Arts & Entertainment

Czar of Indian couture celebrates latest Spain-inspired collection

By David Asta Alares

New Delhi, Jul 30 (EFE).- Renowned Indian designer JJ Valaya recently celebrated 30 years in the fashion industry through a retrospective of his best pieces sprinkled with nuances from “traje de luces” (bullfighters’ costumes), Manila shawls and traditional fan motifs in what is his second “unconscious” trip to Spain.

At his “Alma” retrospective at a luxury hotel in New Delhi this week, Valaya combined the traditional influences of opulence and royalty of his home state of Rajasthan with touches of modernity that have made him famous in the country.

“And by sheer coincidence, it had to be Spain as inspiration in a 30th anniversary show. It wasn’t planned, it just happened,” Valaya told EFE at one of his stores, where he exhibits outfits that can sell for tens of thousands of dollars and cater to customers with deeper pockets.

“Everything had very strong Spanish undertones,” the designer said, days after the show, organized as part of the Fashion Week in the Indian capital.

Including the musical repertoire that started with “Asturias” by Isaac Albeniz played on Indian instruments, as well as the stage inspired by the Alhambra palace and fortress complex in Granada, Spain.

Valaya spoke about the Spanish influences in his show that included the matador costumes, which he called “absolutely stunning.”

“The second color influence was the Manila shawls. So, you know, on the red roses and the beautiful flowers. And the third was actually the fans,” he added.

“My daughter was the stylist of the show. And she really brought in the Spanish, so the Southern red lips, but now with shimmer, you saw the waves and the hair,” of the models, he said, adding that the Spanish influence would have been much greater had it not been for the retrospective character of the show.

“It’s a collection of 42 collections,” he said.

This is the second time the designer, born in 1967 and known as the “czar of Indian couture,” has found inspiration in Spain after his collection titled “Maharaja of Madrid.”

But just like Albeniz is still Albeniz even if played on sitars and Indian percussion, the heavily embellished floral lehengas for brides and the opulent jackets for the grooms do not lose their Indianness.

“I don’t lose the soul of India, because that is where my biggest market is,” Valaya said, speaking of the big-fat Indian weddings that last up to a week or 10 days and that have become bigger and more festive over the past three decades, according to the designer.

Despite his unabashed love of the Indian tradition, the designer said he would “… never be a purist in my approach, I will always want to experiment. And I find it utterly boring to be historically correct.”

That is why, he said, the Maharani of Kapurthala hailed him as “the future of the past” during a visit to his atelier in New Delhi.

In his luxurious outfits, Valaya explores the contradiction between the opulence of the Maharajas of Rajasthan and the motifs of nomadic communities and elements of art deco.

An eclectic style that the designer said was shaped by his childhood, when his family had to move every three years due to the nature of his father’s job in the military.

According to the designer, everything, from fashion to cooking, exemplifies the “maximalist” spirit of India.

“Look at our food, it’s not basic, you go to Paris, you buy a loaf of bread, some cheese and a bottle of wine, and you’re set. But over here, you’re going to need spices and flavors that change from the south to the east to the west,” he said.

“So Indians love maximalism, because that’s the very soul of it. So I’m just being an Indian. Nothing wrong,” he said. EFE

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