Payal Singhal On Completing Two Decades In Fashion And On What’s Nextby | September 09, 2019
Payal Singhal's A/W 2010 collection, #PS20, was more than just a presentation of her collection on the runway. It was a celebration that marked two decades of her eponymous label, a milestone that warranted the revelry.
Off the runway, her tribe that she has termed #PSgirls, were all sitting #FROW, cheering the designer on, dressed in a cacophony of her signature prints, pastel colours, and contemporary Indian silhouettes: elements that encapsulate the brand’s DNA while also commemorating it.
On the runway, we saw an extensive line-up of designs that took inspiration from Bohemia and Gypsies, cheering their liberal thinking, their spirit, and their sartorial sensibility that encapsulate mixing and matching, bold hues, and indigenous crafts. But the collection goes beyond simply referencing their lifestyle to celebrating it. “This forward-thinking mindset, deeply inspired by art and culture, has been the raison d'etre of the brand for two decades now. I’ve gone back to my real passion for pushing the envelope with freewheeling creations with this line. Since it celebrates 20 years of my brand, I decided to forgo all the formulas and take risks. Design is the hero of the collection—it’s very Camp-meets-Coachella,” says Singhal.
We chat with the designer as she looks back on her 20-year journey and lets us in on what’s to come.
Luxeva: Looking back, how would you describe your two-decade journey?
Payal Singhal: “I have always had the utmost clarity about what the Payal Singhal brand will stand for since the very beginning—we are about Indian clothing for the global Indian. I wanted to make traditional silhouettes that can become a part of one’s mainstream wardrobe and not restrict it to occasion-based ethnic wear. The emphasis has always been on wearability, comfort, value for money, and an effortless impact. As a brand, we aspire to enrich the lifestyles of those who appreciate art and craftsmanship and are able to be different whilst being trendsetters.
We championed contemporary Indian wear long before it became a buzzword. It is the very DNA of our brand. Looking back, spending six years in New York during the brand’s formative years (from 2004 to 2010) helped me develop this distinct language. During this time, I was in direct interactions with international clients and that bestowed me with a clear understanding of what they were looking for early on in my career.”
Luxeva: How do you think the industry has evolved over the years?
Payal Singhal: “When we started out 20 years ago, there was a vacuum in the space for modern Indian clothes for the younger generation. The only options for young women were to get something stitched by the neighbourhood tailor or alter their mother’s outfits. So, we decided to fill that void with younger and fresher silhouettes that eventually became our niche. Even my first collection stayed true to this sensibility—it was replete with backless kurtas, cropped kurtas, tasseled stoles instead of dupattas, and other similar silhouettes that young girls could relate to.
I also love everything vintage and India’s beautiful history. But I believe that it needs to be practically adapted and updated for the present generation. Modernising silhouettes are the need of the hour according to me, as is marrying comfort and fuss-free silhouettes with style. Now I see an increasing number of designers catering to a similar mindset and creating for a global consumer who wishes to wear her tradition with a dash of modern insouciance.
I started off in fashion at a time when there was no real platform for design in the country. Social media, fashion week, and celebrity stylists were concepts that were unheard of. From that to the current state of the industry, the evolution has definitely been massive.”
Luxeva: When it comes to personal growth, what have you learned in the last 20 years? And how would you say your designs and sensibility has evolved?
Payal Singhal: “Even as we celebrate 20 years in 2019, the brand’s signature aesthetic continues to remain contemporary and minimalist, with a vintage heart. The signature style remains consistent because our end game has not wavered—to make Indian wear a mainstream staple, which you can wear beyond weddings and festive occasions. We don’t want it to be looked at as ‘ethnic wear’, which remains in storage and sees the light of day only a few times in the year.
The secret to longevity is moving with the times. You need to innovate and embrace the need of the hour at every step along the way; all our new verticals—PS Men, PS Kids, PS Print Bazaar, PS Accessories—grew organically from what I realised the market lacked. The hallmark of each Payal Singhal ensemble is an easy transition from traditional to non-traditional settings, hence extending its appeal beyond borders, cultures, and nationalities. We have never bracketed our patrons as Indian or non-Indian. They are all united by their mindset and sensibility.”
