I do things purely because I love doing them
Cultural confluence of art and architecture through Indian textiles lay the foundation for the label, Kshitij Jalori, the inherent style being the result of its elegant, yet sharp use of elements inspired from various cultures coming together, in an amalgamation of modern and traditional. Deeply rooted in indigenous crafts and techniques, the brand aims to achieve a global appeal with its modern silhouettes—coordinated kurta sets, pantsuits, and structured jackets while also creating classic and traditional sarees, dupattas and lehengas. In a discussion with Shilpi Panjabi, the designer talks bridal wear, traditional Indian weaves and product offerings.
Fibre2Fashion: What has been the response to your first bridal collection?
As it was our first bridal collection, there was no benchmark to compare with. But we had a very good response. We started getting enquires typically not for the weeding day, but from the brides who chose to wear our lehenga for their sangeet, mehndi and haldi functions. A good number of lehengas were sold in a very short span of time.
Fibre2Fashion: Why did you decide to get into the bridalwear category only recently?
When we started the brand, I wanted to do lehengas, but I wanted to make sure that the day we enter bridal, we have a very distinct choice. So, I took my time to understand how the bridal market worked. Though we entered this category only last year, for the previous 2-3 years there were a lot of young brides who kept on asking as to why we were not doing lehengas. So, there was constant push for us to enter the category. After working for weeks, we came out with few designs which had a distinct language and representation as to how a bridal lehenga from Kshitij Jalori would look like. Moving forward, we are doing a second iteration, which we are currently working on. It is going to be at even larger and bigger spread of lehengas with more embroideries, more brocades and a lot more interesting things happening on the lehenga, maybe a female cocktail category as well.
Fibre2Fashion: How has the art of traditional weaving evolved and what contemporary styles are now available?
In terms of traditional weaving, we are still working on basic looms when it comes to banarasi for the handloom. The technique is still at the same level with the only difference is that we could probably do a 45-inch width repeat that we used to have in old jangla looms wherein we could pick each and every yarn. Today, the skillset is no more available and there are only 1-2 weavers who can do jangla weave. Now we work with jacquard, and you will notice that it is 4-, 5- or 6-inch repeat, which then gets repeated across the width of the body, across the width of the textile. We have started working on multiple jacquard wherein within the body typically there is only one jacquard, but we actually work with two which gives us a large repeat space. It makes the whole weave process slightly more complicate and difficult to replicate. So, that is something we are eventually working on. Other than these, we have also tried few experiments where we started pashmina brocade shawls in banarasi, where the weft we are weaving is a cashmere weft which we get from upper Ladakh region. The zari we are using is one of the best in the county and we developed a zari which had higher percentage of silver and ½ a gram of gold to make sure that the purity of zari and its shine remains the way it is supposed to look. This is part of our exotic range which is significantly expensive as compared to our pocket friendly range which is ₹25-75k. When anything goes upwards of ₹90-95k, real zari is used and the weaving also changes. We go into kadva, there is multiple iteration there, we use mulberry silk, we use low twist silk called spate, which gives a lot of friction, so that ground does not fill up enough and drape is not definite. Thus, there are lot of technicalities that we look into during the development stage of a collection.
Fibre2Fashion: What is the demand for traditional weaves in India and abroad and which styles are popular?
In India, we do well with both the classic saree using the real zari and the non-real zari ones. Of course, the brocade does very well. But, of late, we have started doing some traditional embroidered saree with actual zardozi and marodi work. Those have also started doing very well for us. I recently did my exhibition in the US and there the real zari and embroidery saree was absolutely outsold. So, we are only looking at the more expensive saree or the other categories in saree that works very well for us both in India and the US or abroad. For other markets in the country, it is the printed saree which continues to sell across all geographies. When I decided to do this printed range or slightly more luxurious range, the idea was to create a more athleisure sort of Indian womenswear. The moment we talk about athleisure, we talk about dresses, jackets, shirts, trousers and all possible things, but not kurta pants. So, we created some interesting print categories and put them into kurta pant sets. These too were created in a way that one can wear them all day long. We have received interesting feedback from our clients that the kurta pants are actually at the same point of time are bold, fun, eclectic and formal. So, one can go to work, and also step out for a drink post work, or wear it to some occasion. That is why the printed category across kurta pant and saree has done very well.
Fibre2Fashion: Which are your major markets in India and abroad?
In India, Delhi and Mumbai obviously continue to rule. However, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad are also turning out to be very important markets for us. In terms of aesthetics, people in these two cities understand what people really respect, i.e., brocades. They understand the traditional aspect of it. The next cities are Chennai, Calcutta, Bengaluru and places like Raipur. We also sell in Lucknow, Kanpur, Pune, and in many other places like Guntur, Vijayawada, Bhubaneshwar, Ludhiana, Srinagar, Jammu and Cochin.
Internationally, US is the most important market. It is also the biggest market. That is why when we wanted to open international stores, we started with the US. UK is another market. So far, we have shipped our products right from Alaska till New Zealand and everywhere in between. We are looking at the UK, Singapore and the Middle East at the moment for our expansion. We shall also be exploring more places in the US, rather than being more focused on the East Coast. So maybe in the next round we target the West Coast. I think there is still a lot more that can be done and we’re also looking at expanding into dresses and shirts—a category which actually does well in the US. We can also target Europe as dresses, shirts and trench coats.
Fibre2Fashion: Which product categories are faring well in the domestic and international markets?
Domestically, kurta pants is our bread and butter. Gradually, we have become synonymous with the trench coat. We do only summer trenches as there is constant feedback from the market and the players we work with that Kshitij overlays actually sell very well. From last two years, we have been very successful with summer trenches.
Fibre2Fashion: What are the emerging trends for fall/winter 2022? Which colours, patterns, trims and fabrics are in trend?
We don’t believe in following trends. We don’t study trends because design for me is very personal. It is more about my personal experiences. At the end of the day what I am creating is purely because I love creating it. If I was only doing it for the commercial aspect of it, I would be doing a lot more things which will be easier to make money. I do things purely because I love doing them. Having said that, we have to keep the commercial aspect in mind because you still need money.
Fibre2Fashion: What are your plans with regards to expanding your product offerings? What techniques and crafts do you plan to work with next?
We started womenswear category this year. We are also going to start cocktail category this year. The only category which we will not have in womenswear will be active wear, which goes into a very technical aspect of textiles. I am a textile designer and not a textile engineer, so I might not understand immediately the technical aspect. Simultaneously, we are also focusing on starting menswear, not just the Indian ‘bundi sherwani’ format but also a slightly more Western iteration of menswear. So, it’s going to be a good mix like how womenswear is a mix of Western and Indian silhouettes and iterations. We are going to follow a similar strategy with menswear as well.
In terms of crafts, I want to work with chikan kari, pashminas, jamdanis, patola, etc. At some point, I would also like to work with some international textile crafts like Adiray, which is a beautiful indigo dyeing craft from Africa.