“I feel quirkiness and elegance go hand in hand,” says designer Varun Bahl, when asked about his creative process, “For me, comfort is style and style is comfort. My signature style is all about being fun in a traditional kind of way. My brides are Gen Z and cool and that is exactly what I stand for.”
Bahl has embodied this philosophy ever since he launched his eponymous label back in 2001 and slowly and steadily introduced a shift in bridal dressing in the country. Now his intricately designed floral ensembles can be seen on Bollywood celebrities and brides who want to strike the ever elusive balance between ‘modern’ and ‘traditional’.
“I have always believed that it is essential to move ahead with the times and keep up to date with what the consumer wants. Our audience has been moving towards contemporary wedding wear and red carpet looks that hold a more global appeal, and breaks away from the conventions and rigidity of traditional Indian couture, especially over the past few years,” says Bahl, “Even with my new collection, I am styling couture in a newer way, heading towards the direction of catering to the younger generations, and hence, reinventing the idea of couture completely, which is the need of the hour. There’s definitely a rebellious and disruptive tone in the collection and I’m excited to showcase this to audiences.”
As we speak, the Delhi-based designer is gearing up for his upcoming showcase at India Couture Week. “I have waited quite a long time for this. Even though India Couture Week’s digital showcase in 2021 was one of the most wonderful and different experiences of my life, I thoroughly enjoy showcasing my collections physically to my audience, as it gives me a chance to capture their honest reactions and feedback and make new memories with them.”
Bahl’s collection for ICW, New Leaf, will take the couturier’s fascination with all things flora and fauna into a more ethereal territory, “(New Leaf) is inspired by the grandeur of the mystical forest and plays on different textures with appliques such as feathers, sequins, and fabrics such as silks and velvets. This collection puts a spin on traditional Indian silhouettes while taking a leap forward from traditional couture and exploring the new way in which global couture is moving in. Not only womenswear, but this collection will also feature multiple ensembles for men that resonate with the contemporary global mood of fashion.”
In contrast to his ability to have his finger on the pulse of what people want, Bahl places great importance on straying away from convention, resulting in a pleasing mix of the two with his designs. In his own words, his muse is “every bride and groom, who are looking to forge their own path, who are looking to move away from conventional weddings and add their own touch of contemporary aesthetic to it, moulding a new type of tradition for themselves.”
And therein lies his most important advice for anyone who wants to embrace tradition and modernity in 2022. “I think all brides should be able to enjoy their wedding as much as their guests and that is why I truly believe in transformative attire,” he says, “The new age bride is looking to be comfortable, subtle yet powerful, and dress according to her own personality and style. Today’s confident and powerful brides are no longer looking at the traditional bridal attires, but opting for a more modern, minimal, and powerful look.”
Bahl stresses on the importance of both brides and grooms enjoying the day that’s going to be special for them for the rest of their lives. One way to do it, in his opinion, is to opt for something timeless, and something that places comfort above everything else, “There is just one tip that I give all my brides, even though weddings are a stressful affair, it is really important to keep a clear mind, don’t stress too much, and be confident in the choices that you make and what you choose to wear as this day comes and goes very swiftly. As long as you opt for an outfit that you are comfortable with, suits your aesthetic, and describes your personality, you are good to go.”
Bahl’s ‘New Leaf’ will be showcased at India Couture Week on Tuesday (26 July 2022).