October 13, 2023 FDCI

Retro Revival

Think disco, bell bottoms, Manhattan’s Studio 54 and Ashish Soni’s play with the oversized, androgynous look —-strong shoulders and suiting materials as his forte tailoring, takes centerstage.

By Asmita Aggarwal

It was a time when Nicaraguan socialite Bianca Jagger wore a YSL white tuxedo on her wedding to rock star Mick, which took the cult status of Le Smoking jacket, immortalized in history books, and of course Studio 54 was a rage. Growing up in the 70s and 80s, Ashish Soni remembers how his father and grandfather used to dress— in those colorful plaids and a nonchalance that fashion misses today.

It is this spirit, revived in his LFW line “The Retro Orchard” that is blooming, with adventurous hues, wide lapels, and double-breasted suits. You will see an interesting play of wool and Bollywood (think bell bottoms and Amitabh Bachchan) —two of Soni’s favorites, as his first foray into design as a model and then designer almost 32 years ago.


The market has metamorphosed enormously, the rules have altered, it’s now dynamic and competitive, admits Soni. “If you look at fashion and its creators, they are both shrouded in impermanence. But the effort here to retain the signature of the brand, and yet offer something nouveau,” he explains.

With the advent of social media, Soni is grappling with its pace, as if one is on a treadmill of trends and reels, engulfing our daily lives. “But I am adapting and learning along the way, it is an undeniably important aspect of the business,” he says. The brick-and-mortar model of retail has now been “smashed” by the Insta-generation, where orders are placed through small screens. “I am old school; I think the touch, and feel as well as, physical presence of a brand is extremely crucial,” he adds.

The key to survival is to present design for the younger audience engagingly, tweak it and go by the trend book, without compromising on core ethics. Known mostly for his black and whites, last year there was a burst of colour, and this year the Scottish plaid finds his way into his Retro prints. The approach to tailoring his forte, and not embellishments, is younger, with a new spin. “The 70s were costume-y, but had a cult following whether it was Bob Marley or Andy Warhol, my attempt is at showing 70s in 2023, what it would seem like,” he smiles.


Culturally women started wearing pants, the pant suit was the new classic, in this era it embodied freedom from constriction, and this has been represented through traditional suiting material used to construct strong power shoulders for women, which come armed with pads. There has also been a change in the way Soni is perceiving fashion—this time mindfully. With focus on adding an organic touch to his materials and processes, dominated by wool, and lessening the use of polyester.

This season, the veteran designer has mixed dots with stripes, and then again with retro prints he has developed, using a stripe underneath a plaid, he has made a foray into creating a unisex wardrobe where you can borrow from each other effortlessly, with an interesting play with oversized shapes.

His contribution in growing the menswear segment has been enormous, as he had the early bird advantage, but Soni was also the first to look at markets globally when India was only a sourcing hub, and not a powerhouse of talent.


“I always considered the 90s as my internship period,” he laughs, adding, “and the last 20 years has been about deep diving into this often-fleeting world of trends. But the last ten have been most competitive, with the pandemic and many brands struggling or forced to shut down. I have decided to deep dive into something I love—home décor with a line of furnishings. Who knows, maybe even invite corporate partnerships to achieve this?” he signs off.

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Fashion Design Council of India