Chintz, Turkish and Gota: Talking craft with Arjan Dugal

Schenelle Dsouza 
A beloved, craft-focused Indian wear label — Simar Dugal, now helmed by designer Arjan Dugal, unveiled its new festive collection Mahaaba at Ensemble, Kala Ghoda in Mumbai recently.
Mahaaba by Label Simar Dugal
Photo Courtesy: Simar Dugal
Mahaaba draws its inspiration from Arjan Dugal’s love for textiles and the art and crafts of India. The collection showcases kurtas, lehengas, saris and sharara sets in Indian fabrics, that spotlight a revival of ancient embroideries and craft forms like gota, naqshi, dabka. 
Arjan added his own creative handwriting to the much-loved Simar Dugal aesthetic by adding new contemporary textures to enhance the delicate use of Gota in unique styles, and unusual thread embroideries, Arjan’s love for maximalist colour, embellishments and surface techniques come to the forefront as his unique handwriting for the Simar Dugal label while always retaining the original essence of her aesthetic.
Arjan Dugal
Arjan Dugal
Talking to LuxeBook about the new collection and the inspiration behind his designs, designer Arjan Dugal shed light on some of the biggest trends in ethnic wear and his role in carrying out the legacy of Simar Dugal.
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind Mahaaba?
The name for each and every collection is chosen after a lot of thought and is chosen to resonate with us as a brand as well as a reflection of the current emotion. Mahaaba is ‘love’. Mahaaba is for our extreme love for textiles and the art and craft of India. It’s a fascination I inherited from my mother who was an avid collector of textiles. For this collection, we’ve played around with textiles — old and new techniques which created a romance between the textile and embroidery to create an ode to love visible in our clothes.
In this collection, my primary endeavour was to enhance the effect and use of gota in unique styles and treatments as well as bring my love of colour, embroideries and different techniques to the forefront in a manner that has never been done before. We have used our traditional fabrics like organza, silk particularly modal silk, Banarsi, chanderi fabrics, which were used by the brand for years. This year we have also experimented with complimentary fabrics like georgette and net.
Mahaaba by Label Simar Dugal
Photo Courtesy: Simar Dugal
What are the biggest highlights of Mahaaba?
Some of the highlights of this collection include Phulkari lehengas which have been painstakingly made over a considerable period of time. Additionally, our Turkish lehengas display a great amalgam between the Simar Dugal and Arjan Dugal aesthetics. These lehengas include the use of gota very prominently but the manner in which gota has been used to create the entire body of the lehenga is 100 per cent our aesthetic. Plus, the use of intricate but extremely colourful embroideries is also something that I have slowly been bringing into the fabric of the brand.  Other highlights of our collection are the Dori Jaal lehengas which are our bridal lehengas as well as the sequined Chintz lehengas.
How does your new collection sustain the Simar Dugal design aesthetic?
Visually, each outfit and collection displays the Simar Dugal aesthetic. The voice is merely different with a slightly different take on each design. Each outfit retains an original aspect of a Simar Dugal design, be it the silhouette like the typical Simar Dugal Sharara or Keyhole, the application of gota, or the use of natural and organic fabrics. It’s only when you see the outfits in detail do you see my creative vision included in every part of the design.
Mahaaba by Label Simar Dugal
Photo Courtesy: Simar Dugal
What are some of the similarities/differences between Arjan Dugal and Simar Dugal’s designs? 
Arjan Dugal is a modern take on silhouettes and treatments, an edgy take with a full creative licence to design modern menswear. It’s self on self — subtle, soft and smart. Simar Dugal in contrast is a celebration of vintage India with a subtly modern take. The embroideries and the prints are an off-shoot of Indian and Turkish motifs derived from chintz prints.
The commonality between the two lies in the prints, the colours, and the motifs of the prints, but the look and feel distinguish themselves very quickly in the final product.
Mahaaba by Label Simar Dugal
Photo Courtesy: Simar Dugal
What is your take on modern ‘ethnic’ menswear collections?
Modern ethnic menswear, in essence, exemplifies the unshackling of previous notions of what men should wear. Creating newer textures, colours and prints that previously men would have shied away from. This is a sort of a catalyst in changing the landscape of Indian menswear from the quintessential ethnic to modern Indian. Also, the swapping of traditional silhouettes to a more contemporary and comfortable one, like the churidar to a pair of slim pants with a now shorter kurta.
How does your label take classical Indian elements and adapt them to the modern style? 
It’s about finding elements that you resonate with, something that defines your style or looks and then elaborating on it in ways never done before. Pin tucks or running stitches, for example, are used to create texture.
What according to you are some of the biggest menswear trends in India today?
I don’t believe menswear has trends per se. I do say sensibilities have become simpler, understated is the way to go. Subtle accents and small details of care are always going to be trendy and classically elegant. Also, a good fit is something that is now just the need of every garment.
What inspires you as a designer?
Everything around me. Artists, painters, works of people in history, creative minds, Older textiles, primarily ones indigenous to India, people’s sense of style, the art of simplicity, Japanese culture, and of course- Nature. It’s a lot about finding what inspires you.
Mahaaba by Label Simar Dugal
Photo Courtesy: Simar Dugal
How has the Simar Dugal label changed/evolved since you’ve taken over? How do you add your design aesthetics to the existing craft that defines Simar Dugal?
There is an enhanced use of thread embroidery, dabka work and experimentation of new treatments, as can be seen on the Chintz lehengas and the Phulkari Lehengas, and there are a wider variety and experimentation of silhouettes, for example, the way Simar Dugal gota shararas are recognized, Simar Dugal gota lehengas are now being acknowledged. The brand has expanded into bridal lehengas, dhoti pants sets etc.
Will there be an Arjan Dugal flagship store anytime soon? Can you tell us about that
Arjan Dugal already has a flagship store in Bharat Nagar, New Delhi which is the ‘Arjan Dugal Studio’ from where I usually operate and have private consultations with Clients. We are now opening a second flagship store in DLF Emporio, New Delhi which is expected to begin operations in the Winter of 2022.
Mahaaba by Label Simar Dugal
Photo Courtesy: Simar Dugal
What’s next for Arjan Dugal?
Can’t reveal much right now, but something cool is brewing!
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