Heralded for democratising couture for most millennials, brothers Shantanu and Nikhil have always put forth a merry juxtaposition of heritage and spunk. Now almost 23, their couture offering has diversified its portfolio with a bridge-to-luxury off-shoot along- side a cricket-inspired line.
So, what goes into building such a big brand, and how does one sustain and scale the growth on time? The founders join us in a free-wheeling chat and give insight into the workings of their brand whilst turning a new page in its history.
ELLE: Tell us about your new flagship couture store at Kala Ghoda (Mumbai) and the process of restoring and aesthetically enhancing the place.
Nikhil Mehra (NM): Our approach whilst building the store was to peel off the hidden layers and bring back the building to its original palette. The store comprises two separate spaces that have been interconnected, creating no dead ends. We wanted bricks—luckily, we found lime mortar in one of the spaces, which allowed us to restore the original bricks and basalt stone to its original state. The unobstructed closer view of the equestrian statue has to be one of the most iconic aspects of the store.
Shantanu Mehra (SM): As a brand, Shantnu & Nikhil has always had an India-Proud sentiment in its ethos and design virtues. The lanes of Kalaghoda narrate a story which we’ve subconsciously created through our designs. Such locations are indeed an homage to distinctiveness in design, encapsulating the splendour and decadence of vintage India.
ELLE: Despite the advent of E-Commerce, why is it important for Shantnu & Nikhil to dominate the brick- and-mortar arena?
SM: While the pandemic definitely shifted the needle to a more digital consciousness, one cannot take anything away from the brick-and-mortar feel. Luxury shopping should always be experiential in outreach. A store provides a feeling of belonging and homecoming where the wearer feels the narrative told by the ensemble, physically. All our stores are an ode to our love for architecture and design, which adds to the ambience created for the people who walk in. As a brand, we want our clients to feel at ease. They should have all the choices lined up for them to decide what complements them the most.
ELLE: What’s the ethos behind the ‘Shantnu Nikhil Cricket Club’, and how does it aim to tap into our country’s cricketing spirit?
NM: Shantnu Nikhil Cricket Club (SNCC) is an ode to our and the nation’s love of sports. As kids, we were introduced to various sports at a very early age. At the onset of the brand’s birth, one of the virtues of its strong design philosophy relied on sports. It was thought of in the smallest of ideas—innovated stretch fabrics to daring draped silhouettes that defined agility.
SM: Cricket has been one of the biggest conversation starters in the country and worldwide. With the club, we are creating a new identity which speaks to the wearer and ignites their pride towards the sport. The collection introduces new crests and can be seen on varsity jackets, sweatshirts and shirts.
ELLE: Does the demand for Shantnu & Nikhil’s iconic drape kurta and military jacket still persist after all these years, or have customers evolved?
NM: After all these years, evolution has taken place in terms of ideas, visions and what we want to exhibit out in the world through our designs. For example, the brooches have become crests. With the ‘Drape,’ we’ve added a sense of femininity and fluidity to an otherwise structured male wardrobe. This narrative has continued to grow; the drape kurta has become a staple for the Indian groom and also the identifying factor for our brand. Our customers expect a contemporary twist from our designs, and this journey of reinventing whilst keeping our core alive promises exactly that. This season, we’re coming out with a very innovative silhouette which is drawing a very strong reference from the draped cummerbund that the presidential soldiers wore. So that definitely is a mystery to watch out for!
ELLE: What’s next for Maison Shantnu & Nikhil?
SM: While the last year brought with it the 22-year mark on our brand journey, it has been a year of new endeavours for us and furthering this philosophy, we are now expanding our footprint. With Ram Charan wearing Shantnu & Nikhil at the Oscars to launch international shipping, we feel we are on a steady journey of putting the brand on the global map. The overall vision of Shantnu & Nikhil is to present India in its most refined form, with a hint of contemporary spunk. Today with our couture, SNCC, and bridge-to-luxury, we are slowly but surely carving a path which is moving towards making the brand ‘Maison’ in all its glory.
Find ELLE’s latest issue on stands or download your digital copy here.