I In an insightful conversation, Fashion Designer of the Month Kunal Rawal, who was also the youngest designer to have showcased at LFW, talked about what led him to fashion. The passionate designer also revealed his vision of the Fashion scene in India right now, in the future and revealed his tech facets, too. Read the whole interview to know all of the above and much more.
What led you to becoming a Fashion Designer and what draws you to Fashion?
Kunal Rawal: My dad comes from a Textile background and has an export house, so I think textiles is what got me into Fashion. I remember when I was in school, dad used to have his factory visit once in a while at night. While he was tied up, with work, I would lie down on a heap of fabrics in a room full of fabrics. We’d touch different fabrics and guess which it was. So without realising, there was too much textile knowledge I was getting through this in my growing years. It intrigued me a lot and that’s when it started.
How did it feel to be the youngest Fashion designer to showcase at LFW back when you started?
Kunal Rawal: Very exciting and empowering! When you are that young, what you are looking for is also some sort of validation that what you’re doing is in the right direction because at that age, you’re always second guessing yourself. My stint at LFW gave me the confidence to do what I was doing.
“ Prioritising step by step is w h at I’d like to advice my younger self on. Make goals and work towards them instead of just over working. ”
Describe your own style of design.
Kunal Rawal: For me, every collection is a different journey. Colours, moods, mental peace, everything is different and it is this mixture of different elements that comes together to make a collection. But as a label, I like to make pieces that are wearable because when it comes to fashion, you have to wear it to understand. I like being visual and cinematic. Maybe structured, too, although it might not hold true for everything. Even this can change by the time we speak next time. These things keep changing and that’s the beauty of fashion; it’s ever changing!
Tell us about the first garment you designed.
Kunal Rawal: I was in my first semester at LCF and I had designed 300 patterned, handmade bow ties from scratch for the show.
Any challenges or difficulties you met with on your path to becoming the Ace Designer you are now?
Kunal Rawal: Of course there are continuous challenges. Nothing comes super easy and you have to work towards everything you want in life. There have been difficulties at different times of the journey but my dad always told me that in the first 10 years of your work life you should have a plan starting early and give yourself upto 10 years for you to have fun and experiment with things you have to do. There have been learning experiences and I take it as positive.
How has the fashion scene in India evolved over the years and where do you see it heading in the next 5 years?
Kunal Rawal: The Fashion scene has changed leaps and bounds! There is a huge aesthetic shift from what was 10 years back to now. When I started off, I was into contemporary fashion and I think this was about 10 years back and I feel at that time, the menswear market wasn’t ready for contemporary fashion. People didn’t get why a t-shirt is more expensive than a shirt. Even in Bombay which is one of the most forward cities in India. Today, every 6 months, it’s a whole new world aesthetically. The game is changing so fast and it’s beautiful to know that the market is growing. It’s definitely not as close to womenswear number-wise but we’re going to get there. For very long, menswear has been about either too much design or the other extreme of the spectre which I call “Maharaja opulence” – a look a lot of designers have been going for. None of them fit into my aesthetic space or what I believe is for menswear. When compared with womenswear, the parameters for menswear are narrower. Within those parameters, there is a lot of space for design, for excitement, for details, but it’s tighter. There is opulence in my clothes too but the meaning is not heavy brocades or big broaches.
Now, people are realising the middle ground, that even by going cleaner you can still have a lot of detailing, a lot more designing. Today you see such cross cultural influences in clothes and designers; nothing is ours or theirs anymore. 5 years from now, you will see a lot of distinctive style. Things are getting more personalised and individualised in the clothes people choose and the way they put it together. So, I see distinctiveness and individuality are where menswear is heading to. Which also means a lot of risk fashion wise, which also means a lot of fun!
Kunal Rawal and Tech – what is your take on this relationship?
Kunal Rawal: I am very intrigued by it and by the possibilities and things you can create. I’m not into tech personally but we all end up using a lot of tech for work which takes over your personal life too. Professionally, I have a strong love for hand-feel work culture. We create actual physical mood boards where we cut and tear and rip. Not many people know this but I when work on my fabrics, we draw out details on top of that, play around with the fabric, stick papers and it’s very manual as opposed to digital. Although I do use a lot of digital prints, even when we’re doing graphic concepts, my starting process is always annual. My shows have LED lights and we played around a lot with Tech. In my last 2-3 offfield shows, I was deeply involved with what the lighting or sound should be. Tech plays a very important part in my shows because it has a lot of power.
“ I am very intrigued by it and by the possibilities and things you can create. Tech plays a very important part in my shows because it has a lot of power. ”
How is technology influencing Fashion? There so much you can do!
Kunal Rawal: Even with AR today finding a big exciting space in retail. There are VR shows happening now, the online medium has become powerful and there is so much to explore! It’s whole new medium. Things are changing and we are all learning about it and adapting and figuring more and more unique ways. We are doing a lot in the Tech space already, not in the retail space but maybe for some collaboration.
Digital media and its impact on Fashion.
Kunal Rawal: It’s a very strong tool for everyone today. It’s a whole new medium to reach a whole new generation. There is a lot of material out there which is good and everyone is simply exploring their space in their own unique material. There are some who are good, some not so. But honestly, I’m getting off social media because everyone is following the same people so everyone ends up having the same information in their head and that as a thought is very scary. So now, I’m trying to stay away as much as possible because it can become very addictive. There are so many software and apps you can use that help in work.
Name some tech gadgets you can’t do without.
Kunal Rawal: There are a lot of things you can do without which are luxury. But now, all the luxuries are all being processed into your phone so smartphones are getting smarter. Car rides are not the same anymore. With Netflix and Amazon, nobody will ever get bored. One gadget that I use a lot has to be my phone- my 7+. I use the camera a lot, it’s magical. It’s very important for me being a designer and creative person. I travel a lot because of work and shoots and it’s not a very boring life. I’m always on the move. I like capturing things I find inspiring not just as memory but also that for inspiration. Good camera with crazy storage is a must for everyone! I also love my air pods; they are wireless, there’s no syncing discrepancy and it’s clear. I use it at the gym with continuous movements and you would think they’ll fall out but they don’t.
Recently, I hurt my neck because of too much phone use. So, I believe that Technology is a good thing till it comes to bite us.
One thing you’d tell your younger self now that you have so much experience and seen the industry so up close?
Kunal Rawal: Prioritising step by step is what I’d like to advice my younger self on. It’s impossible for you to do everything all the time. When you’re young, you want to do everything. I’m not saying I’m old right now, but when you want to do a lot of things all the time and be active 24×7, it’s important to prioritize. Also, a balanced professional and personal professional life is very important. Make goals and work towards them instead of just overworking. I think set goals are very important but having balance is even more important.
- Advice for aspiring Fashion designers: Don’t be scared of trying because there is no space for fear in fashion.
- If not a Fashion Designer, then what: I love fashion too much to be doing anything else. If not as a designer, I would still be a part of fashion in some other role. Or perhaps films because I love cinema!
- Most exotic vacation: I really liked Greece; it’s absolutely stunning! London is also one of my favourite places. But I’d like to go to Maldives because I’ve never been there.
- Best piece of advice given to you: Trial and error.
- Best dressed according to you: Fashion inspiration for me, 24×7, is my dad!
- Go-to fashion trend: Long line. Most overused Fashion trend/trick: At leisure.
- One fashion trend you’d make obsolete forever: Super-fitted clothes are best left in 90s and transparent and translucent clothes, too. They’re cringe-worthy for me.