After dressing up brides for D-day and fashionistas for red-carpet events, top Indian fashion designers are now getting into another kind of long-term commitment—by plunging merrily into wedding design.
It makes sense for the bride and groom. You love a designer’s signature touch for your wedding ensemble— so why not get him or her to do up your wedding event as well? With bulging budgets and a large landscape to express their creativity, top fashion names like JJ Valaya and Rohit Bal have taken to this new lateral business rather seriously.
Valaya, who has been designing weddings for two years now under the label JJ Valaya Luxury Weddings, says their key strength is conceptual design. “Whether it’s designing garments, uniforms or homes, we are dreamers,” he says, adding, “With the amount of money being spent on Indian weddings, these projects also give us the budgets to expedite our vision.”
He cites the example of a recent wedding when they created two forests within one venue. “The entrance was a white forest awash in pristine snow, and the dining area was a tropical forest, so guests could experience two different worlds in the same evening,” he says. There were no natural trees in the area, so he hired artists from Kolkata to create 600 trees that “looked so real you couldn’t tell the difference”. The banquet area seated 1,000 people under a canopy of woodland and chandeliers.
The award-winning designer, who recently also launched an interiors concept store called The Home of the Traveller in New Delhi, says it takes about four to six months from moodboard to execution when it comes to designing weddings. His team looks into the smallest of details and signature props, even working with food designers to coordinate the colour of the items on the menu with the décor elements. With seven high-profile weddings under their belt and one more scheduled for April this year, the firm has tied up with Ferns N Petals as line partners to manage the floral and production aspects. “They have a good setup when it comes to the kind of temporary structures we need,” says Valaya, who also collaborates with Vijay Singh of India Bridal Fashion Week for promotional activities from time to time.
Rohit Bal, another top couturier with ample experience of dressing brides, grooms and their families for weddings, is the latest entrant to the event décor segment. His new offering called Rohit Bal Luxury Weddings saw a sophisticated launch last December at the ITC Maurya Sheraton in Delhi.
The new venture is a collaboration with J&S, an event management firm that has been working in South Asia for the past decade. Weddings by Bal will have the designer’s signature touch of ‘understated elegance and timelessness’. True to form, the launch event was a chic affair replete with candles, white flowers and bunches of hanging bulbs, with Bal chatting away with the who’s who of fashionable Delhi society.
Hanging bulbs also made an appearance in October last year at Taj by Vivanta, Surajkund, NCR, where young designer Nida Mahmood was invited by the hotel to ‘do up’ their demo wedding for the media fraternity. Known for the kitschy designs and vibrant pop colours of her Western-wear, the designer chose to decorate the location in bright yellows, pinks and blues. The central motif was a pair of steaming black kettles with hearts of pink. At the concluding evening of the event (which went on for two days showcasing a demo sangeet, mehendi and cocktail night), an artificial sky of shining bulbs lit up the courtyard, with jars of mock fireflies hanging from the trees.
Agreeing that any Indian designer worth her or his salt could not help but get into the wedding scene, Mahmood admits, “That’s where all the money is.”
Wedding-wear designer Varun Bahl also took his first step into wedding décor last year when he designed the Kolkata wedding reception for his friends Mayank Jalan of the Keventer Agro family and Parvana Babaycon, founder of Optimum Image Institute. Besides the bride’s and groom’s ensembles, he gave his inputs for the couple’s reception at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club, which was attended by 1,500 people including the likes of former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee, artist Paresh Maity, state IT minister Partha Chatterjee, state governor MK Narayanan, and actor Vivek Oberoi, amongst other social, corporate and political bigwigs from the city.
Bahl used his ‘rose’ signature across the venue including the backdrop of the stage. With a colour scheme of green, fuchsia and red, he used scarlet velvet appliqué-work on the fabrics and pearl strings on chairs.
The couple’s main wedding event was designed by Kolkata-based designer Anamika Khanna in her personal capacity as a friend of the family. She also helped them with the concept for their wedding invites. Delhi-based designer and founder of the Ensemble chain of multi-brand designer stores, Tarun Tahiliani has also designed weddings for his close friends in the past.
Designers Ashima and Leena, familiar faces in India’s bridalwear circuit, have also been busy designing weddings of a different kind—those for NRIs abroad. The most recent one was in Hua Hin for a Hong Kong-based couple. “We did up the stage backdrop and dais for the newlyweds to coordinate with the bridal outfit,” says Leena Singh, one half of the duo. They choose not to advertise this aspect of their business since “it’s just too much work to put together.” “We end up doing garments for the entire family from age seven to age 70, and it all has to go with the décor, so it’s a very painstaking, detailed process,” Singh admits.
Mumbai-based film costume designer and couturier Neeta Lulla has found another inroad into the wedding scene. She recently tied up with 35-year-old soft furnishing company Creative Portico India Pvt Ltd to create a line of ‘luxury wedding bed linen’ for their brand Portico New York. The first collection is called the ‘Saat Phere’ collection, its name drawn from the seven ‘phere’ (rounds) that couples take around the sacred fire to seal their nuptial knot as per tradition.
The award-winning costumer, who says she finds inspiration from the Renaissance and the Edwardian Era, has selected “warm, sensual colours and bright jewel tones” that she says will “add to any bridal collection”. The range, which includes five-piece linen sets, duvet covers and comforters, is priced Rs 6,999 onwards and will be available in metros as well as tier-two cities across India. She reasons that fashion-savvy brides need a décor complement to their trousseau as well.
Indeed, there is just no limit when it comes to catering to the wedding appetite of urban Indians. As Valaya succinctly puts it, “Indian weddings are about living a dream.” That only spells sweet dreams for the industry.
First published on Wonder Woman by India Today