Since he launched his label in 2004, Varun Bahl has come to be regarded as one of India’s most respected couturiers. The Delhi-based designer’s signature floral ensembles have been spotted on Bollywood stars, socialites and brides, he has made menswear in collaboration with Karan Johar and created designs for home furnishings brand Cocoon Fine Rugs. This year, Bahl has something new up his sleeve. Making a comeback at the Lakmé Fashion Week after four years, he launched a new prêt label for women, ready-to-wear separates priced from ₹5,000-30,000. The designer spoke to Lounge before his show about the debut collection, retail plans and the globalization of Indianwear. Edited excerpts.
You’re back at LFW with a new label. How did it come about?
It’s been my dream to have a prêt, ready-to-wear brand. It did take me a while to get it all right and I’ve been working on this for a year now. I hope to give amazing prices and quality—it’s a very attractive price point with premium-quality fabrics and hand embroidery. The aim is to reach out to more people than couture can reach.
What inspires the label’s first collection ‘The Five-Petal Story’?
It’s contemporary Indianwear for the young in age, and young at heart. These are clothes that people wear every day and a few evening looks. Varun Bahl couture is all about flowers. This label too is all about flowers. We’ve created a five-petal flower which is used to create all the patterns (on the garments), whether it’s a damask, check, stripes or a floral jaal. There are no straight lines—a line is created by placing a lot of five-petal flowers together.
Also, my favourite subject currently is Art Nouveau. We have drawn a lot of curves from architecture and mirror frames and incorporated those in our seams and borders, and embroideries.
Which are some of the key pieces in the collection?
It will be a mix of Indian wear and Western, and all the separates can be styled differently. We’ve very chic kurtas with high necklines, modest and embroidered around the neck and short tops with cropped trousers. There will be saris too, and lehngas with beautiful tops. We have used a lot of summer colours and a nice mix of fabrics. I have used a lot of Chanderi. We come from a hot country and it’s a summer-friendly fabric. The fabrics are chosen keeping the Indian temperature and moisture conditions in mind—there are also georgettes, nets and rayon blends.
What are your plans for retailing the brand?
It’s going to start online and there will be sizes available. It’s also going to be available in my stores in a small section. And then we plan to go pan-India with smaller stores, not in shopping malls, but places where people go to buy regular clothes.
What has made you turn to prêt, after so many years of couture?
It’s been about 15 years since I started. Back then, prêt in India was almost Western couture. One couldn’t really build a business around it. Hence I made the transition into couture. Now it’s set and doing well. Couture’s always going to be my first love, but this is super exciting. I want more and more people to wear my clothes.
How has Indian fashion evolved over these years?
I think Indian clothes (15 years ago) were only bridal clothes. But people still wore regular Indian clothes. Today, people have sort of globalized an Indian look. I feel now people don’t dress their age anymore, they dress their personality. It’s the best thing that has happened in Indian fashion over the last few years.