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Designer JJ Valaya, who has been vociferous about originality and the need to break stereotypes, has returned to the ramp after a break to introduce generation next to his school of thought. According to him, when a student is being moulded into a certain form, at that very moment he should be given a lesson on being original. “Young people of our country are innovative but the institutions teaching fashion designing in our nation are not authentic. The designers coming from those institutes create products which have the same motifs which are trending in the market. They need to be original and make their own identity in this industry. Personally speaking, I am one of those designers who have been introducing real work,” described JJ Valaya, who is one of the first designers to have a solo show in India.

Also, what is that one common thing between the top fashion brands in the West for example Ralph Lauren, Armani, Fendi and the Indian fashion designer JJ Valaya? Well, they all have a thriving business in the home sector. Besides, being a fashion designer he is also into the larger concept of including design in our daily lives. “We have approached this segment as part of a two-pronged strategy. First, The Home of the Traveller is a culturally inspired experience where everything is curated by me and put together as a cohesive story which supports our core belief that the past and the present must coexist in any modern home. The second, Valaya Home is an uber luxury brand where everything is designed by us, be it the furniture, the floors, the walls, the soft furnishings besides, of course, our signature wall tapestries for which we are already well known,” said Valaya.

Keeping in mind the Italian presence in the fashion week, he shared his views. “I think it depends on what you are looking at. Sometimes the most boring designer on the planet could also be the most successful one. Take Ralph Lauren, for instance. You would not associate him with cutting-edge fashion and yet he has a six-billion-dollar turnover, which makes him the largest fashion house in the world. So, it depends on what appeals to you – whether it’s the business aspect or the creative aspect. Every designer has his own forté, but I think in the end, it has to be a blend of the commercial and the creative. Either one cannot survive without the other.”

The designer showcased the first ever Master and Disciple (guru- shishya) presentation on the grand finale of Amazon India Fashion Week. “I have been into this industry for the past 25 years and have done many grand finales in my career. When FDCI (Fashion Design Council of India) approached me with this theme, I came on board immediately,” gushed Vallaya. Talking further about the bonding he shares with his student Alpana, he added, “She has been my student for the past five years and together we have created many signature pieces. But I had to guide her thoroughly so that it looked like one show. I am not presenting my collection separately; we both have worked on the same page and are coming together.” ‘India Modern Festive’ was the theme of the entire gala and the designer explained, “I have been working on Indian rooted fabrics for over two years. And I am glad that it is being picked up by other designers as well. Whether it is khadi or chanderi, these fabrics have been revived together. And in my collection I have blended all these handlooms—khadi, Banarasi and Chanderi — and this is going to be a surprise element with a modern touch.” He is an indigenous person, who loves working on what is available locally and presents them in the classiest way. And talking about the concept of showstopper, he said, “I am not a person who believes in the concept of showstopper. For me, personality and experience count not the face. For instance, polo player Samir Suhag stopped the show for designer Ashish N Soni, again the personality was looked up to and not any high-end celebrity.”

When asked about how successful these fashion weeks are in terms of business aspects, he elaborated, “In some ways, they are successful. In India, AIFW remains the most successful business forum for designers, while LFW ensures the best grooming ground, particularly for upcoming designers. The latter also ensures the maximum publicity, drawing in Bollywood A- listers by the hordes. In a country where the domestic market is the strongest, with a major chunk of business coming from the bustling wedding market, the couture week is more of a branding exercise targeted at individual customers, mostly NRIs and celebrities and domestic boutiques such as Kimaya, Ensemble, Aza and others. The domestic segment is responsible for 90 per cent of the business in India. Most of the buyers who come in from Europe contribute less than 1 per cent of the business. Buyers from the Middle-East account for the rest.”

He is one of the designers who has explored many versions of expressing art. One such attempt is photography. People like Valaya thrive on creation and evolution with fashion, interiors and photography giving a platform for creating newer expressions. “I am still not acquainted with the medium of photography and my photographer friends say that this has been my biggest strength. My pictures are rooted in narrative and compositions. My relationship with camera is that with every photograph, I discover new aspects, new knobs on it. What I see through the viewfinder is a composition. When I pick up my camera, solitude comes into play,” said Valaya. He further added what photography allows him to do what fashion designing doesn’t. “It’s the liberty that I have. I am not concerned about the pressures of the market or whether my items would sell or not. Fashion is always about trends and we have to take care of that aspect in our clothes. A photograph is timeless because when you take a picture, you are freezing time and you make it timeless. And what is amazing is the viewer can take away whatever he/she wishes to. Art should have something to say.”

If he hadn’t become a designer, JJ Valaya would have been a chartered accountant. The fashion designer was a practising CA but quit the profession to tread new grounds. He sought admission in NIFT, Delhi, which had just opened and emerged as an ace couturier known for a line of clothing that is steeped in luxury and traditions.

He also talked about the criteria based on which he selects models for his show. "I am not a designer who looks for zero sized figures and stick thin models. For me, men should look like men and women should look like women. And the second important element I consider is height.”Read more at:bridesmaid dresses