for what works for you, says Kunal. “It’s phenomenal what India has achieved, there is a cross-cultural revolution, the West is reinventing our sherwanis, saris and achkans. We should lead the way, even though the market comes with numerous challenges everyone needs a palette they can savour,” he concludes.
Men wore Septum rings, Kunal broke the stereotype of a “perfect” model, there were a melange of faces, and he was unafraid to put on display the sequinned clamps, a stylist’s best kept hidden secrets. But the show stealer, besides the thumping Bollywood music was also how in classic Punjabi, he summed up his family’s journey, struggles and upbringing for a super fashionable audience.