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Kunal Rawal: ‘The landscape of menswear has changed’

"Back in the day, there were preconceived notions of how a man or woman should dress... I think fashion has become far more democratic today."

December 04, 2021 / 06:23 PM IST
(from left) Actors Dino Morea, Vicky Kaushal and Saif Ali Khan in menswear designed by Kunal Rawal.

(from left) Actors Dino Morea, Vicky Kaushal and Saif Ali Khan in menswear designed by Kunal Rawal.

When celebrity fashion designer Kunal Rawal began his career 15 years ago, he became one of the youngest designers in India to take on individual projects as costume designer and stylist in Bollywood.

A big believer in androgynous and gender-fluid pieces, Rawal is known for his luxe minimalism. His non-conformist, multi-functional approach toward design, with his deconstructed sherwanis, and love for sharp silhouettes, clean lines and intricate-lavish details is what makes him popular.

He has not just dressed celebrities like Varun Dhawan, Arjun Kapoor, Ranbir Kapoor, Siddharth Malhotra, Anil Kapoor, Shahid Kapoor, Prateik Babbar, but also artiste Pharrell Williams, designer Michael Russo, Edouard Guerrand Hermès of Hermès, comedian Hasan Minhaj and many more.

Rawal designed a range of on-field and off-field apparel and merchandise for IPL teams from Rajasthan Royals (2008) to Royal Challengers Bangalore (2012). In an interview, he spoke to us about his work, his design aesthetic, styling stars and more. Excerpts:

When you began, 15 years ago, menswear and wedding wear was not what it is now…

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When I got into menswear, my goal was to create relatable occasion wear and peek at the core interest for menswear. What I realized very early on is that men weren’t involved in the design-making process when it came to occasion wear, and I wanted to change that. I wanted men to have the power of optionality. Over the past 15 years, the landscape of menswear has changed. Grooms are far more involved today.

Are people becoming more experimental with their looks now?

This past year people have been feeling very restricted and as a result, will see a lot of rebellion when it comes to fashion in the coming year. People will now seize the opportunity to stand out. I would use the word experimental though I believe that men, in general, are just taking more of an initiative in the garment choosing process. Back in the day, there were fixed moulds and preconceived notions of how a man or woman should dress and I think fashion has become far more democratic today which is why men are getting more involved in the process and are using fashion to express themselves...

Kunal Rawal. Pharrell Williams, Michael Russo, Edouard Guerrand Hermès and Hasan Minhaj have also sported clothes designed by him. Designer Kunal Rawal

Sometime back Rhea Kapoor styled her sister Sonam Kapur Ahuja in a bandhgala you designed. The blurring binary boundaries have shaken up a lot of sartorial codes, don’t you think?

I’m a big believer in androgynous and gender-fluid pieces. We’ve seen a lot of this in streetwear, and I feel the influence would change the way we look and approach occasion wear. Sonam has always been on the right side of fashion and who better to carry forward such than her. Ever since I worked with Sonam on our first film ‘Aisha’, she has been a fashion icon that truly embraces her personality and showcases it with what she wears, which is why I knew she would be the perfect muse for this collection.

Your top favourite runway trends this season…

Functionality is such a strong trend right now. Consumers are looking for intricate pieces that can translate into more than one look and I personally feel this is the future of fashion.

I think customisation personalisation is another trend that I absolutely love. In today’s day and age, it is so important to be true to yourself and being able to make your outfit your own with small customisable details is so very important.

Your top 5 tips for the upcoming wedding season.

I have a few pieces of advice for a would-be groom starting with: Never pick an outfit for a brand, because a brand could be big tomorrow and could lose its popularity tomorrow. Be true to your aesthetic and pick an outfit that amplifies your personality. You only get married once, so wear something that makes you feel comfortable and confident.

The second is: Today’s events have become so intimate and personalised, it is important to dress appropriately to the occasion.

The third is: Keep your body type in mind while choosing your outfit. When creating outfits for grooms we make sure to customise the linings and hems so that the outfit's fit and fall is perfect for the person wearing it. In my case I prefer micro motifs because bigger motifs tend to make one look bigger.

And the last one: Consult the designer while accessorising your look because sometimes brooches and other accessories can take away from the look rather than add to it, you don’t want your wedding day outfit to look too busy.
Debarati S. Sen is a Mumbai-based independent journalist and consultant content creator. Instagram: @DebaratiSSen

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