Fashion Designer Vikram Phadnavis has had a humble yet successful career in fashion for the past 25 years. He talks to Sruthi Rajan about his love for drama in craft and the influences that have got him where he is today.
He came into the designing world without formal training and when there were hardly any names to reckon with in the fashion industry, let alone Fashion Weeks or a talentpool. This year, Vikram Phadnis completed 25 years of designing outfits for the biggies of Indian cinema, cricketers and international celebs, including Akshay Kumar, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra, Sachin Tendulkar, Glenn McGrath, Naomi Campbell, and the South African President Jacob Zuma. The 48-year-old has dressed up leading ladies of the Indian film industry, cutting across generations, from Shabana Azmi to Alia Bhatt. Vikram is known for his avant-garde creations, which use varied rich, sophisticated colours, cuts and hues, vintage prints and drapes, with a hint of glamour. He makes lavish use of black, red, beige, nude, maroon, golden, orange and white, and is notorious when it comes to using earthy shades in his designs. His wedding collections, which use both traditional and crafts, blending vintage and modern masterpieces, has become many a bride’s dream trousseau.
Vikram, who started as a fashion choreographer, got into designing after people like Salman Khan prodded him into it. And as they say, there has been no looking back. But Salman has remained a godfather to him, and we know it’s probably why there is a portrait of his guardian angel in his office where we meet him.
Career in creating
In a land where fashion and cinema walk almost hand-in-hand, Vikram’s designs were only waiting to be found. His first break came with Hindustani (1996), and was followed by a slew of movies like Namastey London, Rowdy Rathore and Krrish. But ask the soft-spoken designer what his dreams are, and he confesses to his desires of taking his brand to the world. And Adhvan, the event celebrating his 25 years in fashion, was just the platform for taking him ahead. Adhvan, meaning ‘journey’ in Sanskrit, was attended by the who’s who of the film and fashion industry, showcasing his out-of-the-box creativity. Here, he brought back the peplums, high-waist box pleats, printed skirts and lehengas— all of them his classics. Even the male models, some in sherwanis and turbans, and others in tuxedos, were a treat to the eyes. True to his signature style, he ensured even this collection had a lot of glamour, drama, history, craft and art. Guests at the event who were dressed in the designer’s creations included Amitabh Bachchan, Gauri Khan, Juhi Chawla and Genelia Deshmukh. For Vikram, one of the most emotional moments at the show was when Amitabh Bachchan walked the ramp for him. We caught up with the designer at his residence in Bandra, where he greeted us, looking his absolutely charming self in his just out-of-bed looks. We are instantly charmed by his simplicity and soft-spoken nature. Here are excerpts from the interview:
You have always considered Bollywood fashionable. How has the industry evolved in terms of fashion over the years?
I think the industry has evolved in many ways. Fashion was lovely in Indian cinema even in the olden times. It’s a totally different era now, but we have still maintained a great fashion in cinema. The change in fashion is always good, and that’s what has been the most beautiful part of Indian cinema.
What are the major fashion trends you have observed over the past 25 years in the industry? Are there any that have been repeating?
Fashion, like history, repeats itself. And that’s true of a sari, the anarkali, lehenga or even a sherwani. The basic concept does not change, though there is always scope for recyclability—the type of sleeves, collars, necklines, etc.
What inspires you to start designing an ensemble?
I just need to get into the mood, and then I just start putting things together. And if am in the right mood, everything just starts falling in place. So, I do not design as per seasons or trends. I design keeping in mind the commercial viability. I do not need six months of creative palette. Yet, there are times when I am creating and recreating until the very end—until I get it right. So, honestly, it wouldn’t be a lie if I said that I don’t need anything much to inspire me.
Your clothes always have a regal touch, with rich colours and textures. Is that your reflection of how women should be or dress up?
While it’s true that I like some amount of glamour, drama and flamboyance in dressing, I believe a woman should be comfortable and wear clothes that are practical, and her clothes should make her feel special. So, I don’t do clothes that are simple, but that doesn’t mean I only do embellished or embroidered ones. I just think there should be some drama in either the cut or the fabric, to give the garment the cutting edge.
How much do you think your contributions add to a celeb’s looks?
Today, social media has made everybody fashion conscious, and everyone, celebrities included, are aware of what they want to wear. So, I think, what celebs wear is a blend of what the stylist has to offer and the celebs’ choices.
What is more difficult according to you—designing for women or men?
Designing for men is more difficult because there are limited options. Also, colours, cuts and fabrics are limited too, which adds to the challenge.
With so much debate going on about it, how different do you think the fashion in Delhi and Mumbai is?
Delhi has a different weather altogether, so the fashion there is obviously, different. In Mumbai, we do not experience such extreme climatic changes. Also, in Mumbai people are more relaxed and they do not make an effort to dress up. But people in Delhi love dressing up. So yes, Delhi is more of the fashion hub.
You have often talked about Salman Khan being your guardian angel. Do you have a best friend in the industry?
I don’t really have a best friend here, but I do have close bonds that have bloomed over the years. And these are various groups and people that I can depend on at anytime, and vice versa.