Luxeva: Tell us a little about your collection #PS20? Where did the inspiration of Gypsies and Bohemia come from?
Payal Singhal: “While the brand is renowned for its modern Indian silhouettes, the design vocabulary is never without a touch of nostalgia. The #PS20 collection encapsulates this sensibility with its mood board of throwback styles from the wardrobes of 10th-century gypsies—merry vagabonds who belonged not to regions and borders but to their shared stories.
The original bohemians were really just artists who went against the norm. They were liberal thinkers and dressers; often drawn to bold colours, indigenous crafts, and textures. They also pioneered mixing and matching. But the collection goes beyond simply referencing their lifestyle to celebrating it. This forward-thinking mindset, deeply inspired by art and culture, has been the raison d'etre of the brand for two decades now. I’ve gone back to my real passion for pushing the envelope with freewheeling creations with this line. Since it celebrates 20 years of my brand, I decided to forgo all the formulas and take risks. Design is the hero of the collection—it’s very Camp-meets-Coachella.”
Luxeva: This was also the first time you showed menswear on the runway. What prompted you to design menswear, and what has the response been?
Payal Singhal: ”PS Men was born out of overwhelming demand for menswear from our brides and #PSGirls. It is an extension of our overall ethos to contemporise Indian wear, and we originally launched it in late 2018. We were lucky to have Farhan Akhtar debut #PSMen on the runway for the first time.”
Luxeva: What signature design Payal Singhal elements and silhouettes did you use from your 20-year career to commemorate it?
Payal Singhal: “This season, I have worked extensively with georgette and organza to create soft, structured looks while innovating with silhouettes—jacket cholis, lehenga salwar, bomber jackets, and deconstructed blazers alongside our signatures such as drop-crotch pants, cropped skirts, saris, and co-ord sets. You will notice a mix of thread work, cutwork jaalis, leather embroidery, frayed tassels, appliqué, and patchwork to create 3D textures that we use across collections. Also, complementing this handiwork are our signature #PSPrints—this season’s key patterns are classic hand-painted florals and ikats.”
Luxeva: At the show, you had the #PS girls dressed in your designs. What summarises a #PS girl?
Payal Singhal: “Every #PSGirl, irrespective of her background or nationality, is well-travelled, cultured, and fashion-forward. She has an acute understanding of art and culture and has honed her taste with a keen eye. She is confident and has a very individualistic style—so instead of dictating what she should wear head-to-toe, we encourage her to mix-and-match. Think of her as the fashion-forward cool girl of her time.”
Luxeva: Tell us a little about #PSKids?
Payal Singhal: “#PSKids was actually launched in 2011. As a new mother, I found a dearth of Indianwear for kids that was cool and comfortable. Most of what was available in the market back then was miniaturised versions of heavy Indian looks for adults, and little thought was given to a child’s ease in them. PS Kids was launched to rectify this.
PS Kids focuses on occasion wear for children and is a medley of whimsy, comfort, and age-appropriateness. All the fabrics are tested to ensure that they are itch and pinch-free. The fastenings and openings are easy for kids to get in and out of. For instance, churidars for babies come with seam buttons to change diapers easily and trousers use elastic waistbands in place of drawstrings. We go easy on the embellishments, particularly those that could be a potential health hazard for the child. So, beads are replaced by fabric tassels. The colours and prints are never gaudy or those that are typically associated with adults.”
Luxeva: What is next for Payal Singhal?
Payal Singhal: “The Payal Singhal brand is more than just clothes. It has grown with the #PSGirl, to anticipate her needs, and to give her an all-encompassing taste of the world of PS. We don’t want to be known as just an Indian brand. Our goal is to make the brand a global mainstream lifestyle label for connoisseurs from varied nationalities, cultures, and walks of life. So, you should watch out for some exciting launches in the field of décor, home furnishings, beauty, weddings, gifting, stationery and more!”
Shop some of her pieces and collaborations:
Featured Image: Payal Singhal