We’re living in a time when fashion labels are constantly in a marketing overdrive. Everyone wants to break the internet to break the sales record. Set of twins on the runway, condom gloves, live spray paint, inflatable sleeves and ’90s supermodel comeback—it all screams attention. Even back home, Indian designers are constantly trying to upstage their own previous campaigns and runway shows—exotic locations, grand sets and usage of social-media-loved celebrities, all check.
In this game of relevancy where it’s all about the survival of the quickest, it’s almost refreshing to remember that a designer like Shahab Durazi exists. Having spent 35 years in the industry, Shahab still believes in the slow burn, not only when it comes to his clothes but also in his approach.
12 years after his last fashion show, Shahab is all set to make a comeback on the runway at Lakmé Fashion Week in partnership with FDCI. “I’m referred to as an enigma in the fashion industry and I think I am okay with that,” said Shahab when asked about his painstakingly low profile during our conversation about his upcoming presentation and more. Shahab will be showcasing a collection that will not just create a sense of nostalgia but will also challenge the conventional ways of looking at couture in India. “Couture in India has become synonymous with bridal wear, which isn’t the case globally. Couture is an ideology, it has nothing to do with the ostentatiousness of the garment or its volume. Even a well-made silk blouse or a beautifully crafted skirt can be couture, that is what I was to bring back the focus on with this collection.”
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“Mr Sunil Sethi has been instrumental in bringing me back to the ramp. He’s been persistent about how the new generation of designers, models and photographers aren’t aware of my work and as a senior designer, it’s imperative that I introduce them to it.” The purpose of the show is to bridge the gap between the label (that is only known by the fashion veterans for its exclusive identity) and the younger generation that may not be aware of this iconic brand that has existed for about 3 decades.
Extracting yourself from the tried-and-tested path also means isolating yourself from the easy success that it guarantees. Shahab has managed to stay away from the limelight, continuing to work the same way he did before the digital age took over. It may have allowed him to keep his creativity undiluted but it doesn’t come without a cost. “I have always believed in doing my work and allowing it to do the talking. My personality has always been shy, so I like keeping to myself, which is why even back in the day I would do a show and disappear into oblivion. Until recently, I wasn’t even on social media. My friends and even contemporaries like JJ Valaya and Tarun Tahiliani coerced me into coming on the platform. Of course, over the year it has affected my business, but I am okay with that as Sahab Durazi continues to be one of the most respected brands and that is what matters the most to me.”
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While aggressive social media strategy and constantly putting your work out there is important, the flip side of it can result in digital fatigue amongst the audience and even cause creative burnout to the brand. Weighing in on this, Shahab explains how never jumping on this wagon has also helped him in a certain way. “There’s a certain curiosity around what I do and I am only able to maintain this by giving the customer just a little taste of it, instead of overwhelming them with collection after collection. It all becomes repetitive and your designs just end up looking like a slightly tweaked version of your previous work. Unless you’re offering something fresh with a strong narrative, it’s okay to sit on the sidelines.”
Back in the day, Shahab was amongst the few designers who only showcased solo presentations and didn’t partake in fashion weeks. Today as he gears up to join one, Shahab gets candid about the process. “Earlier, when I did my shows, I had the privilege to take more time on creating my collection and also the pace is much more relaxed when you’re not part of a back-to-back calendar-packed show. While these are just some minuscule details, the real challenge was to bring back timeless pieces from the past and create a collection that complements the brand’s signature aesthetics while also being modern and contemporary. Having said that, I feel this is my strongest collection to date.”
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