Master of tailoring and minimalism, Shahab Durazi never got trapped in the pursuit of fame or fortune, but kept his brand individualistic and meaningful, as he returned to the fashion week after decades of absence
By Asmita Aggarwal
Legendary fashion designer Shahab Durazi, didn’t belong to a family that was even remotely connected with fashion, his father was a businessman and his brothers assisted him. Maybe he inherited his love for colours from his mother, who was a painter, this passion for arts took him to FIT, New York where he studied design only to come back and launch his label in 1989.
It was a time when the fashion world was still finding its feet in India, with a handful of designers paving the way for the future. “I aspired to create a product which I was inspired by, novel and new, like a breath of fresh air, certainly away from the ethnic wear craze,” says Shahab. His sophisticated aesthetic has always been elegant evening wear. Though being reticent and not one to move away from Western clothing, Shahab never ventured into the money spinner bridal wear.
The Mumbai-based designer is back to do a show at FDCIxLFW after almost two decades after much persuasion and he admits, “I wasn’t even on social media until three years ago when a friend opened an account for me on Instagram and urged me to get on to it. Today I must confess, it plays a pivotal role in consumer engagement and you can reach out to a larger audience,” he adds.
Not one to mince words, he is against the Bollywood-isation of fashion and believes it has been detrimental to the industry. “You see stars wearing an outfit and the public wants a piece of the celebrity pie, it discounts the essence of fashion. Unfortunately, Bollywood stylists have flooded the market, there is no clear definition of what is good fashion, even though this may be subjective, I believe fashion must be sacrosanct. It should not have cricketers, youtubers and influencers and newcomers walking the runway, it dilutes everything and, in the process, stagnats its growth,” he says.
Shahab abandoned the need for Cinderella gowns, lehenga cholis and large can-can infused skirts; he wants the younger audience to fall in love with cleverly crafted shirts and suits. “Couture is not about embellishment, but technique, creativity and innovative processes. In our industry, it has become about showmanship and one-upmanship, the need for a showstopper, and not the desire to see and admire a craft,” he says.
Fashion should celebrate detailing and quality, even though Shahab was the first designer in the country to have a star walk for him, when he tied up with Longines and Aishwarya Rai did the honours. “The brand wanted it so we relented, it was a sponsored show and that set the trend in 1990 of showstoppers,” he smiles.
Clean lines, minimalism, quality of design, fashion must have a thought process, interesting embroideries borrowed from the past eras to English dandy dressing, Shahab incorporates various inspirations. “We have used motifs from Renaissance art and Rococo and I never do anything which is unnecessarily ostentatious, in fact shine is used as an effective tool to enhance the ensemble. The mood is always classic and the silhouettes simple, but the treatment is lavish,” he explains.
This year, he has worked on creating the entire look, bow clips, embroidered belts with diamontes, taffeta bows, lace cuffs, envelope bags and you will see couture at its best. “I think to keep relevant you don’t need to sell your soul, change is constant and you must embrace it. I fully support the corporatization of fashion, as it opens up avenues with the influx of capital,” he says.
As Shahab is into classic clothing, the experimentation with fabric is limited though he dips into his staples —sheer to iridescent chiffon, even heavyweight cashmere, crepe and satin organza. Things that offer fall, drape and shapes of his choice, mostly structured clothing. “Both my daughters are psychology majors studying in New York, but my brother’s daughter has studied fine arts, so somewhere it runs in the family, this pursuit of dancing with hues,” concludes Shahab.