Serenading layering, separates and fluidity the market-savvy brothers Shantnu and Nikhil, complete 24 years with almost 16 stores domestically. At ICW they managed to add dollops of deliciousness with Aditya Roy Kapur and the pint sized beauty Sara Ali Khan. But the coup was Nikhil Mehra’s 16-year-old son Vivhan, making his catwalk debut.
By Asmita Aggarwal
The magnificence of couture adds opulence to the thought process, with changing times, the genre has evolved to less restrictive, more fluid, just like the wearer. What you wear whether it is for pheras, cocktail, ring ceremony, or D-Day must have soul in it.
In 2013, couture broke the mold of weight, and also silhouette as a lehenga wasn’t the only option, you had the strong advent of gowns. Menswear has drapes, layering combined with structure, a bit of femininity, sartorial in essence, and proved it was not always a bride’s game. “Couture in India has broken many stereotypes—now you have a strong pivot on shape, textures and lightness,” says Shantnu Mehra of S and N.
As the brothers complete 24 years of their brand’s existence, Shantnu, the brain behind establishing its identity, believes if you are a “serious” couturier, you will, by default, commercialize creativity. “Everything adds up to the clothes—set, music, lights,” he explains. In some ways watching all the whimsical influences coming through is what makes couture so dramatic, creativity can be showcased in the form of smaller details for a discerning customer.
That’s why the S and N brand always innovates—an embroidered sweat shirt under a sherwani, draped kurta, cowl trousers, the narrative has changed to also serenade separates within this space. “Both market and designers have matured and you can’t take away from the fact, Indian couture is more ceremonial. Having said that, the sea change we see is now it is moving towards more simplicity,” he adds.
Europe may be heading for recession, loss of jobs is rampant, but weddings in India are recession-proof, revenge buying post-pandemic is proof of this. “Luxury is a gateway to indulgence, buying makes people happy,” he smiles.
The contributory factors are life is uncertain, people do not want to be bound, and the domestic market is probably what Shantnu wants to master. His desire to open a store in Dubai may fructify towards the end of this year, but India is a story. Made in India is big, as China is cordoned off, “we also have a huge population below 35, who will eventually get married,” he affirms. Currently, there are 12 stores, which will reach 16 by the end of this year, specially with their new offering—a cricket club ready-to-wear line, with this they are cutting across the pyramid democratically.
Couture must resonate with the bride, also the robust emergence of the red carpet, globally Indian designers have marked their spot and are recognized. “The Western market is advanced and unforgiving,” he adds. If you notice the downfall of big names who once ruled the catwalk have now been forced to bite the dust. Plus, you can show internationally but you will service customers in India eventually. “Sometimes dabbling between two continents can be dangerous,” he adds.
Globally, even Bollywood actresses are now adopting international brands Deepika Padukone with LV and Alia Bhatt adopts Gucci. And seeing this Shantnu’s resolve to create a definitive space in the Indian market is only getting vigorous. Reaching this mindset was a gradual process for the brothers, they started as anti-trend, minimalistic in a larger-than-life world of Indian dressing, refused to cave in, and finally won a loyal clientele. “Patience is key and India is not just about colours, and embroideries, but also about shapes and silhouettes,” he confirms.
Sharpness in tailoring is as important as layering which is the brand’s USP, the duo played with innovations, but in turn, educated the market, which is now driven by making statements, and not zardozi. “The bride is feisty, fearless and knows what she wants and how to get it. She refuses to follow any diktats, now it is about ‘her’ and ‘him’ and they make choices together declaring independence,” he explains.
Hugely inspired by Rome and its deep-rooted motifs and emblems, their travels as well as 1920s are the fulcrum of their offerings. This combined with romantic fabrics from chiffon, brocades, chiffons, and organza, with decadent embroideries this season for ICW will hold fort. The chandelier motifs, masculine embroideries on lehengas, play of fit and volume, excessive layering is interesting.
Navy, charcoal, and greys with smattering of red with softer aqua and mints sets the tone. But a larger question is if Indian couture can be sustainable—in some ways for Shantnu it is. He is customizing not allowing any wastage. “We did ask our customers to give back their old pieces which we refurbished, placed them on racks, and gave credits to the one who brought it in,” he says. Though the materials can be biodegradable, from the trims to dyeing, which is a new way of handling age-old processes.