Viraj Khanna grew up surrounded by textiles and embroidery, exposed to the crafts from an early age. The son of acclaimed fashion designer Anamika Khanna, he also expanded the brand with prêt line AK-OK in 2019, with his twin Vishesh. However, Viraj couldn’t contain his artistic inclinations to clothing alone, once he discovered his natural affinity for painting and sculpting. The 25-year-old has had two well-received solo exhibits in two years and will also be participating in the India Art Fair this year. Viraj catches HELLO! up on the inspirations for his varied works and striking a balance between the two worlds.
HELLO!: You debuted as an artist last year. How did this transition from fashion to art come about?
Viraj Khanna: During the pandemic, my brother Vishesh and I were brainstorming for ideas. It was then that I decided to give making a collage a try. There’s been no looking back ever since. I’ve spent endless hours creating figurative works using vibrant magazine elements. This was the first step in my career as an artist. I had never imagined venturing into this space earlier.
H!: Tell us a little about your most recent exhibit, ‘What My Mother Didn’t Teach Me and Some Things She Did’, your second solo showcase.
VK: It contained a wide variety of paintings, sculptures, textiles and NFTs. It was a challenge to put up such a large show after my first solo last March. I think people enjoyed the evolution into these stronger, bolder elements. The way I see it, the NFTs can be used in different ways. The artwork can even be put up at a gallery in the Metaverse! Just like my sculptures, the hand- embroidered works, too, took root in my collages. I use my collages as the blueprint and take it from there. This makes it easier to express my vision in any possible medium.
H!: With an iconic fashion designer for a mum, how significant a role did fashion play in your life, growing up?
VK: Fashion always played a huge role in our lives, even when we weren’t involved with the brand directly. I grew up looking at different kinds of crafts. I believe embroidery work helped me develop a certain aesthetic with putting things together. In embroidery, we amalgamate various threads, beads and materials, the same way I put together collages.
H!: You launched AK-OK, your prêt line, with your twin in 2019. How’s that experience been?
VK: It’s been quite liberating for all of us. There’s always been such a high demand for our clothes, and we’ve never been able to supply enough. This new label has started to help us bridge the gap between demand and supply!
H!: How involved are you with your label, now that you’ve ventured into art?
VK: I now look into the finances and management more than ever. Painting and sculpting require a very free mind. It’s difficult to paint when I work, and vice versa. So I do whatever I wish to. On some days, I’ll skip work and just paint, and on others, I won’t paint and simply work.
H!: How do you take to feedback from your family?
VK: My brother and mother are extremely critical of my work. I’ve learnt to take their feedback constructively. Though there are many occasions when I’m asked to throw away my creations, and I do just that! It allows me to push my boundaries and get better at my practice.
H!: What’s on the cards for you?
VK: I’ll be at the India Art Fair, too, this year!
This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in HELLO! India’s March 2022 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!