Payal Singhal’s two decade long journey will inspire you in more ways than one
“If you ask me what’s next, I don’t know, I just know that I want to be working till my last day”
Payal Singhal, the designer, entrepreneur and an achiever, is a force to be reckoned with. While at 15, when most of her friends were unsure about what subject they’re going to pursue, Singhal participated in a Shopper Stop contest and won ‘designer of the year’ award. It is safe to say that Payal recognised her calling very early on.
Keen on learning more about the business of fashion, Singhal then went on to study at SNDT (Shreemati Nathibai Damodar Thackersey Women’s University) to polish her knowledge of design in 1994, and since then there has been no looking back. Over the course of two decades in the industry, Payal has reimagined her modern-contemporary take on indian wear beautifully, and in so many ways that today, it is anything but humble.
Responsible for putting minimalistic chic ethnic wear on the Indian fashion map, Singhal’s eponymous label has stayed true to its aesthetic from day one. The brand aims to cater to women who have grown up in western clothing, the label’s unique use of prints and nominal embellishments is popular worldwide.
From uprooting and managing her brainchild from New York to keeping family ties in the business, Singhal’s learnings in the industry have been vast. ELLE talks to the designer about her experience, executing a full-fledged business and staying headstrong in the game no matter what.
On her first move:
“My parents had a garment manufacturing company, so I grew up amongst fabrics, embroidery, tailors. The first garment sketch that I remember making was when I was about 11 years old. When I was about 15, just out of 10th grade, a contest from Shoppers Stop took place, I saw it in the newspaper, sent in a sketch, and the sketch got selected! I made the garment and managed it all in my summer holidays, and even ended up winning the contest. I was not formally educated in fashion, I had grown up with it, but that’s when I realised that this was what I wanted to do.”
On staying true to the brand identity:
“I have had a very strict rule (though, now with Instagram it’s become a little difficult to follow), for the first 15 years of my career, I didn’t go to any designer store, I did not look at what anyone else was doing, my designs have always been from an absolutely undisturbed or un-infiltrated viewpoint. We have had a very strong brand identity from day one where we wanted to make contemporary Indian clothing. Over the years, my endeavour further has been to make contemporary Indian clothing which can be worn as daily wear, in India or globally. My clothes can be worn by anybody, anywhere in the world, as long as they appreciate the art, the craft, the colours, the fabrics.
On the best advice she received:
The most useful advice was from my dad when I was starting out. He asked me, “What do you want to do with this education, who do you want to become?” I told him I wanted to be a fashion designer. He said “Okay, then remember like a racehorse, put blinkers on your eyes and just focus on the end prize, no left, no right. Along the way there will be a lot of distractions within your career, you can become a stylist, you can become a manufacturer, costume designer. You know where you want to be, and you need undeterred focus to get there.”
On learning from failures:
Something I have learnt from my biggest failures is that self doubt is a killer, you absolutely have to crumple it. The minute you start to believe in yourself, everybody around you starts to believe in you. And I had that phase, when I was not living in India, I was away and I kept having self doubt, the business was doing very well in the US, but in India it suffered, because I was not here. I was away for six years and the minute I came back, I remember thinking that I can either cry about it, or I can make it happen. And the minute I changed my attitude, from crying to actually doing something about it, things started to happen for me.
Advice to aspiring designers:
Invest in a solid education, invest your time in getting good work experience, getting a good job with a designer or a manufacturing firm. Don’t be in a hurry to start your own label. Give it at least two years, why not learn at someone else’s cost? Apart from that, have your own individual identity, you need to have your own unique voice, not something which is picked up from five designers.