Veteran designer Payal Jain is known for seamlessly blending traditional designs and craftsmanship with contemporary silhouettes. A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco (1993), she prides herself on meticulously crafting every piece that comes out as a part of her collection.
In conversation with Guardian 20, Jain speaks about how she decided to pursue fashion professionally, saying, “I have always been inclined towards art and was introduced to sketching at the tender age of eight. My childhood was steeped in music, dance and various art forms due to influence from my parents—my mother played the sitar professionally and my father, despite spending most of his time as a consulting engineer, played the flute. I took still-life classes at the Triveni Kala Sangam and continued to dabble in classical Odissi dance, Hindustani classical music and more. My love for the arts slowly transformed into a passion and I decided to formally study fashion following my undergraduate studies at Jesus & Mary College. It was the most enriching and satisfying experience of my life.”
Influenced by the arts at a young age, Jain’s world is pervaded by creativity, and a love for dance, music and the fine arts. An artist she conforms to the school which believes that fashion is an art form.
She further informs that during her college years, she was greatly influenced by the works of great couturiers like Madeleine Vionnet, Paul Poiret, and Coco Chanel. She says, “Upon starting my studio, I remained deeply connected to my roots and Indian textiles and embroidery became the center of my universe—constantly inspiring me to work on the revival of dyeing crafts and weaves.”
An eclectic blend of indigenous fabrics and immaculate detailing makes Jain’s eponymous brand stand out.
She describes her brand ethos as having “a Western body with an Indian soul”. Jain adds, “My fashion label is an extension of my personality, as is the case for any artist/designer and their expression through a creative medium. I work with Indian textiles and crafts and have always been passionate about creating fabrics from scratch. It takes a lot of time, patience, love and passion to wait and watch each collection slowly take shape. The process can take anywhere from one month to 24 months and every step of the way is magical and full of gratification. The final result, however, may never be visible to an on-looker but the pleasure of creating it from a simple thought is absolutely unparalleled.”
Jain is one of the few designers who take painstaking care of each phase of her design realisation. She herself supervises all the textile development; from approving every fiber to the actual processing of the weave itself, spending anywhere between 12-18 months developing her line. She believes that each garment is a magnificent journey, telling a unique story.
Speaking on her inspiration for her designs, she says, “The first inspiration for a collection can take root with a beautiful flower blooming, a mesmerising sunrise, travel to an exotic destination, a great book, a historical period or character, an artist’s work or simply an inspired frame of mind. My love for India and its glorious past, rich culture, vast textile heritage, incredible costumes, musical legacy, art, and architecture have all come together to inspire my work in fashion.”
She also talked about her recent collection “Garden of Love” to us.
Jain says, “My Autumn/Winter ’17 collection is a representation of the resplendent journey of love and the vast spectrum of emotions one experiences in love.The fabrics used are natural and organic with vivid, vibrant splashes of colorful embroidered flowers; much like an artist paints on canvas. The silhouettes are resonant of the Victorian times, recreating a vintage look with pinched waists, slender sleeves, voluminous hemlines and plunging necklines. They remind us of the glorious bygone times when women celebrated their femininity and carried themselves with poise and elegance.”
Along with designing, Jain thoroughly believes in giving back to the community that has supported her thus far. Every year she organises a fashion show apart from the Wills India Fashion Week, the proceedings of which go to an NGO.
She says, “Over the last two decades, I have worked with and raised funds for a number of charities. A majority of my personal shows have been in aid of NGOs like Tamana Special School (for children with special needs), Vidya school (for economically weaker section), Vatsalya Foundation (for street children) and Cancer Patient Aid Association (for Cancer patients).”
She continues, “Working with children with special needs or slum children gives me immense personal satisfaction and these causes remain close to my heart. It constantly reminds me how blessed I am and how much there is in the universe to be grateful for. Improving their lives and helping them become self-reliant and confident is my miniscule way of giving back to the society.”
Jain also contributes to the weaver and artisan communities in remote parts of the country that have helped enrich her collections.
Elaborating on rediscovering the traditional weaves and handicrafts and her take on India’s fashion heritage, she says “I feel we have made a beginning as far as promoting Indian textiles and crafts are concerned, but there is a long journey ahead. Much sustained work and commitment are required from everyone related to the fashion and textile industry for the lives of weavers and artisans across India to really begin to change. I am happy to see the government creating so many new initiatives to promote textiles and I sincerely hope this movement will build momentum and take the world by storm. We are blessed to have such a rich and varied heritage of textile, where each state has something unique to offer from weaves to embroideries and prints. It is up to our generation of designers to bring this to the world and make sure it translates into income for these fast dying traditions, passed down generations.”
She has also written a book on Fashion Science for XI standard under the CBSE curriculum, which is being prescribed by several schools across the country for students. Jain also wants to try her hand at kids wear, but confesses that she had never had the luxury of time.
On designers rehashing old styles than introducing new ones, she says, “I feel fashion is becoming increasingly repetitive and predictable. There is very little experimentation and creative expression. Everyone wants to design bridal and trousseau ensembles, irrespective of their strength and philosophy, simply because it is financially lucrative. It is imperative to have passion in a creative profession, if finance drives the entire journey, then authenticity and sincerity to the craft are lost. Youth must bring vigour, vitality and a whole new spectrum of ideas. I sincerely wish the young generation of designers would push their boundaries and make radical fashion statements, instead of following the beaten path. It is sad to see personal expression slowly vanishing and fashion shows becoming uninspired.”
A self-proclaimed workaholic, she spends all her time working on her creations. A less known fact about her is that she is heavily inclined toward interior design and has also designed her plush studio and home in New Delhi.
She also travels to various exotic parts across the globe where she constantly explores different cultures and imbues her collections with these inspirations. She says, “Travel inspires me to no end, it is a source of my personal growth and evolution. It inspires and drives me to experiment constantly and this is absolutely necessary for any creative profession. Fashion is constantly changing and it is imperative to reinvent your creative canvas with each season…stagnation is worse than death in the fashion business.”
On being asked about her fashion statement, Jain answers, “I believe in simplicity, minimalism, and purism and has always followed the principle of ‘less is more’. Design encompasses various facets of my life including fashion, lifestyle, home furnishing, textiles, products, interiors, art, music, cuisine or travel,” as she signs off.