Off The Rack: Fashion Masterminds Rimple & Harpreet Narula Bring Alive SLB’s Vision For Heeramandi

Heeramandi

Privy to his seemingly quixotic intentions with all things cinematography and direction, us audiences are familiar with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s penchant for creating with every single frame. Every single time. And now with Heeramandi, us audiences are eager to witness a mix of love, betrayal, succession, and politics in the kothas of Lahore.

What also grants him brownie points in his storytelling, are the splendid costumes integral to recreating the charm of the pre-partition era on screen. Rimple & Harpreet have once again joined forces with the award-winning director with regards to the sartorial moodboard for the show. From studying archival textiles to drawing inspiration from the self-portraits of acclaimed artist Amrita Shergil, the costumery is yet again set to prove itself as a potent tool in this watershed moment in Indian history.

Here’s what the designers had to say when asked about their time working behind the scenes of Heeramandi:

Heeramandi

ELLE: Take us through the sartorial mood board for Heeramandi?

Rimple & Harpreet (RH): The setting of the series is the 1940s, a pivotal period marking the twilight of the British Raj in India. It immerses viewers in a world brimming with courtesans, nawabs, and aristocracy, against the backdrop of an Indo-British milieu. The opulent homes of these courtesans emerge as epicentres of artistic expression, where music, dance, and grace flourish. These locales are revered as melting pots of diverse cultures, with courtesans wielding significant sway over the era’s power dynamics. This era witnessed a crescendo of cultural sophistication as British influence peaked, intertwining with the traditions of nawabs and Sikhs. Reflecting the essence of these times, the costumes blend French and English prints with the splendour of Indian brocades, phulkaris, and Jamewar shawls, evoking the timeless allure of these remarkable women and the era they epitomised.

ELLE: How did you manage to tap into Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s grand vision and honour the same?

RH: Mr. Bhansali stands as a beacon of creativity and mastery in the realm of filmmaking, recognised as an auteur and one of the finest cinematic visionaries of our era. With each project, he embarks on a journey of reinvention, consistently crafting new and enchanting narratives that captivate audiences worldwide. Our collaboration with Mr. Bhansali on Padmaavat provided us with invaluable insights into his meticulous filmmaking process and his unparalleled ability to conceptualise even the minutest detail. Whether it’s our past endeavours together on Padmaavat and Heeramandi or future projects yet to unfold, we approach each opportunity with eager anticipation, knowing that it promises to be a creatively enriching and exhilarating experience.

ELLE: Could you please shed some light on the design of some key pieces and the hard work that went into it?

RH: The creation of all the outfits for Heeramandi spanned a total of two years, with certain ensembles requiring even more extensive development. Particularly, the outfits designed for the dance sequences showcased intricate detailing and sophistication. Employing a diverse array of techniques and embroidery styles beyond the traditional zardozi, we incorporated elements that have gradually faded from practice over time. While the embroidery techniques remain distinctly Indian, the motif language draws inspiration from European and Persian influences. One notable example is a lehenga crafted from Banarasi brocade material adorned with Persian embroidery and English motifs. The metal sequins adorning the ensemble are delicately shaped into crescent moons and stars, enhancing the allure of the beautiful veils accompanying the attire.

Heeramandi

ELLE: Which era and historical icons did you refer to, during the preliminary research?

RH: During the initial research phase for Heeramandi, we delved into various sources of inspiration, drawing from the rich cultural heritage of pre-partition India. There was a lot of research that went into creating the looks for each character, we referred to different textiles from our own personal archives as well as those enshrined in different museums in order to give every character their own signature styles. Our exploration included studying classical singers from that era such as Noor Jahan, Shamshad Begum, and Mukhtar Begum, as well as iconic actors like Patience Cooper, Suraiya Jamal Sheikh, and Swaran Lata. While we generally refrain from referencing films from the last four to five decades, we occasionally drew insights from older movies.

Additionally, we extensively reviewed books containing photographs from the 1940s to gain a deeper understanding of the intricacies of garment draping and styling prevalent during that period. Our research extended to studying archival textiles, costumes, books, and paintings housed in renowned museums like the Calico Museum in Ahmedabad and the Victoria and Albert Museum. We also drew inspiration from the self-portraits of acclaimed artist Amrita Shergil. Moreover, personal anecdotes shared by our grandmothers, who grew up in the same era and province before partition, offered invaluable insights into the cultural milieu of the time. Having been raised in Punjab, we were fortunate to have early exposure to its rich and diverse crafts, which served as a significant reference point in our costume design process for Heeramandi.

Images Via Netflix India

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- Digital Fashion Writer

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