You’ve seen several of JJ Valaya’s incredible collections—they stand the test of time, embody the word luxury and are perfect heirloom pieces. His designs often take you down a time in the past, absorbing the essence of a bygone era and making it come alive in complete tangible luxury. His fashion shows are never half-hearted or underwhelming. You can expect Valaya to thrill you, not just with his clothes but with the ambience, he creates at his shows, as you feel like you’re not just watching but breathing art, by just being there while the impeccably-dressed models strut around.
JJ Valaya returned to Lakmé Fashion Week x FDCI after ages—and this time with his label ‘JJV Kapurthala’. In a conversation with Cosmo India, the veteran designer spoke about his collection, his timeless designs and his conscious couture.
Cosmo India: Tell us about your collection at Lakme Fashion Week x FDCI.
JJ Valaya: I’m excited about showcasing at LFW x FDCI for two primary reasons—first, of course, is that I’m showing in Mumbai after ages and the second is that I’m showcasing my brand new baby, our bridge-to-luxury Label ‘JJV Kapurthala’. JJ Valaya as a brand has always been a couture brand, for its wonderfully dramatic clothes, with a lot of focus on embroideries. I have been yearning to create a line that would carry the same ethos, and the same DNA but would be an easier, cooler line that is more accessible, with just a hint of embroidery and a lot more focus on prints and textiles—and one that can easily be folded, packed and taken wherever you go.
My perennial inspiration is Kapurthala, which is the land of my forefathers. It is also known as the Paris of Punjab because the then Maharaja Jagjeet Singh of Kapurthala, brought the world to it and showed it to the world through his travels. So his travel logs remain the guiding light to create the path to this line. It’s a lot about Sikh splendour, Punjab, travel, multiculturism, and taking energies from across the planet and putting them into a definitive statement.
CI: A house of fashion that is more than three decades old, how do you make sure you keep evolving and yet, hold on to classic luxury?
JJV: Even though I entered the world of fashion when Indian fashion began, it seems only like yesterday! But even today the fun part is that every single morning excites me because I’m getting an opportunity to create something new, to look at something being born out of passion, out of love, out of something that has taken in a deep thought process in an attempt to hopefully create something special, timeless, luxurious and more.
I have often been called the royal nomad with a passion for art deco because there are three elements that pretty much define us: royalty, the nomad, and the glamourous period of the 20s (which is called art deco), which I think even today is perhaps one of the most relevant in terms of modernity. So, we play with these sublanguages; we mix them, and we fool around with them in an attempt to create something that is fresh, unique and incredibly detailed and something that is timeless and pure luxury.
CI: What does it take to run a fashion business and scale it to such great heights, while also ensuring it lasts?
JJV: A fashion business is like any other business. All businesses are driven by passion, not only in the fashion industry. Having said that, here we are put to test every six months and you’re almost as good as your last collection. Besides that of course, I think the secret to evolving the fashion business and keeping a brand relevant over years and decades is an absolute focus on your core competence. And that’s something you can’t forget. You must know what you are good at, you must know what you excel in and you must never give up focus on that—which means you keep evolving within the language you know best. You can take it to the ultimate levels and there’s still growth.
CI: When it comes to conscious fashion, where do you think we, as a country, are at this point? What’s next?
JJV: Well, whether we like it or not conscious fashion or sustainability is the need of the hour. Fast fashion is going to face stiffer competition from this whole movement that is pretty much taking over. I don’t think it’s a fad, I think it’s a responsibility for fashion houses, for couturiers, for designers and for everybody actually who is involved in anything to do with fast consumption. In our debut collection, we worked with Tencel fabrics, Tencel Luxe and created an entire collection and still continue to use that. A major part of our collection is made of eco-friendly fabrics and we hope that in the years to come we can keep adding to this portfolio. There’s nothing more sustainable than couture because we create a garment that lasts for decades within a family and is passed down as heirlooms.
CI: What are the shopping habits of fashion design veterans such as yourself?
JJV: Wow, I’m still getting used to the word ‘veteran’! Well, if you look at fashion designers, they rarely spend time making themselves look great. Instead, they spend most of their time making the entire world look great! But yes, most fashion designers have great homes! I’m actually speaking for myself here—I love to create a home where all my memories come together with things that I have collected like objects of endearment and artefacts, through art, through painting, through carpets, through just about everything.
CI: What are the key elements that make an outfit a great purchase?
JJV: Well it depends, I mean I believe luxury is a true purchase for a simple reason—it’s not something you’d purchase and throw away after two to five uses. My clients from 25 years back come visit me, asking for their wedding outfits to be altered to their daughters’ or sons’ sizes. I see how lovingly they have treasured the clothes and how something I created decades ago was able to stand the test of time. I think that element would certainly make an outfit a great purchase.