Rohit Bal Curated
Renowned Indian Fashion Designer
CURATED BY :
What is your philosophy of fashion?
Tell us how your design philosophy is inspired by Delhi as we know your relation with the city is quite a long.
Why do you think Delhi is the ultimate fashion capital in the country today?
Can you tell about some specific elements of the Mughal era that has influenced the fashion in Delhi today?
Would you say Delhi is on per with the other fashion capitals of the world like London, Paris, Milan, New York when it comes to showcasing young talents or may be understanding fashion and respecting it?
Is there any particular Delhi look that you have noticed in men and women?
Name one architectural wonder from Delhi that has really inspired your work.
If Delhi was a genre in fashion, what would it be?
Which was your first fashion piece that you bought?
When did you decide that you wanted to be a fashion designer?
Which international celebrity would you want to see in your collections?
What was the highest moment of your career?
What do you think about the current state of the fashion industry?
Our fashion fraternity is completely bastardised. Some people who have become designers, new designers, or even the relatively older crop, feel that fashion is about hobnobbing with the right kind of people; they make a mockery out of the profession. Today, anyone and everyone has become a designer. That’s sacrilege.
What keeps you away from designing costumes in Bollywood films?
"I do a lot of clothes for film stars for red carpets and other events such as magazine shoots. Also, on a personal level, they love my shows, but I stay away from films because I can't follow the schedule, they are very expensive for films. There are designers who manage to do clothes that look beautiful onscreen, but actually they are not when you feel or touch them. I can't do that. I wish I could do designs, but I can't. I have incredible friends in Bollywood; so for me Bollywood films are no, but Bollywood people yes."
You came of age in the Nineties. What was it like then for fashion designers?
The Nineties in India was a decade of excess, a time when everything was new. It was a turning point, not just for fashion designers, but also production houses, models, photographers. Advertising suddenly exploded, the media became huge. It gave birth to many creative professions. It was a time of revolution in every sphere of lifestyle. Fashion became something you aspired to. The Nineties gave birth to a new celebrity – the fashion designer – and it suddenly became the most glamorous profession to be in, an unimaginable shift in perception. It also marked the rise of the socialite.
People had to surmount all sorts of obstacles at the time. What was special about the creative tribe back in your nineties?
There was a group of about 20 people – I include myself among them – who were visionaries and fighters. We were progressive, revolutionary thinkers, who battled the odds to make it. At times it was like hitting your head against a wall because we were trying to do things that’d never been done in India before, things that were once looked down upon. It wasn’t just about fashion, but the overall liberation of one’s mind. A sexual liberation – it was just bursting at the seams. This group included people like Prabuddha [Dasgupta], Feroze Gujral, Marilou Philips and Shyamoli Varma. These were the new, glamorous celebrities of our country. And it’s the hard work put in by everyone involved during that period that’s helped lead us to where we are today. We made India fashionable.
Any particular reason behind opening your new store in Hyderabad rather than in Mumbai or Delhi?
What do you think about the fashion sense of people from Hyderabad and what have you put up in your collections for you new store there?
Which are your favourites amongst the rich embroidery, weaves and textiles of Kashmir and why?
What does “Kashmir on the world map” mean to you?
Inspite of not having a pre-plan about becoming a designer, how do you manage to stand on the top list of designers so long? What’s the secret of holding your name there?
Which designer do you really envy and why?
People think you are really stylish, what makes you feel the same?
Recently, designer are seen focusing on the rise of Indian handlooms in fashion field. What do you have to say about it?
Whom will you call a Rohit bal bride?
How would you dress up a summer bride?
What are the key silhouettes for a summer bride?
Leading in fashion field, why do you think is India still not able to compete with other fashion capitals?
Whom do you consider your role model and inspirations?
Being a fashion leader, what do you feel is a real challenge that every designer faces on their way of gaining a label?
What is your mantra for becoming a successful designer?
Recently Lakme has brought up the first men’s fashion week. Do you have anything to share about this?
What were your plans for the first Indian mens’ wear fashion week organised by Lakme?
What was your target audience in the Lakme’s first ever mens’ fashion week?
Who would you consider as a confident fashionable Indian man?
Your early menswear collections really pushed the envelope. With the whole gender-neutral clothing movement making waves internationally, do you think Indian menswear will also see some drastic shifts?
There’s definitely a man empowerment taking place when it comes to fashion. A few years back, I would hardly see grooms stepping into the store. Their clothes were mostly chosen by women. That’s changing; men are definitely more adventurous now in choosing what they wear, they have more courage to experiment, and it’s not just with their wedding attire, but even festive and everyday wardrobes.
Do you feel Indian designers are only designing for the wedding market? If yes, should that change?
Why should it change? Designing for the wedding industry is not easy. When someone believes in you to dress them up for one of the most important days of their life, you are hanging by the string. You are bound to do your best. As for designers, whoever was not doing bridal is now finally doing it, because it’s an industry that has been growing stronger, and is the most important source of income.
Have you ever thought of taking legal action against people who plagiarise your designs? How does plagiarism affect a designer’s business?
Not just thought, I have sued people in the past. But they are parasites, and the way the patenting process and judiciary works [in India], nothing ever happens; it’s too slow. On the bright side, it’s flattering to know that despite plagiarism, I am directly supporting many more livelihoods other than my own set-up.
