New Delhi: Fashion designer Punit Balana believes ''fashion enthusiasts will always find a way to reach their favourite designers given any scenario''. He is still ''optimistic'' the pandemic has hit the industry hard, and believes there is a ''silver lining to every situation''.
Meanwhile, the designer, who launched his label in 2015 with a focus on designing for womenswear, has forayed into menswear with a limited-edition collection called 'Mandana'.
Why did you decide to foray into designing menswear?
Ever since I launched the label Punit Balana in 2015, I have been focusing on designing for women. My designs are contemporary and easy to wear -- comfort is an important brand attribute. Since the past many years I have been receiving requests within my friends circle to design for men. As time passed by, the number of requests increased, and I decided it was high time I create pieces for men too.
The time I had last year, gave me the opportunity to research and design some interesting concepts. This led to 'Mandana', given the subtle colours and the sustainable fabrics, I thought of creating a mix of classic and contemporary kurta sets for men. Men usually like to keep their Indian wear light and comfortable, hence I thought this was a good opportunity to introduce these pieces. I have received an overwhelming response and hope to widen the range and offer my male clientele more options
Tell us more about the collection.
Inspired by one of the oldest forms of art in India -- 'Mandana', this collection celebrates traditional prints with the revival of hand-block motifs. Shades of nature dominate this collection -- ranging from greens to ivories to pinks, personifying joy, elation and bliss. Rooted in the principles of comfort, 'Mandana' is an edit of exclusive kurtas, pyjamas and churidars made from soft and breathable fabrics like cotton silk which make for a perfect pick this summer. The ensemble can be complete by teaming it with beautiful printed organza dupattas with gold hand-dori borders, giving it an elegant finesse; it's for occasions ranging from pujas at home, to haldi functions, to weddings.
Who do you see wearing it?
Each and every 'Punit Balana' ensemble is designed to move, dance and celebrate in. The brand's aesthetic is a return to the fundamentals of materials, prints, motifs and embroideries, and yet a progression of form and silhouette.
With a focus on contrasting tones and colours, and a playful use of prints, patterns and shapes, the brand creates a vibrant design language that seems to be ever-evolving, yet remains rooted in principles of comfort and wear-ability. A sensibility of fluidity and ease sets the brand apart.
Though this is a limited collection, we have ensured that the designs are versatile and cater to all age groups. A short kurta paired with cowl pants or our block-printed kurtas with resham work detailing paired with pants would attract a younger audience. At the same time, we also have classic kurtas with churidars which would be a preferred choice among patrons above 45 years.
How do you see the Indian market of designer menswear today?
The Indian market has evolved over time when it comes to designer menswear. Men have also been more conscious about the clothes they wear, as their wardrobe is an extension of their personality. Having said that, with the increasing spending power among young men, they are likely to invest in designer wear. There is a constant demand for new and interesting designs among customers which keeps the market on their toes. I see designer menswear as a booming market in India.
What are the current top trends in menswear?
I think one trend that is here to stay is comfortable athleisure wear -- they're comfortable, effortless and cool. Pairing a t-shirt on joggers with a casual jacket or a shirt with cotton trousers and sneakers, these easy looks are taking over men's fashion.
How has the pandemic influenced your design philosophy?
All my collections are inspired by the culture and heritage of Rajasthan designed in ethnic and contemporary silhouettes for the modern woman/man. Given the time we had in hand during the pandemic, I used it to go back to my design philosophies and present new collections with the existing resources we had. For e.g. The Mandana collection was created using only existing hand-blocks we had with us since the brand was founded in 2010. The time also gave us an opportunity to research and develop new prints and silhouettes, and also for me to foray into creating pieces for my male customers.
How do you see the future of Indian fashion industry, considering the impact of the pandemic on it?
Since fashion belongs to the non-essential sector, it has definitely taken a huge hit during the pandemic. It has been difficult for the industry to bounce back, but we have somehow managed to stand up on our feet yet again and test the waters. I am a very optimistic person and believe there's a silver lining to every situation. We did see a rise in our online sales during the pandemic and have also received queries from to-be brides/grooms and their families.
For me, fashion enthusiasts will always find a way to reach their favourite designers given any scenario.