A part of the most glamorous industry in the world … an Indian designer that epitomizes the word glamour. With trendy cuts and sexy silhouettes, she creates the modern Desi woman. Mumbai based designer Payal Singhal recently got married and now shuttles between New York and Mumbai. I met Payal at her apartment recently to see what this creative talent has to say about life and where hers was headed.A part of the most glamorous industry in the world … an Indian designer that epitomizes the word glamour. With trendy cuts and sexy silhouettes, she creates the modern Desi woman. Mumbai based designer Payal Singhal recently got married and now shuttles between New York and Mumbai. I met Payal at her apartment recently to see what this creative talent has to say about life and where hers was headed.The Designer ... The Genius
Shehnaai Couture: Ok, we have our coffee, do you feel comfortable?
Payal: Oh yeah. I am always comfortable at home. We can start with the grilling …[laughs]
Shehnaai Couture: Ok so here goes, how old were you when you started in the fashion industry?
Payal: The fashion industry was a part of my upbringing. My grandfather was a renowned artist and my father pioneered the brand label “London Fashions”. I still never assumed this is what I would do. But I won my first fashion award at 15, loved it and so ended up studying design at SNDT, Mumbai and Parsons School of Design, NY. After that I worked as a fashion stylist for MTV for a while and did some little projects in design. Finally in 1999 I launched my own Signature Label, my little baby.
Shehnaai Couture: Where do you retail from?
Payal: My base is my flagship store in Mumbai but I retail through various other outlets in Mumbai, Delhi, Calcutta, Hyderabad, Hong Kong, and Dubai. Within the US, in NY I retail my more traditional couture and bridal collections with you through Shehnaai and my more prêt collection at IndoMix in Soho. I also retail at Steam on Sunset in South Miami.
Shehnaai Couture: So we pretty much cover most of the continents, right?
Payal: [Laughs] I try hard!! What can I say?
Shehnaai Couture: So where does the creative genius get her inspiration?
Payal: From all walks of life I think. Great talents, good art, food, travel! Anything really. Something needs to catch my eye or touch my heart and that’s all it takes.
Shehnaai Couture: How often do you put together a collection?
Payal: 3-4 times a year.
Shehnaai Couture: What is your latest collection about?
Payal: This season (Spring-Summer) is actually some of my best work, if I may say so myself. It’s flirty, feminine, colorful and fun. I’ve used tulle, chiffon, and georgette in colors like coral, olive, chocolate and lots and lots of sequins!
Shehnaai Couture: Is the collection getting favorable responses?
Payal: [Smiles and touches wood] Oh yes, it was a sell out in India where I launched it before bringing it to New York. You know how well it did at your (Shehnaai) Preview and the Trunk Show at IndoMix was also great. So it’s doing well.
Shehnaai Couture: Do you consider your forte to be Prêt or Couture?
Payal: I think I work well in both genres actually. Sometimes it’s a great feeling to create a once-in-a-lifetime outfit for someone but it’s also great to see people walking down the street wearing one of your creations! Makes you feel so proud when you walk into a party and a third of the guests are wearing your designs. Both lines allow as much creativity, and a Prêt line has wider scope, obviously.
Shehnaai Couture: When you design, who do you picture as your target market?
Payal: I pretty much design for someone like myself who enjoys fashion, culture, color and needs to justify the ends. So we need versatile pieces which can be worn in different ways and reinvented.
Shehnaai Couture: Most people living abroad think it would be better for them to come to you in India to get their wedding outfits rather than buy from your outlets here. They believe it would be more expensive here and they would not get enough variety. Is that true?
Payal: Oh my God no… I am sure you tell people this all the time Shirin but today I will certify this - this is not true at all. We maintain a constant market retail price so with the margin for conversion all prices all over the world are the same. Most boutiques around the world that carry my or any other designers’ bridal pieces carry a reasonable variety from the season or make it possible for clients to get a better look at the designer’s collection. It is just as good and more convenient for a client to buy wherever they live. They will still get pretty much the same deal.
Shehnaai Couture: [Laughs]That sounds so much better coming from you than me.
Payal: Of course, with you they presume you are just trying to make a sale but you have it in print from me now. [Laughs] Hopefully it will hold some weight.
Shehnaai Couture: Ok, now how long before a wedding should a bride come to you or one of the boutiques you retail through for her wedding outfit?
Payal: I think if the bride has started planning well in advance she needs to come in at least 8-10 months before the wedding to give enough time for production, delivery and alterations and to not be stressed at the last minute.
Shehnaai Couture: Wow that was new to me too. I normally recommend 3-4 months and most people think that is too much. Interesting. So what do you predict as far as trends for 2005 – colors, styles, any advice?
Payal: I think the bridals are going to become more and more contemporary. Actually the shift has already started gradually and will pick up as we move along in the bridal season. People will go for trendier styles and cuts, especially for the sangeet, the mehndi and the reception. The wedding will continue to be the most traditional in terms of styles, obviously. Even with colors, there is a lot of variety now. People are moving away from the conventional reds and pinks to greens, aqua, and dual tones. Brocade is very in. Basically it will all become more modern, lace skirts with brocade tops and things like that; very trendy, very fusion.Up Close and Personal
Shehnaai Couture: Now to try and pry into your personal life a little, [we both laugh], how did you and your husband Nirvaan meet?
