#ELLEexclusive: Viraj Khanna on the launch of AK-OK’s second collection

Born to celebrated fashion designer Anamika Khanna, Viraj Khanna’s design aesthetic is far different from the iconic AK silhouettes. Heavily influenced by his art and illustrations, his designs are often an embodiment of ‘wearable art’. Emblazoned with collages in the form of digital prints, now Viraj and Vishesh Khanna are all set to launch the second collection online for AK-OK.

The limited edition pret line will feature bomber jackets, kimonos, sweatshirts and everything in between that steers away from the traditional Indian aesthetic. Expect fresh, cool prints and striking cuts.

AK OK collection image

We caught up with Viraj Khanna for an exclusive look at the easy to wear, maximalist collection and here’s everything he had to say:

ELLE: AK-OK has launched it’s second drop as an exclusive online collection which also revolves around prints developed from your collages and illustrations. Which pieces will tell the story of the current moment?

VIRAJ KHANNA: The whole collection is created keeping in mind the lockdown and the inability to have huge gatherings. The idea was to give people something to wear everyday at home or while hosting a small group of people at home. Elaborate dressing has temporarily taken a pause because of the pandemic. This gave us an opportunity to create a new collection that would provide people with what they need at the moment. The collection includes luxury and relaxed lounge pieces like silk kimonos, satin silk sweatshirts, twin sets, dresses, t-shirts etc. The whole idea was to keep fashion and comfort above all.

ELLE: Tell us a little more about the collection.

VK: The lockdown gave all of us a lot of time to think and try new things. I started painting and making art using different mediums. The prints are actually the artworks created during this lockdown. This collection as compared to the previous collection, is more quirky and has eclectic prints, figurative art and illustrations used on bomber jackets, tunics and more. These details make the pieces very versatile. Also, the packaging has a very cool illustration on it.

Basically the artwork has been turned into a whole collection! We are planning to launch it online right now through our new website and it will be available on order basis for a limited time period.

AK OK collection image

ELLE: How are you interested in collages and illustrations? When did it all start? 

VK: Vulnerability is a huge part of my thought process when I work with collages or illustrations. If you look around, the way technology has overtaken everything is fascinating, but also worrying. Our brains still haven’t evolved to keep up with the way social media and the internet are taking over our lives. 20 years ago, our social circles were small, our comparison groups were small and now its open to the entire world. Connecting with people over technology is definitely not the same as real physical connection. 

Stemming from all of this, most of my work involves the current fragile state of humanity and people really love it. That’s how Vishesh and I started using my art for prints and inspiration.

ELLE: What influence did growing up in Kolkata have on your creative process?

VK: All my life I have grown up seeing textile and art in different forms. Growing up with a mother like AK has obviously played a huge role in my taste and design sensibilities. The understanding of good art and taste is definitely influenced by her clothing and embroidery. Kolkata has indirectly influenced my design sensibilities through AK. The craftsmen and artisans there are some of the best in the world and the everyday architecture in some of the buildings are marvellous.

ELLE: Have you always been curious about the intersection of art and fashion?

VK: When people wear AK, it is common to hear things like ‘its like wearing art’. So the clothing she makes is in fact a piece of art or collectible. The clothes are extremely time consuming to create and play a huge role in supporting many lives. I don’t see art and fashion as different. Fashion in my eyes is just art that you can wear. When you create a painting, many thought processes go into it. The colours, textures, saturations, geometry and more, all play a huge role in art and fashion.

ELLE: How do you generate ideas for your projects? What kind of visual or sensory references do you typically seek out for inspiration?  

VK: With collage art, it works in a very different way (at least for me). When I make art I do not have any inspiration or reference images. It is an unpredictable process of building with what you have. When I begin I do not know what I am going to create. Only during the process I get a direction and then I am able to visualise and create something that I want. It starts with cutting different objects, materials and things that are around me. And then re-assembling and rebuilding gives it a meaning. This is what makes the art really unique and different. 

AK OK collection image

ELLE: Where does AK-OK’s vision end and Anamika Khanna’s begin—and vice versa?

VK: AK-OK is an extension of Anamika Khanna. It is a platform which we will use to experiment and explore everything! We are going to launch accessories, bags, shoes and paintings as well in the future. Once the pandemic ends, we plan to get into the realms of home decor and everything else that is AK-OK.

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