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Fashion
September 26, 2017

Pinakin Patel: The Designer Who Is Redefining Bridal Wear For The Fuss-Free Woman

Text by Saumya Sinha. Photographs by Prateek Patel

“Whether you want to be bogged down under a 20-kilogram lehnga that hampers your movement or whether you want to move easily around the place, it’s totally up to you!”

Long before Pinakin Patel discovered his calling, much before fashion became a ‘thing’ in our country and when Giorgio Armani was just Armani — a budding designer who made great denims — Patel was travelling the world and inadvertently learning about luxury through rich textiles. Today, Patel has moved beyond his decades-old interior design and architecture label — Pinakin, to create his own brand of bridal wear.

“When I was young, I don’t think fashion existed…there was no such thing in India. The only fashion that existed was abroad and it was not what we perceive it as today,” says Patel about the time when it wasn’t about “predicting trends and presenting looks”. As a result, his first brush wasn’t with fashion but with fabric, stitching and fine embroidery which became important pillars.

Not being an insider has helped Patel maintain a radical outlook towards the industry. “It is a reflection of the times. We loosely say if you’re fashionable, you’re up to the minute but fashion itself is up to the minute only because it keeps responding to the changes around, such as climate or design cycles. And it’s prolific; you can have 20 expressions of it in your cupboard. You cannot have 20 sofas in your living room so the freedom to express comes far more easily in this sphere.”

Shift in identities
“If you look back at the ’90s when minimalism was first raising its head and Calvin Klein created the all-black wardrobe with the short black skirt, (it was actually a need of the hour) the stressful life of the NYC bankers did not allow them the luxury of going back home and changing for an evening out, at the same time the money that they were generating was enabling them to shop. They needed smart clothing that would take them through the day and that’s how this minimalist approach to garments came about.” But there is a downside to this cycle, adds Patel, as he points towards globalisation. “It made everybody lose their identities at home…branding and marketing became more important than the product or the person. Nobody had the time to understand CK and how brilliant the designer was in interpreting the needs of the time. It was more about ‘I wear CK’, often to just feel confident….” Patel has always felt resistance to this change, objecting to the idea of ‘billboard dressing’. He emphasises, “fashion should be about how you want to enjoy the garment for yourself more than the viewer.”

Away from the crowd
In the ’80s, Patel used to have his store on Hughes Road in Mumbai but he soon shifted base away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and it has been 20 years of working in seclusion. “I’m not a nostalgic person. I live in the moment which is why there has never been a particular goal. Conventional ends and ideologies don’t even apply to my brand, and if there ever was a goal, it was personal growth and not just for me, as the head of the company, but for every individual. My move to Alibaug was because city life had become very difficult, especially for people who commuted two hours to come to work. So I floated this whole concept of Alibaug only to say that let’s live on a campus where we are committed to each other and let’s work in better surroundings and it turned out to be fabulous because at the end of it, when I asked the workers, they said they wouldn’t go back to the city.”

Patel did make his runway debut a couple of seasons ago but has stopped thanks to the unsettling module of fashion weeks. “While they do solve the purpose of bringing everybody under one roof, the format itself is from a borrowed culture. No matter how globalisation impacts us, the Indian is going to be the Indian who pretty much knows what he wants. We are not as untrained as the Chinese; China was a communist country and it grew totally out of deprivation so there you can sell Western theories because they don’t have one of their own to respond to. Even the marketing of fashion has become so mechanical and is copied from the West…so much so that we do Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter when the climate never changes in Mumbai!”

Scoring with subtlety
Pinakin’s fashion is about subtle luxury and cuts, and not about surface ornamentation. “The whole visual story is about using the right grammage of fabric, the perfect flow for a particular silhouette, because when a lady comes out of the changing room she should feel uplifted.” Patel trusts craftsmanship over label as he believes that the sense of preciousness does not come from the name of the brand, in this case, Pinakin Fashion. “It relates to a kind of familiarity or assurance that when I go there I get something refined, I don’t know whether it is luxurious or expensive or fashionable but it’s refined. And to preserve that sense of refinement you need good karigars.” The master of minimalism, does more-is-more in the most subtle way, and that is another USP of the brand that’s hard to miss. “Even if I had to make the bride feel like a princess, with my technique, I do something very crowded, rich and busy all over, but it will be so close, it all looks like one texture. Just the other day there was a lady looking at one of these ghaghras and she said that it has like 30 million diamonds stuck all over how does it not look blingy?” And although it seems obvious for the brand to sell where the audience goes to shop now — the internet — Patel doesn’t hesitate in accepting that e-commerce hasn’t been a beneficial venture so far. “We’ve tried it all but we haven’t been too successful, to be honest. I think we’re lost in the market so we’ve decided to just hold on for now. I think the buyer is so used to a particular genre that when he sees our designs sticking out differently, he just walks past.”

With his wife as his muse, Patel’s design sensibilities are as versatile as can be. In fact, he sees the younger crowd identifying with his work. “It’s funny how a 45-year-old, who can still really wear my clothes, will suddenly look at them and say, ‘My daughter would love to wear these’. And then the daughter, who’s otherwise an academic and not interested in clothes, gets lost in our store and says, ‘Mom, I want three things from here’. You should see the look on the mother’s face!”

As She Likes It
Weddings are no longer considered family occasions; they are pretty much up to the bride and the groom, especially the former, feels Patel. It is now about brides chasing that singular personal expression in a world of cascading and confusing trends. “First just analyse who you and your spouse are and the way you’re planning your wedding. So if you are daddy’s trophy child and dad’s been very successful in the last 10 years and you want to wear a heavy brand, so be it. If you’re having another kind of wedding where you want to wear something easy and have fun then opt for a lighter outfit. Garments are connected to your body. Whether you want to be bogged down under a 20-kilogram lehnga that hampers your movement or whether you want to move easily around the place, it’s totally up to you!”

With trends being created surprisingly by event managers and wedding coordinators, Patel has customers coming in and asking for purple garments because the theme is ‘purple passion’. “I tell them, ‘Okay, but I don’t think purple is right for Indian daylight so I don’t have purple.’ In this kind of a scenario, I don’t believe or work with trends. But I just want to point out that it’s your own event and what you’re trying to convey is important, not because of a Pinterest image, but because it’s your day.”

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