Varun Bahl On Designing For New-Age Brides And Venturing Into Demi-Couture

Designer Varun Bahl has been an integral part of the fashion industry for nearly two decades, and in that span, the designer has amassed a regular clientele and has had several milestones that have punctuated his thriving career. 

Just last year the designer welcomed his second flagship store in Mumbai, nestled in the cultural hub of the city, Kala Ghoda. Next to heavyweights such as Ensemble, the massive two-story store offers Bahl’s menswear and womenswear creations. We met with the designer at his sprawling store to catch the unveiling of his A/W 2019 couture collection called The Dancing Paisley. After having introduced his prêt line earlier this year, Bahl’s new couture collection was a departure from OTT designs to adhere to the designer’s new concept that he describes as “demi-couture”.

We speak with the designer about what that entails, his latest collection and the new-age bride.

Image Courtesy: Varun Bahl
Image Courtesy: Varun Bahl

Luxeva: Tell us a little about your collection The Dancing Paisley?

Varun Bahl: "It’s extremely light and that is definitely the way forward. Brides today are different and don’t want to dress up heavily from head to toe. Instead, they want a balanced look. And I like stylishly cut, strategically embroidered, and balanced clothes. While I also create heavy garments, the focus this time was on medium to light garments."


Luxeva: What was the concept behind your collection? 

Varun Bahl: "I used to sketch paisleys as a child but I never used them until now. It was one of those memories that came to mind, and I thought to myself, ‘Let's sketch what I used to when I was really young and not a designer’. It just caught on, and I spent one entire day sketching these beautiful paisleys that appeared to be dancing. That's where the name came from. It is fun and effortless."

Image Courtesy: Varun Bahl
Image Courtesy: Varun Bahl

Luxeva: Do you see the brides and their tastes evolving with time?

Varun Bahl: "It has definitely evolved. Tradition is beautiful, but the way forward is going to be a mix of tradition with modernism. I've been doing an amalgamation of this for a very long time and that's what people appreciate about my designs. Even my bridal lehengas are heavy, but they don't weigh as much and are comfortable to wear. And I feel the modern Indian woman wants that." 


Luxeva: We see a lot of pieces suitable for bridesmaids. Is that a new market you’re tapping into?

Varun Bahl: "Our clothes are perfect for a destination wedding and are very easy to carry, making them perfect for bridesmaids and friends of the bride. Demi-couture is a new and exciting space between couture and prêt that I am going to launch formally. I want people to wear my clothes and not just hang them in their closets. And I want them to buy them and wear them repeatedly. Plus, the new silhouettes and drapes are a lot of fun to play with."

Image Courtesy: Varun Bahl
Image Courtesy: Varun Bahl

Luxeva: What kind of fabrics and signature Varun Bahl elements have you used?

Varun Bahl: "I think we have very staple fabrics we use in India. I have used a lot of organza this time. I have used mulmul and lightweight chanderi because they add to the light feel. If it's a bridal lehenga, I have used heavy silk to lend it a luxurious touch. As for elements, I always do a very unique mix of three-four of my favorite things. And they translate in different forms. Last year it was art nouveau that really caught my eye. A lot of my prêt is based on that. But when I start sketching, there is always a little floral element and there are also baroque elements."


Luxeva: It has been a year since you launched your store in Kala Ghoda. How has the response been?

Varun Bahl: "It has been good. We have a large menswear section and it's doing extremely well in Bombay. I just feel like I haven't done much in my Bombay store yet. And I want to make up for it by creating small collections every two months. That's what people want in demi-couture: smaller and regular collections. I would also like to spend more time in the store here and meet with people and my clients."

Image Courtesy: Varun Bahl
Image Courtesy: Varun Bahl

Luxeva: What according to you are some of the big bridalwear trends?

Varun Bahl: "Individuality is a huge trend. The woman today is very strong. She knows herself and is comfortable with who she is. Everyone is so fit and balanced and everyone works. We have been waiting to see this change forever, and we have seen this progress over the years. Also, don't follow trends blindly. If it suits you, then great. If it doesn't suit you and your personality or doesn't enhance who you are, then it's pointless."


Luxeva: What’s next?

Varun Bahl: "Demi-couture in a big way. It’s what I really want to do. I want to work outside of the studio and create new things, new ideas, new textures, new colours, and new cuts. People are really looking for new cuts and I am ready to give them that. While bridalwear is bread and butter, I also want to offer my customers very attractive price points for prêt with great quality. I don't want to play the price game, I want to play the quality and price game. It's hard, but not impossible."

Image Courtesy: Varun Bahl
Image Courtesy: Varun Bahl

Featured Image: Varun Bahl

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