Kunal Rawal© HelloIndia

Kunal Rawal On The Year Of The Dragon, Wedding Wardrobes And More

Having aced the world of menswear and fashion, Kunal Rawal has now turned his aesthetic gaze to decor and interior design. Recently, the 38-year-old collaborated with Mumbai’s iconic pan Asian eatery and his personal favourite, Hakkasan, to bring a touch of sophistication and flair just in time for the Chinese New Year. As per Chinese astrology, 2024 is celebrated as the Year Of The Dragon, a mythical being that has inspired Kunal’s designs and creative process in more ways than one.

On this occasion, the ace couturier not only decked up the fine dine restaurant in terms of their decor and aesthetic, but one of the reasons he took this project on was to give an outlet to his inner foodie. As a part of this collaboration, Kunal has co-created a limited menu that includes all of his all-time favourite Hakkasan specials.

We caught up with the designer recently and besides talking about this unexpected collaboration, we also got him to divulge some style tips for date night, wedding wardrobe advice and decor pointers.

In Conversation With Kunal Rawal

Kunal Rawal©HelloIndia

HELLO!: How did the collaboration with Hakkasan happen?

Kunal Rawal: “When Hakkasan reached out to us, it made complete sense to join hands for this occasion. It was a very spontaneous and organic decision to collaborate together for ‘The Year of the Dragon’ celebrations. Hakkasan has been an all-time favourite restaurant of mine right from my university days in London. So it’s very nostalgic for me. I have always resonated with the exceptional food they serve and the entire luxury experience they provide. Both brands align so beautifully with our values, aesthetic and vision, so there was a big connection and it transformed into an exciting opportunity to blend the worlds of couture, cuisine and Chinese New Year celebrations. I am also a big, big foodie — I feel like food is also such an exciting way of expression and the folks at Hakkasan really create art on a plate. It was a lot of fun exploring this avenue, for the very first time.”

H!: Can you give us some details about the limited menu you have co-created?

KR: “The menu is something I am very excited about. We have been working on it for a while. Taking inspiration from the beautiful Hakkasan flavour profiles and co-creating the menu of my dreams — for the very first time — has really been an amazing experience for me, as a designer and a big-time foodie. I have hand-selected some of my all-time favourite dishes from the Hakkasan universe. Some of my favourite creations (and the ones I can’t wait to indulge in) are the fresh summer yuzu salad, the pomelo mango prawns, the smoked chicken buns and smoked tofu, the soba noodle pot — which is a curried noodle and a meal in itself — and the new edamame bean fried rice.”

 H!: Do you believe in Chinese Zodiac Signs?

KR: “To be honest, I don’t know too much about the Chinese zodiacs, but it does intrigue me. I have always been around a lot of conversations around the topic since my mom really believes in them. But, I do know that this is the Year of the Dragon, and I really resonate with the dragon’s symbolism so much. I know that it stands for strength and prosperity, and those are traits that I aspire to have.”

H!: When did you first start getting interested in taking up more decor-related projects?

KR: “I feel like all designers have a take on any form of design. I am no different. Interior design and creating decor for spaces has always come naturally to me. I have worked on many projects in the last 17-18 years, some personal, others for the brand — and I love being part of the whole process. From big undertakings like designing our store spaces or the extensive sets of our shows to smaller more personal trinkets like doorknobs and marble pieces, I believe all of it plays such a big part of the storytelling. I love exploring our aesthetic across several mediums and opportunities. Working with different materials, textures, concepts — it brings me a lot of joy and really allows me to explore the depths of my creativity. From working with metal designers to marble hand carvers, it’s always been so much fun incorporating design in unique ways. We are even launching candles soon, as beautiful collectibles in hand carved marble. Design is a way of expression and to be able to blend different worlds really lends so much opportunity to create something absolutely unique.”

H!: Can you give some tips for those who’d like to incorporate the Dragon theme into their home or work spaces?

KR: “The Dragon symbolises strength, power, wisdom, nobility, health and success — and with that, it has a very anchoring, dramatic and bold look. I personally love textures and playing with them, so I think the textures on the dragon scales is a very exciting way to bring this element into your home. I also love playing with colours and the shades of the dragon can help inspire your interiors in fun and interesting ways. Textured wall paper using the dragon as a motif is another nice and elegant way to incorporate it into your space. You can also include collectibles in the form of antique pieces, bookends, candles and so much more to bring the aesthetic forward. The most important thing is that whatever you do with the dragon, it should reflect your personal sense of style.”

Kunal Rawal©HelloIndia

H!: Picture this, someone reading this would like to try out your new menu with their partner. Can you share some date night dressing tips?

KR: “The most important thing is to make sure you turn out well and grooming is an essential part of that. Even if you are going for a bearded look, make sure your beard is well-groomed, it will go a long, long way. Next, pick something that fits you well and makes you feel good and super confident. Keep it easy, with a white shirt, jeans, sneakers and an effortless second layer using a casual blazer or bundi. For me, black is the colour of all seasons, so usually when I dress up, I always lean towards whites and blacks.”

 H!: With wedding season in full swing, what wardrobe advice do you have for wedding guests and the couple?

KR: “When it comes to weddings, I feel like it is very important to dress according to the occasion. There is lots to consider and think about — but putting in that effort speaks volumes about your personality and style. It’s also about showing that degree of respect to the wedding couple — dressing the part and showing up in style. One rule of thumb I follow closely is: when in doubt, always be slightly more overdressed rather than turning up underdressed.

Nowadays, weddings have become so personal and customised, that no two wedding events are the same. Couples are making celebrations more intimate and personalising so many aspects and details, including dress codes and making them so specific. I feel that this is really amazing and a great chance to experiment with different styles. Just always make sure what you wear for a wedding resonates with who you are and what you like. Your look should represent you.

As for tips, I would say play with colour. Neutrals like white-washed pastels are a big trend for daytime events. By night, you can opt for such navies and wines. Wear mixed colours like mushroom, taupe or olive. Combinations are also getting a lot more fun and interesting. Tonal style is something I am very big on and it is here to stay. Hems are getting shorter and functional comfort is something that is part of the conversation. Looks with functional hidden pockets is something I love and it brings a lot of comfort and flexibility to the wearer. Micro motifs are here to stay. Texture embroideries, clean lines, tone on tone, the beauty of thread work — all of this is getting a lot of appreciation.

Men are also more inclined towards seeking out beautiful handmade products that they can get the most out of. They want outfits that are easy to restyle repeatedly and be able to be worn in multiple ways — this is the need of the hour. People want couture, but they want it to be wearable couture. Most importantly, luxury should be about yourself, so I feel giving importance to the inside of the garment is as important as focussing on the outside of it.”

H!: What has been your favourite viral style trend lately? And one you would like to avoid?

KR: “One of my favourite viral trends of the moment is gender neutrality in clothes. Androgyny is something that is super viral and something I completely believe in and get behind even with my brand. It is an aesthetic that everyone must try and experiment with. One viral trend I would avoid is sheer clothing. I am not a big fan.”

H!: What are you saying HELLO! to in 2024?

KR: “2024 for me is all about balance. I am saying hello to more balance in everything: work, family, travel and tuning my creative side. 2024 is also about focus. From all of the things to pick and choose from, having focus is important.”