With an experience of over three decades in his kitty, fashion designer Shahab Durazi recently made a comeback to the ramp after a hiatus of 12 years. For the same, he chose no ordinary platform and collection, as the maestro showcased a retrospective of his eponymous label, dating back around 10 years, at the recently-concluded FDCI X Lakme Fashion Week. As expected, the event was a grand affair with models sashaying down the ramp in exquisite creations that screamed nostalgia.
In an exclusive interview with indianexpress.com, Shahab Durazi talks about his latest showcase, the idea behind presenting a retrospective collection, how (and in what ways) the fashion industry has changed in the last decade, his journey, the trend of celebrity showstoppers and much more. Read the edited excerpts below:
What led you to make a comeback to the ramp after 12 years, and what kept you away all these years?
I have always preferred doing very few shows. I believe you step out in the limelight to tell a new story, or sometimes revisit an old one, albeit with a twist. For me, it’s imperative that the narrative be inspiring and worthy of an esteemed platform, or else your work is viewed with disinterest, seen as repetitive, and lacks creative ingenuity. There is no room for complacency or mediocrity in a creative space. It needs the undivided attention of your audience. If I am convinced my narrative can hold the attention of my target audience, I pursue an appropriate platform to showcase it.
The credit for my return must go to Mr Sunil Sethi (chairman, FDCI) who has been persistently asking me to showcase my work as he feels it’s imperative the younger generation of designers, stylists, models, etc should see and understand the craft of Shahab Durazi. Having said this, I must say, fellow designers, my contemporaries like Tarun Tahiliani, Rohit bal, Rajesh Pratap Singh, Suneet Varma, Anamika Khanna, and many more have, over the years, told me I must put my work out there as it deserves to be seen on a large platform. Even models, stylists, photographers, and choreographers have said so. Special mention must be made of my daughters Amaesha and Aashyan who, over the years have goaded me to show my work and increase the visibility of my brand.
In all these years, how do you (being an insider, yet watching it from a distance) feel fashion shows have changed; how would you describe the changes?
There are big changes. Social media has changed the way we perceive fashion and most times it’s good, but sometimes the content is questionable as there’s a larger emphasis on brand building and the product is sidelined. Slow fashion lost out in this fast-paced rat race and my intent with this presentation was to reinforce the relevance of slow fashion, timelessness, and the quality of ideas.
A model walks the ramp during Sahab Durazi showcase at the FDCI x Lakmé Fashion Week 2022 in Mumbai. (Photo : FS Images/ FDCI x Lakme Fashion Week /RISE Worldwide)
Tell us about the collection showcased and the idea of presenting a retrospective.
The capsule collection is a radical reflection of the brand, dating back around 10 years. Nostalgia is the overarching theme – borrowed mainly from the 40s and 50s vintage chic era, which inspire a lot of details like pristine collars and cuffs from the English dandy dress code, quilted cummerbunds, bows embellished with pearls and silk ribbons, etc. I have an affinity for sticking to neutral tones, mainly black, in my personal style as well as in my work, which I haven’t budged from till date. This collection heroes the mystery of black, juxtaposed with white, cream, bone, ecru, dove, slate and silver. We also leaned into the brand’s various couture strengths, favorably used in the past, which I believe are a great vehicle of relevance for some of the younger audience who may not entirely be aware of our body of work. Art from the Renaissance and Rococo movements are also a piece of history that inspire the collection in the form of large French motifs. Overall, the capsule endorses slow fashion and the relevance of timelessness to defy the concept of trends and seasons, gender and genre. In simpler terms, it is classic couture with contemporary nuances.
Social media has become the window to fashion trends and styles. How much of it do you include in your life and in your work?
My fashion aesthetic as well as sensibilities are vintage, nostalgic that attempt to address the ever-evolving role of style and elegance – I have and will stay true to this timelessness in clothing that is desired by many and is the true essence of what fashion is. Though, I keep my distance from trends but am able to mold our own standards in the modern industry, owing to our past which we can always turn to for inspiration. Structural excellence and an ageless appeal are what we strive for at ‘Shahab Durazi’.
However, I would agree that social media and the internet at large has helped amplify these trends massively. Y2K fashion is back purely based on the Gen Z’s affinity to go old-school and similarly there are many trends that keep making a comeback and thanks to social media, we all become a part of it very quickly.
You were one of the first designers to have celebrity showstoppers, introducing a concept that continues to be practised even today. Had you thought it would become such a huge phenomenon, where showstoppers are talked about more than the designer and their creations?
It is truly an interconnected world today. Over and above the range of Bollywood showstoppers stomping the runway, the industry has evolved to accommodate even influencers and social media celebrities to step out on the ramp as showstoppers. There is a healthy mix of supermodels, movie stars and opinion leaders who are all becoming a part of the runway to create a wow factor that the audiences are looking to get with each show, and I was excited to bring that alive in my presentation as well.
What do you aim to achieve with this ramp comeback; is this a precursor to Shadab Durazi 2.0?
Returning to the runway after 12 years is no easy feat. My work hasn’t been viewed by the masses in quite a while so the collection will speak for itself, although who wears it will surely impact the translation. I leaned on historic events and time periods during the design process to convey ‘nostalgia’ as the focus of the collection, so certain pieces feature designs from French art movements and borrow from pristine English menswear of the 40s. We made sure the collection was strong on tailoring and used couture techniques to perfect balance and proportion. Embellishments of all sorts feature throughout, some create illusion, some add texture. You saw detailed floral filigree work as a prominent design element along with intricate pearl patterns and ornate beadwork to add an edge to the otherwise delicate textiles used throughout. The collection is an expression of the unique craft that Shahab Durazi stands for. This is the beginning and more to come, hopefully.
The Indian fashion industry has always been closely associated with Bollywood. You, however, have always maintained a distance — what is the reason behind the same, and do you think it has, in any way, proved to be a stumbling block in your professional journey?
I see the presence of Bollywood in Indian fashion as an intrusion of a creative space that should nurture and promote talent and craft. Unfortunately, the presence of actors has deviated the course contemporary Indian fashion should be following. A fashion platform should be confined to presenting and promoting a designer and his craft. Any distractions are a disservice to fashion and the industry as a whole. When the target audience is present to see a Bollywood star as opposed to a designer’s work, it defeats the purpose of the platform.
The pandemic affected the fashion industry in a huge way. What, according to you, has been its biggest learning?
I think the pandemic inculcated in us the value of slow fashion, of conserving the various inputs and using them resourcefully to create items of higher value with lower carbon footprints and fewer supply cycles that support an eco-friendly supply chain of quality goods.