Payal: [Looks very coy and smiles] Hmm … we were actually in college together in Bombay. Of course we were only friends at the time. We became more serious when he moved to NY to go to Hofstra and I visited him here.
Shehnaai Couture: Was it an instant chemistry?
Payal: Not really…not at all actually! We were like best friends for the longest time. We could talk about anything and had a blast together. There was no other attraction [smiles], you know what I mean. Anyways, Nirvaan moved here to go to Hofstra and I started to visit him when I came here for work. I was expanding my market then. It actually all happened then. I don’t even know how. It was sudden but like a weird gradual sudden! [Laughs]
Shehnaai Couture: Look at you … blushing like a little girl! I am glad it happened though because you two look very cute together.
Payal: I am glad too. He is exactly what I needed or should I say wanted in life. Ok now no more good stuff about him or it’s going to go to his head when he reads it.
Shehnaai Couture: Whatever you say. Anyways, tell us about your wedding. What you wore, who was there, all the fun stuff.
Payal: We were married at The Club in Andheri in Mumbai. For the reception I chose a pink and orange theme and I wore a pink silk lehnga with multi-colored zardozi and diamante works. My jewelry was diamonds with Pearl drops and Pink tourmalines and Kapil Bhalla did my make-up. Incidentally my dad designed Nirvaan’s sherwani, which was so sweet! [Smiles] I wore a red georgette with green and orange zardozi work lehnga at my mehndi. And yes, I designed all of my wedding outfits. As for who was there, I presume you want the big names so there was Padmini Kolhapuri, Poonam Dhillon, Tejaswini Kolhapuri, Director Umesh Mehra, Sarika and some others.
Shehnaai Couture: Any advice for those at the brink of marriage?
Payal: Have fun, fun, fun! It will be over before you know it. Don’t get too worked up. I feel like I made that mistake personally. I couldn’t separate myself from the planning and I regret it so much today. I just never gave myself the chance to sit back and enjoy it. Oh well! So my advice is, one month before the wedding, separate yourself from it completely and try to relax.
Shehnaai Couture: Do you ever consider wearing another designer’s creation?
Payal: All the time. I have a ton of other designers in my wardrobe. I have Sabina Singh, Rana Gill, Rohit Gandhi, Armani, BCBG, Bebe and a load of others. Even for my wedding I actually went shopping for other designers. I didn’t end up buying any but I guess if you think about it, it makes sense. I obviously love what I put together the most. But I do wear other designers, more for the prêt than the couture.
Shehnaai Couture: What is your greatest weakness, professionally and personally?
Payal: Professionally – I don’t know when to say No. Sometimes I over-promise myself. I don’t want customers to be stressed so I promise things that are greater than what is possible and then hate to let anyone down, so I kill myself making it all possible. I need to be able to say no. But I know this now and am trying real hard to fix it. Personally – I have a really short temper.
Shehnaai Couture: Oh my god, I would have never thought that.
Payal: [Laughs] All of this is deceiving. You haven’t seen me get angry yet. I will be calm again in 5 minutes but I lose it too soon. Again it upsets others and I hate it. But I am getting better at it, slowly. I am sure Nirvaan and my mom will vouch for that.
Shehnaai Couture: Do you think you have achieved success and your ultimate goal?
Payal: Not even close. I feel like I’ll have made it when I am at par with those showing at NY Fashion Week. Not literally, but I aim to be a part of that league and I am not there yet. Getting there, gradually, but I still have a long way to go. [I smile so she starts laughing] Don’t look so shocked! I just believe in thinking big so even if I land in the middle, I have made it. [Laughs] I am very philosophical you know.Time for Some Fun
Shehnaai Couture: Now for some fun. Tell me the first thing that comes to your mind when I ask you a question. Ok here goes:Favorite Bollywood star…
Sushmita Sen I would love to dress…
Jennifer Lopez I am most comfortable wearing…
Jeans & a T Shirt Favorite past time…
Watching TV Love to eat…
Anything! I need to buy more…
Bags I hate people who…
Pretend Would love to go on a Blind Date with…
My husband Bombay is…
HomeNew York is…
Fun Nirvaan is…
The best Payal Singhal is…
Shehnaai Couture: Searching??? [Laughs] You should be very proud of yourself Payal. You work hard, have done very well for yourself and you have your heart in the right place. I believe that is the key to success. I don’t know about anybody else but I sure am rooting for you. Give yourself some credit.
Payal: Thank you. Now can we please be done with this and go shopping!
And that was it. Having gone through 2 cups of coffee and a nice chat, the only thing left to solidify our friendship was some shopping. So that’s what we did. What I learnt that day was that not only had I spent time with a great designer and a wonderful person but had earned myself a great friend. We wish you all the best Payal.
For more information on Payal Singhal, click here
For more information on Shehnaai Couture, click here