With an experience of more than three decades in its kitty, fashion designer Shahab Durazi recently returned to the ramp after a 12-year hiatus. For the same, he chose no ordinary platform and collection, as the maestro presented a retrospective of his eponymous brand, dating back around 10 years, during the recent FDCI X Lakmé Fashion Week. As expected, the event was a grand affair with models hitting the ramp in exquisite creations that screamed nostalgia.
In an exclusive interview with indianexpress.comShahab Durazi talks about his latest showcase, the idea behind presenting a retrospective collection, how (and in what ways) fashion industry has changed over the past decade, her background, celebrity trend and much more. Read the edited excerpts below:
What brought you back to the ramp after 12 years, and what kept you away all those years?
I’ve always preferred to do very few shows. I believe you step out into the limelight to tell a new story, or sometimes revisit an old one, albeit with a twist. For me, it is imperative that the narrative be inspiring and worthy of an esteemed platform, otherwise your work is viewed with disinterest, seen as repetitive and lacking in creative ingenuity. There is no room for complacency or mediocrity in a creative space. It needs your audience’s full attention. If I am convinced that my story can hold the attention of my target audience, I look for an appropriate platform to present it.
Credit for my return must go to Mr. Sunil Sethi (Chairman, FDCI) who has constantly asked me to present my work because he feels it is imperative that the younger generation of designers, stylists, models, etc. see and understand the craft of Shahab Durazi. That said, I have to say, fellow designers, my contemporaries like Tarun Tahiliani, Rohit Bal, Rajesh Pratap Singh, Sunet Varma, Anamika Khanna, and many others have told me over the years that I should get my work out there because it deserves to be seen on a big platform. Even models, stylists, photographers and choreographers have said so. A special mention should be made to my daughters Amaesha and Aashyan who over the years have pushed me to show my work and increase the visibility of my brand.
In all these years, how do you think (as an insider, but looking at it from afar) fashion shows have changed; how would you describe the changes?
There are big changes. social media has changed the way we perceive fashion and most of the time that’s fine, but sometimes the content is questionable as the focus is more on brand building and the product is pushed aside. Slow fashion lost in this rat race and my intention with this presentation was to reinforce slow fashion’s relevance, timelessness and quality of ideas.
Tell us about the collection presented and the idea of presenting a retrospective.
The capsule collection is a radical reflection of the brand, dating back ten years. Nostalgia is the dominant theme – borrowed mostly from the vintage chic era of the 1940s and 1950s, which inspires lots of details like immaculate collars and cuffs from the English dandy dress code, quilted cummerbunds, bows adorned with beads and silk ribbons, etc. I have an affinity for sticking to neutral tones, mostly black, in my personal style as well as in my work, which I haven’t budged from so far. This collection stages the mystery of black, juxtaposed with white, cream, bone, ecru, dove, slate and silver. We’ve also relied on the brand’s various couture assets, used favorably in the past, which I think are a great vehicle of relevance for a younger segment of the audience who may not be fully aware of our work. The art of the Renaissance and Rococo movements is also a piece of history that inspires the collection in the form of large French motifs. Overall, the capsule endorses slow fashion and the relevance of timelessness to challenge the concept of trends and seasons, genre and genre. In simpler terms, it’s classic couture with contemporary undertones.
Social media has become the window to fashion trends and styles. How much of it do you include in your life and in your work?
My fashion aesthetic as well as my sensibilities are vintage, nostalgic this attempt to address the ever-changing role of style and elegance – I have and will remain true to that timelessness in clothing which is desired by many and which is the true essence of what fashion is. However, I keep my distance from the trends, but I am able to shape our own standards in the modern industry, thanks to our past that we can always draw inspiration from. Structural excellence and timeless appeal is what we strive for at ‘Shahab Durazi’.
However, I do agree that social media and the internet in general have helped to massively amplify these trends. Y2K mode is back purely based on Gen Z’s affinity for going old school and likewise many trends keep coming back and thanks to social media we are all very quickly becoming part of it.
You were one of the first creators to have famous stars, introducing a concept that continues to be practiced even today. Did you think it would become such a phenomenon, where we talk more about the stars than about the designer and his creations?
It really is an interconnected world today. beyond the range of Bollywood stars take to the catwalk, the industry has evolved to accommodate even social media influencers and celebrities to step out on the ramp as showstoppers. There’s a healthy mix of models, movie stars, and thought leaders all part of the runway to create that wow factor that audiences seek out on every show, and I was thrilled to bring this to life. this in my presentation as well.
What are you aiming for with this return to ramp; is it a precursor to Shadab Durazi 2.0?
Back on the track after 12 years is no small feat. My work hasn’t been seen by the masses for quite a while, so the collection will speak for itself, although who wears it will surely impact the translation. I drew on historical events and time periods during the design process to convey ‘nostalgia’ at the center of the collection, so some pieces feature designs from French art movements and borrow from English menswear immaculate 40s. We made sure the collection was strong on tailoring and used tailoring techniques to perfect balance and proportion. Embellishments of all kinds are present, some create an illusion, others add texture. You’ve seen detailed floral filigree as a prominent design element, along with intricate beading patterns and ornate beading to add edge to the otherwise delicate textiles used throughout. The collection is an expression of the unique craftsmanship that Shahab Durazi represents. This is the start and hopefully more to come.
The Indian fashion industry has always been closely associated with Bollywood. You, however, have always kept a distance – what is the reason for that, and do you think it has somehow turned out to be a stumbling block in your career path?
I see the presence of Bollywood in Indian fashion as an intrusion of a creative space that should nurture and promote talent and craftsmanship. Unfortunately, the presence of actors has deviated from the course that contemporary Indian fashion should follow. A fashion platform must limit itself to presenting and promoting a designer and his profession. Any distraction does fashion and the industry as a whole a disservice. When the target audience is there to see a Bollywood star as opposed to a designer’s work, it defeats the purpose of the platform.
The pandemic has affected the fashion industry immensely. What do you think was his greatest learning?
I think the the pandemic has instilled in us the value of slow fashionto conserve the different inputs and use them ingeniously to create higher value items with a lower carbon footprint and fewer supply cycles that support an environmentally responsible supply chain of quality goods.
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