Crystal Cord technique, water-resistant and fireproof fabrics, to skeinwork and launching a new logo, Shivan Bhatiya, Head Designer & Narresh Kukreja, Creative Director, SVNH, tell us why being courageous is the only way to survive in fashion.
By Asmita Aggarwal
You have completed ten years as a brand. What do you think has been the turning point of your journey?
Narresh: Our journey in fashion started with swimwear. It was a very conscious decision to start with a category that we wanted to be market leaders of. And as we move along our other product categories would mushroom from this core category. This is how you establish the DNA of any brand and this was possible only through establishing our core competency first – a core product category which denoted Travel & Holidays – something that is personally close to our heart as well which helps us, in turn, to be inspired from our travels around the world to design a new series every season.
It is with these principles that we were able to expand from swimwear to resort wear, menswear, celebration wear, accessories, table linen to finally wallpapers.
Shivan: For me, the very decision to do swimwear was a turning point in my career. The choice of category in itself was so erratic at the time that we started. We kind of made a whole new market for ourselves without even having a need for it. We came, we radicalized the idea of swimwear in the country and made a niche for ourselves in an almost non-existent space, and there has been no looking back ever since.
Narresh: For me, personally, the turning point was when we took the courage of changing our creative design language. With us being into the industry for only 2-3 years, we were back then popular for our colour blocking and for us to at that time, shift the definition completely to prints, was personally a huge turning point in our career.
To completely redefine what the brand aesthetic was going to be and moving away from colour blocks to becoming a completely print-driven universe was definitely a big risk. The stupendous success that we experienced from taking this leap of faith and evolving into a print centric brand will always be a major influence on our journey over the last years.
In a traditional country like India did you ever think swimwear would make it this far? Is your label sensitive to different body types?
Shivan: We entered the swimwear industry at a time when people were very conscious of their bodies and showing skin publicly was almost considered a taboo in Indian society. During our initial years, it became extremely challenging to catalyse the process and traditional mindset.
However, over the last decade, we have been fortunate enough to witness an unprecedented wave of body positivity and self-love amongst the millennial, be it men or women, as they have learnt to embrace their natural bodies with ease and confidence – something we as a brand have always stood for.
From the beginning, we were certain we wanted to create designs keeping in mind the quintessential Indian silhouette and are now one of the few brands in the world to offer bespoke customization for non-standardized body types that promise appropriate fit, style and confidence, no matter how big or small the size would be.
Today, we are proud to see numerous women go on holidays and graciously post their swimsuit looks on social media. In a world of fast-moving trends, we as designers feel it is our responsibility to slow down and create fashion that will serve our customers’ deeper social as well as emotional needs.
Given the new role that we play today, one that is more of a curator than creator, we feel it is imperative to curate a present, which has more possibilities for everyone to coexist in the democratic definition of being beautiful.
Our vision is to thus, infuse body confidence in one and all, where both, women and men take pride in their body and love it the way it is.
Art and travel have inspired both of you. What has been the mood board this season?
Narresh: This year’s storyboard yet again, combines our passion for art and travel, bringing to life the glorious history of Rajasthan. Our unexpected visit to the Shekhawati region in November 2021 ignited mapping the treasured artistry of traditional fresco murals that decorated innumerable Havelis spread across the region.
Blending this inspiration with our beloved medium of water & oil colours, the Fresconian Series focuses on contemporarising these fresco aesthetics into a futuristic version of itself – adding the painterly quality while glorifying lifestyles of today.
Just as the frescoes documented culture on the Shekhawati walls for generations, we feel that clothing does the same for our times – this is the core value of this collection. With this series, we once more dive deeper into redefining and celebrating the perception of sensuality and its relation to clothing, in particular.
A minute look into the frescos in the collection will help mirror different personalities within the same and also reflect the emotion of the person wearing it. Borrowing from the iconic painterly quality of murals, a potpourri of powerful elements is reinterpreted across 5 bold prints for the season – Surocco (Safari), LedgerMash (Ski), Zoolostamp (Cruise), Solscape (Swim) and Maru (Resort).
Each print is etched with layers of emotion and identity that fanaticize the relation between skin and silhouette to introduce to the world a renewed perception of sensuality.
What do beach brides require from you as designers and what are the fabric and embroidery innovations?
Shivan: Through the years, having observed the demands of the global millennial travellers, we have taken an effortless plunge into extending our offerings to celebration and couture wear considering the popularity of destination weddings. As multifaceted individuals with multiple needs, millennials and the Gen Z are constantly looking at functionality of tangible products; their comfort and versatility of wearing outfits across occasions are no exception.
They wish to enjoy celebrations at ease rather than being caught up in their outfits. The evolving needs of the younger cohort are concentric to our choice of fabrics, skein work and silhouettes. Each of our brand creations imbibe and personify the idea of a contemporary vision of a swim piece whilst keeping the essence of the traditional heritage and sentiment of the customer.
All our saris are made with technologically advanced fabrics such as jersey that falls as well as drapes exactly like chiffon and at the same time is resistant to ultraviolet rays and any sunscreen lotion or body oil being used. Hence, they are absolutely stain-free.
Also, the best part is that all our destination wear offerings do not crush and are actually crease-free. So when you reach your destination, you are able to avoid wasting time just ironing and removing creases from your outfit and rather spend it outdoors, enjoying! Additionally, because of the technologically advanced fabrics, all our destination outfits actually weigh 1/5th of what an actual bridal outfit should be, thus, consciously enhancing the comfort and movement of the Shivan & Narresh brides, without compromising on the design.
Prints have been your mainstay. What would you say makes each print so unique? Also you have the bikini sari, which can be draped in ten ways, or the pre-pleated sari that even has a sunscreen pocket!
Narresh: I think the core strength for our prints every season resonates with us being extremely courageous enough to start from scratch. We very genuinely follow a uniform design process that yields a result which is not guided by a preconceived notion of what prints are in season or what would sell more.
These are usual commercial traps that a lot of brands in general, often fall prey to and because our design inspiration to design process is extremely unique, hence, we always end up with distinctive prints which have not been seen anywhere globally and are yet authentic to the Shivan & Narresh universe.
No matter how different each print is, they always resemble and reflect our core design identity. A lot of innovations this time revolve around our recently launched SKI segment. It is the newest category we have introduced for the decade.
We have distinctive technological fabrics that have been used to design our snowsuits as compared to the ski suits as well as jumpers. We are trying to use jerseys and fabrics that actually allow free-movement, but at the same time are water-resistant and fireproof. There are also a lot of new innovations in knitwear.
We recently started with hand-knitted looms in our factory and now we are going towards more mechanized forms of knitting as well, which have a lot of branding element involved such as our newly adopted brand logo this season that is an abbreviation of Shivan & Narresh, namely SVNH. You will see a lot of SVNH knitted into our knitwear and jacquard fabrics that are jacquard representations of the prints being introduced in the series.
Thus, there is a lot of textural play that we have experimented with this season. With regards to crystallization, we have also come up with a unique Crystal Cord technique, which is going to be one of the major binding elements to watch out for this season!