Mindful consumption with a wardrobe that forges ahead with an Indian identity laced with global perspective is what Payal Singhal displays through her lines
By Asmita Aggarwal
Payal Singhal is one of the few catalysts in the fashion world, who has understood the market in the last 21 years and rather than swimming against the tide, she has made the waves her soulmate. That is why the Mumbai-based designer always uses relevant vocabulary like “pragmatic” and “versatile” the key words for any collection that has to ride over the traumatic turn of events witnessed over the last one year.
Payal’s sense and sensibility can also be observed in the way she has studied the far reaching repercussions of the vaccine, which may take time to work and people won’t be free of infections at least for another year or more. Hope dwindled in the past months, just like fortunes, her business partner her mom, who she relied on for her astute financial prowess was home bound, but Payal stayed strong, just like many of her designer pieces.
“I love shopping I won’t deny it, but now many of us are not looking at buying the next cool designer handbag every six months, but slowing down to acquiring ‘better’ not ‘more’,” she admits. There is a debate raging between experience and possession, with the former winning this tug of war, she would rather go away for the weekend to a place where her son can play around freely than spend on an expensive outfit that you would wear twice a year for a special occasion. “Many have realised the fun in life is not necessarily directly proportionate to material acquisitions, but what matters is how you feel,” she exclaims.
Most parents in generations before us lived frugally to give their children the best education, as a result the 70s and 80s kids are living life queen sized on what was saved for them. “My dad taught us to keep the business clean and lean and many sunk because they let appearances decide their value,” she confesses. Ideally a business must be an iceberg, what you see on top is just the tip. Unfortunately, most designers are also not commerce but design graduates, so for them running the business may prove to be stressful and painful, an activity they should focus on, but instead they shy away from handling.
Even though in reality the 5 per cent who are super rich won’t be affected by the bulls and bears of the market, it is the 95 percent that Payal hopes to cater to. So she has a range from Rs 2000 to Rs 3-and-a-half lakhs, her most expensive piece ever. She always learnt from her father who had to face many challenges in the retail space with the store London Fashions. “Affordable and wearable clothes are etched in my mind. We offer wardrobes solutions and are not flighty in our thinking,” she says.
Her latest line can be taken from “sleep to sangeet”, with soft crepe twin sets you can wear to zoom calls, lunches, brunches and even a mehendi function as weddings are also getting austere. “These are closet builders, you can dress them up or down,” she adds. The idea was to create ‘mindful luxury’ and the latter word is often misunderstood, even artisanal work constitutes luxury as it is handcrafted painstakingly over a long period of time.
The idea was to not increase turnover but profitability, so that they are not forced to sell large quantities of inexpensive clothes that after two years end up in a landfill. Payal was conscious in her sales, generating less waste, thus her line for the FDCI X LFW is geared towards this emotion. Less frills, more thrills! Her whole pivot was that buyers should not use the word “ethnic”, brimming with overt Indian identity, in fact clothes should be global. You can wear them casually as separates with multiple things in your wardrobe.
Made from recycled plastic bottles, the fabric used is circular in design, it is not adding to our woes of wastage and is reusing what is already in the eco-system and giving back to save the environment. So the sports sari comes with ribbed waists, twin sets, hoodies all inspired by the lehenga, sari and dhoti, which has been converted to sportswear-esque gear. “Now you can wear it to the gym, a lunch date, party by adding a bindi, mojaris or just attend a Zoom or Google Meet,” she says. This is the first time Payal has worked with machine made fabrics, earlier it was only man-made silks, cotton, and georgettes. “We had to be price sensitive, the world is really spinning, so we need to find balance and the only way to survive is mindful consumption,” she concludes.