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December 11, 2017

Menswear Designer Abhishek Advani On Carving An Indian Niche In Britain’s Streets

Text by Shubham Ladha

We sat down with Oxford-scholar turned fashion designer, Abhishek Advani to discover more about the man, his brand and the best trends for the festive season…

India-born fashion designer, Abhishek Advani grew up in Mumbai, till he left for Oxford at 17. With a flair for design, he decided to open his eponymous luxury menswear label after his suave silhouettes caught the British Fashion Council’s fancy. Soon enough, his classic cuts were seen on the likes of Hollywood’s dapper gentlemen, such as Jason Statham, Pedro Pascal, Tom Sturridge, Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne and more. He tells us about his journey to showcase India’s textiles to the world.

On transitioning from an Oxford scholar into a fashion designer… I always loved fashion.  I knew the names of luxury brands since I was about five. I was like the family wardrobe agent. While at Oxford, I was trying to intern at Ralph Lauren in New York and also at Harrod’s in London. They wouldn’t hire me as I hadn’t any fashion experience. And people at Oxford thought I was mad for trying. In the end, I joined a prestigious London law firm, and while this was a very different career path, it taught me what it meant to work absurdly hard, and gave me the opportunity to live and work in New York, Tokyo, Singapore and London, each of which added to my inspiration, and wardrobe.

The transition was interesting to say the least. But the Oxford people made it what it was. Their attitude was not “how will you manage to do it?”, it was more like “how can we help you to get there?” or “how do we make this a roaring success”? It was pretty amazing. I will forever be grateful to them for believing in me.

On deciding to delve into menswear in the UK and the market’s reaction…  I was coming from a very specific angle of a customer who understood tailoring and fashion, both East and West, and wanted something that brought in these qualities –something individual, special, different. Understated with quality, for those in the know. London is arguably the home of menswear and one of the biggest markets for it. And they (the British) love it. And how can they not! We have some of the best designs in the world.

On the label’s aesthetic and ideology… The aesthetic is minimal, the tailoring is sharp, and the quality is top priority. Fabrics are rich, and durable. Each detail is meticulously crafted with a purpose. The hand-stitched significance of our signature lapel was designed to preserve the balance of the jacket. The chest pieces are made with natural horse hair and are designed to last for generations.

The tastes of our clientele from India and across the world are not entirely different but the needs certainly can be. For an Indian client, they may choose to invest much more in a few embellished pieces and then wear less expensive casual clothes. These would obviously be mostly for the wedding season. An Indian wedding gives you a lot of freedom in terms of what you can wear.

European men have a lot more events in general but none as elaborate as these, so they would invest in a wider range of understated clothes. The weather also plays a big part as in Europe and also most parts of Asia and the US, there is much more opportunity to wear multiple layers of clothes.

On androgyny finding a space in formal menswear… I think the Eastern twist that a brand like Advani brings is the first step to bringing more androgyny into men’s formalwear. Although the look is considered relatively classic, it is not classically masculine. The Nehru collar, for example, is much more androgynous than a traditional peak lapel suit, which ultimately really was a man’s garment. Suits are also much less trend driven. Men now wear what flatters their shape, which often includes more feminine styles.

The corporate suit is no longer worn at work, and this allows for a lot more freedom. The purpose of the suit has changed. It’s much more about conveying a sense of confidence that is not associated with the traditional idea of masculinity.

On advice and trends for the festive season and his favourite piece from the label… Expect to see a lot of velvet everywhere! More flashes of colour on the red carpet and at events. There has never been a time like now for men to stand out at events. For once, it’s not just about wearing what everyone else is.

The best piece of advice would be one really nice accessory each time. You don’t need more, it’s always a nice touch. For example, a really nice watch, or a pair of beautiful cufflinks.

One of my favourite pieces from the label would be the Bombay jacket. It’s probably the most traditionally Indian and also our top seller.

On the brand’s future… Well 30 per cent of our existing customer base are women, who are buying menswear, and also buying their men the clothes. It’s all becoming quite genderless and I think that’s the future. So definitely some womenswear on the cards. And a retail store in London next year, which will be our first store. Very excited to make that happen as the timing feels right.

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