Arjun Saluja, the man behind the deconstructed drapes that are constantly disrupting the status quo of the heavy-duty bridal refineries that dominate the Indian market simply believes in quality preceding everything else when it comes to clothing. Saluja’s silhouettes exist as part of a thriving subculture that doesn’t feel threatened by the classic sherwani rather reinterprets itself for a modern woman whose existence is defined in the present moment. We touched base with the man himself to pick his brains about sustainability, his upcoming Good Earth collaboration and more. Here’s what he had to say:
When and how did you journey with design begin? Is it rooted somewhere in your childhood or did you cultivate your sensibilities later?I think it’s pretty much rooted in my childhood. My mother was a designer, everything started there: the concept or the idea of it. The sensibility constantly persisted in our household since she was into export, designing work and a lot of product development. It all commenced at that stage. You can’t say that you’re an artist, I think it comes from occupation, it comes from experience and I think it also comes from the lack of it. It’s an ongoing process and one constantly evolves. As an artist I don’t think the journey is complete for me, the learning process takes place every day.
As a creative individual where do you usually draw your inspiration from: is it the people that you tend to meet/ historical figure or the places that you visit?
I draw my inspiration was almost everywhere. From a conversation to a film that I’ve seen to the book that I’m reading. If I see something on the streets or I’m travelling. Inspiration is all over, it’s your eye and your observation that matters. What inspires or motivates you as an individual is what is important to understand more than anything else.
“Sustainability shouldn’t be marked as a trend. I think it’s a conscious movement and needs to be addressed as that.”
What’s your take on the “trend” of sustainability in contemporary India? How do you practice sustainability?
Sustainability shouldn’t be marked as a trend. I think it’s a conscious movement and needs to be addressed as that. Sustainability is not a loose term that should be thrown around. It’s of vital importance to grasp that we can all partake in practicing it. In our brand how we practice sustainability is through quality. The quality of the garment, the fabric and the way we cut the garment. The aim is that a good quality product should last you longer and one should get good wear out of it, for me that is sustainability. The gradual reduction of mass consumption can happen once the designer gives out a product. I think it’s very important to understand that nothing precedes quality. If you’re willing to give out a quality product then the customer is willing to spend extra and when they spend that extra they know they can wear say an overcoat for the next 10 years to come. It’ll keep them warm and it’s a quality piece that will sustain itself over a prolonged period. So, I think it’s essential to perceive that yes, we should consume less, and we do not require as many t-shirts as we buy, we don’t require as many sweatshirts as we buy. These are all mass production products so we as consumers also have to apprehend that yes, we’re willing to spend that extra money, but we want to know who is making this product, where it comes from and whether it’s creation has met all legal standards or not. It’s further vital to analyze why a garment is being deemed as sustainable. What it boils down to is why a garment is sustainable.
Take me through the conceptualization of your upcoming Good Earth collection. What did your mood board look like?
Our mood boards recently have drawn a lot of inspiration from the streets. When you’re travelling or when you’re walking around, and you observe different kinds of people all coming from varied rungs of life and their emotional experiences. Having a conversation with them, observing their expressions, how they’re dressed and why they’re dressed in a particular manner. It’s very important to interpret what is going on today, in the current moment. I draw observation from what is going on now. The Good Earth collection is a mélange of soft and fluid tailoring. Taking structure and softening it, almost taking shape and making it more liquid. That’s the idea behind the garments, very softened tones of architecture. The inspiration for this one was everywhere. From a building that was being demolished to a building that was coming up, it is from that little khokha on the street, the corners of colonial buildings. This collection is about all the contradictions that one sees in the city.
“The inspiration for this collection was everywhere. From a building that was being demolished to a building that was coming up, it is from that little khokha on the street, the corners of colonial buildings. This collection is about all the contradictions that one sees in the city.”
Your signature drapes and silhouettes act as an antithesis to the kind of costume clothing being designed for women in India. Is this a conscious effort on your behalf to subvert the male gaze?
I think women look beautiful when they’re covered. There’s more mystery to them when they’re covered, they’re equally attractive when they’re covered. It’s an aesthetic that we use. We take Indian silhouettes and we deconstruct them, and we recreate them with a certain element of modernity so it’s relevant today while also latching on to what the requirement is, it’s a mix of the two. I think it’s very beautiful when a woman wears a sherwani. This is the aesthetic of the brand and what we practice. The basic essence of our garments lies in drape and structure, mixing of fluidity with structure. That’s where we come from.
Having said that about your disruptive drapes and silhouettes, do you feel the constant pressure to design more conventionally and in a more typical manner? How do you deal with the pressure?
As a designer it’s about deciphering that you’re doing business. You’re just not an artist and if you were then you wouldn’t be in the market selling that way. If you want to be an artist there are other ways to go about it. It’s also about consciously grasping how you can seduce the customer. It’s vital to realize how the give and take works, we introduce something new but in a manner that appeals to the customer, in a manner that they want to try what we’re producing. If you’re going to give the customer something that already exists in the market, then there’s no need of your product. It’s crucial to give the customer something fresh that relates to one’s aesthetic by seducing their minds. That’s the way we function.
Text Unnati Saini