Comparing to design clothes at your young stage to the one being designed by people now, do you feel any drastic change?
"Everything has changed. I've seen it all happen and start. It's like being a witness to the Big Bang. The explosion of stars into the universe (that) we call fashion. Now we are a full-fledged industry, almost ruthless and competitive. The fun has gone, very few of us (are) left who do fashion because we love it. There is a big difference between being a fashion designer and someone who makes clothes just to sell them."
You have been in the industry for so many years. How does one stay relevant in such a competitive market?
Relevance is directly proportional to your belief in yourself. It gets lost the minute you try to be someone else. I believe in individualism. I am lucky to have done it my way. Stay true to yourself, believe who you are, and you will always stay relevant.
Do you cringe when you see an outfit designed by you is not the way you want?
In a room full of couture garments what would keep Rohit Bal away?
As we all know, to whatever you are today, you had to struggle a lot for it. Does your work in any way reflect those emotions and feelings of the good and bad phases you have been through?
Will you tell us something about your recent collection “RAAT” which potrays as stated by you “a person’s darkest personalities” .
Why is it necessary to have the drama or shock value to ramp as well as fashion?
What according to you is the most sane and practical trend for brides this season?
Why do people find you so interesting?
Perhaps because I don’t drain people’s energies. I’ve been extremely sensitive to personal auras right from when I was a child. I let people be without any kind of pressure. I don’t judge. I could have been a wild child, a brat with all the attention I got, especially after my father passed away when I was 11. I was spoilt and protected as the youngest of seven siblings from two marriages of both my parents. But I turned out to be the exact opposite. I am caring, emotional, sensitive and gentle. Whether that gentility has something to do with a certain sexual orientation, I don’t know.
Do you think it is because of your persona or your power that no one in the media critiques a Rohit Bal line, even when ideas of sameness pervade?
I’ve never considered myself powerful. My persona is who I am. If that spells power, then so be it. But it’s a power I’ve never used. And as far as critical reviews are concerned, it’s the same with every designer in India. For me, my work is my inner sanctum, it is sacrosanct and precious.
It is difficult to rationalise your yearning for reclusiveness when one sees the predictable Delhi society as your showstoppers. Hardly the choice of a recluse. What do you think about this?
The society you mention happen to be very close friends of mine. These are real women who I’ve always considered beautiful and effortlessly stylish. The same goes for the guys. This is a completely different aspect of my life, when my life becomes a stage, where I become a showman. It is also a natural part of my character traits. I am a recluse in my personal life. I am me in both these situations.
What are your fondest memories of the Nineties?
My best memories are of complete abandonment. I went through life doing what I wanted, not caring what it meant to anyone else. As long as it made me happy, I did it. We used to go out, drink and party. It was all about clubs, late nights and no restrictions. There weren’t any deadlines or curfews back then – places were open till 6am. We’d party for days. The early Nineties were incredible because we were grown up enough to have the means to enjoy ourselves, but not famous enough to be concerned.
When you had started your career, media coverage was low whereas now its influence is vast. How important do you feel the media is?
These days, everyone’s become cautious and started centering their lives on what the media will report, and how people will react. At that time, it didn’t matter. There was a core group of us, and we knew millions of people. We still know millions – the only difference is, we don’t know their names. I’ve shifted from being a person who knew everyone, to someone everyone knows. And they far outweigh the restrictions. I don’t remember having to wait to enter a place in 20 years, or feeling uncomfortable anywhere. It’s not arrogance, just achievement.
Has the media ever really frustrated you?How do you handle something like that?
There have been several unnecessary attempts to pull me down – for instance, when this whole supposed cocaine bust happened. They ran large articles in every newspaper. I remember they printed my photograph, along with three others, on the front page, like we were convicts. You have to be resilient. I knew what the truth was, but I wasn’t naïve enough to think the story wouldn’t affect my business… It did. I picked up the phone and spoke to the editors and publishers, I sent them legal notices, and they instantly realized they’d done something wrong. Then there were the individual journalists who wanted to pull me down. I never gave in and didn’t suck up to them, either – never called them up or gave them gifts. There were lots of journalists who hated me for that. But at the end of the day, the press has also been my guardian angel. It’s made me the most famous designer in the country. Who else could have done that for me?
Your early menswear collections really pushed the envelope at the time – guys in skirts with nose rings. Were you trying to be radical?
Man is meant to be flamboyant and, across species, is the more colourful of the two sexes. In India, men missed out because their wardrobes were dictated by their mothers and wives. I was interested in liberating the Indian man. So I’ve done things that are a bit unusual, but it was never my version of androgyny. I wanted to accentuate the Indian man’s masculinity by dressing him up in things he doesn’t normally wear. That comes from my understanding of history, of the history of male costume. I wanted to dress models who were the epitome of manliness – people like Arjun Rampal and Milind Soman. I wanted to show India that you could be male, wear my clothes and not worry about your sexuality.
How open to your ideas were male models of the 90’s?Was it a cooler time?
They were as open as I was. They were a cooler lot and confident about who they were. Also, because there were such few models and designers at the time, the personal equations between them were amazing – the friendships were fabulous. There was trust and faith. If I asked Arjun to wear a skirt, he’d do it because he trusted me. I’ve put sindoor on men, done all sorts of things… but it never crossed over to bad taste. And it wasn’t a cool time, but we made cool happen. There’s a big difference.