Mani Shanker Singh of SNOB removes ageism from his ensembles and abandons seasonal inspirations to create timeless, hybrid and universal clothing for men
By Asmita Aggarwal
His father’s Doon school Roll no. 286T is part of each ensemble Mani Shanker Singh creates in his SNOB (Son of a Noble) studio in Bangalore. After all, he followed his father’s footsteps and went to Doon, which changed his life.
Born and raised in Patna, a town he left behind when he was only nine years old, has old friends but few memories. Both his parents teach at the Patna university, his mom, botany and his father English literature, so academics played a big role in shaping the person he is.
His favourite place as a teenager during the ‘rest hour’ at Doon was the arts school, where he would paint, doodle and sketch, being an athlete like his father, who played national level tennis, Mani loved 100 metre races. But the designer who studied at NIFT Bangalore, and met his wife Ritu Jain there, who heads the womenswear label, has worked in the industry for 14 years before launching his menswear brand SNOB, six years ago. “I wanted to craft a brand which gives you a fresh take on Indian wear, with elements of grunge, warrior vibe, which is empowering yet succinct,” says Mani.
Thus, linen became his fabric of choice, it works everywhere in most cities, and he mixed this up with prints, without succumbing to the lure of seasonal inspirations, his lines are classic. “I am not a designer, who gets inspired by trees, barks or flowers. I’m looking at sustainability through the lens of reusability and creating zero wastage by urging the consumer to wear the piece over the years. In Doon, we were taught to finish everything on our plate, and only take as much as we could eat so there is negative inventory,” he smiles. He works on pre-set orders, eliminating any need to sell later at a lower price just to finish stocks.
The word ‘noble’ in his brand name is also a percussor to his desire to work for causes that matter in the future, though the label sees things through geometry, tweaking the existing format, like the kurta is no longer one, it has metamorphosized into a piece you can wear with almost any other separate in your wardrobe. Creativity runs in the family, his 12 years older sister, who lives in the US paints on cashmere scarves and works in emergency medicine.
This season he comes with a line titled, “The War Within”, as everyone has been on a roller coaster of emotions, battling the war inside of us—anger, isolation, depression and anxiety. The fight has been to keep mentally sane, which is represented through prints resembling old leaves left in books, or dried twigs, elevating this with pin tucks and distressed stitches. Zippers, art and an athletic feel, is at the core of the brand, as Mani was also a javelin thrower in school.
His work in Myntra, ad agencies and the corporate world taught him many life lessons, that’s why he prefers not to keep SNOB age specific, he aspires to dress both the father and son. “Working in different fields and departments made me understand the market better and talking to consumers, valuing their inputs has helped. I had to save up before launching my label, as this segment requires deep pockets, we are a team of 12 people now and have grown organically,” he adds.
The 18 looks on the FDCIXLFW runway are dynamic, his trenches, or jackets are hybrid in nature, infused with monochromes, charcoal, military greens and muddy browns. “I carry my school with me everywhere, that’s why you see my childhood friends Hari and Sukhmani, performing live for me today,” he concludes.