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Cover Story

SHANTANU & NIKHIL... A Collection To Die For

Amin Dhillon Darpan, 09 Jun, 2014
  • SHANTANU & NIKHIL... A Collection To Die For
Shantanu & Nikhil recently had their first ever Canadian fashion show showcasing their ‘TO DIE FOR’ collection, which definitely lives up to its name. From start to finish, the audience was mesmerized by each stunning creation that featured contemporary silhouettes, intricate detailing and rich colour combinations.
Think feminine and elegance while paying tribute to the romantic renaissance era in Rome. It’s this romantic vintage feel that the designers say set them apart from their competitors. 
“We believe that we have the right mix of vintage India and our ability to be able to use Indian drape techniques for our clothes helps. As designers, we believe more in expressionism art of storytelling…storytelling in the form of travels and then catapulting those emotions into collections so [this is] what has become our style signature. ‘TO DIE FOR’ was inspired by our travel to Rome, more so the Palace of Versailles, hence the usage of gold. Draped hems, ruffled necks, fluid shapes, pre-stitched sari inspired gowns are some of the hottest trends [this season].” 
This was certainly the case as observed at their Canadian show. Some of the most striking pieces on the runway included ruffled, high-neck peplum jackets with draped lengha skirts. These would be flattering on any figure and had just the right touch of drama and romance to stand out at any party. 
With rave reviews from their first Canadian show, the talented brothers have their sights set on the Canadian market and plan to open an exclusive Shantanu & Nikhil store WHERE? to provide Canadian fans first hand access to their signature cocktail couture gowns. “Canada has a very sound organized retail environment, which is always good for making fashion accessible and marketable.”
Since launching their label in 1999, Shantanu and Nikhil Mehra have become one of the most sought after Indian designers. To them, the modern Indian bride “wants to feel liberated and yet have the sense of romance going into her occasion. She wants to feel like she is the ‘One’ and no one [else] even comes close.” 
Celebrities can’t get enough of the fashion label, with everyone from Amitabh Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan, Saif Ali Khan, Shahrukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Sonakshi Sinha, Kajol, Dia Mirza, Neha Dhupia, Sushmita Sen, and Bipasha Basu noted as clients. 
A celeb highlight for them? Shilpa Shetty wearing a Shantanu & Nikhil creation in 2006 in one of her first appearances post winning Celebrity Big Brother in the United Kingdom. 
Aside from helping women stand out at their big events, the designers ensure their male clients are not forgotten. The ‘TO DIE FOR’ collection carries classic and crisp designed sherwanis and dhoti pants for men, with a hint of a modern edge. 
“The modern Indian man has become extremely confident of wearing clothes that evoke a contemporary appeal. The emphasis now is more silhouette and fit driven. Short tone-on-tone sherwanis for weddings, bandhgalas for receptions, waist coats teamed with draped kurtas for sangeets is the rage. A sherwani whose length is just about kissing the knees with longer slits teamed with fitted cigarette trouser is one of the examples.”
The Process
Building and establishing your brand is one thing, but in today’s highly competitive fashion world, you are only as good as your latest collection. Keeping this in mind, Shantanu and Nikhil are in a constant state of inspiration. “We get inspired by architecture, which comes in the form of old buildings and cities. Our work on collections doesn’t really stop. Before one collection finishes, the other starts. It’s always back to back.”
The duo is quick to point out the importance of having a strong talented team around them. “Our team consists of four designers and they have their assistants, so it’s a total of eight. We work as a mentor to them with spelling out the vision about the brand and taking them throughout the feeling of the collection. We help them and train them in the areas of design like pattern making, draping and communicating their ideas on the model. We have a designated area for designers in our office and this space is extremely fluid and each one has the liberty of doing what ever they want in this space.”
The designers also ensure each of their designs fits the high quality that reflects the brand name. “Achieving the best quality is extremely imperative for a high-end designer label like ours. We have set certain important quality control parameters in place to ensure the excellence in design delivery. We operate out of our Noida manufacturing unit and corporate office. We are always constantly interacting with the team on a regular basis and are extremely involved in the day-to-day activities of the work place. We share a very close knit communication and design network with the core team through regular supervisions and constant monitoring of the designs.”
The Business Side
Family business has its advantages and disadvantages. Shantanu and Nikhil have a close knit relationship with each other and they credit their brotherly ties as the secret to working well with one another. “At the work place, art always precedes commerce and this understanding and sync between these two key roles performed by us helps us work better. As brothers, we are extremely well bonded and understand and respect each other’s areas of expertise in all contributing towards a harmonious growth of the brand and our dreams.” 
Surely, the brothers must have disagreements right? “Most often we do not have to face disagreements and all decisions are always met through a healthy discussion on mutual agreements.”
With a bright future ahead of them, including expansion into Canada, Shantanu & Nikhil reflect on their past and are proud of their accomplishments to date. “Fashion can sometimes be perceived as frivolous and is more so in India, since it is a new found love affair with glamour and glitz.
However, we have always believed in artistic clarity teamed with market knowledge and as such, have stayed away from the ‘razzmatazz’ of it all, thereby letting our work and balance sheets do the talking. Very earlier on in our careers, we had realized this. In other words, if you are a true artist, you should just be hungry to show your art through your work vision and everything else will more often than not fall into place. God has been very kind to us and as such we feel blessed.”