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June 23, 2024

Interview: Shantnu & Nikhil draw inspiration from 1920’s Italy

Arushi Sakhuja 
The India Couture Week has almost drawn to a close. A nine-day extravaganza, the showcase has set the tone for the upcoming wedding season. On Monday July 31, couturiers Shantnu & Nikhil unveiled their feminine, romantic and alluring collection Etheria.
Etheria Shantnu and Nikhil
Photo Courtesy: Shantnu and Nikhil
Taking inspiration from the Italian town of Sicily, the duo who take pride in their artistic and avant-garde drapes proved their love for eye-catching silhouettes yet again. Romantic lace sleeves completed men’s jackets and vintage-inspired ruffles added dainty grace to the women’s wear couture among other notable details.
Post the show, which revisited the signature Maison Shantnu & Nikhil cocktail gowns with a lens of splendour, we spoke to the couturiers for in-depth insight.
Give us a glimpse into your inspiration for Etheria.
Etheria is reminiscent of our travels across the Sicilian region of Italy and the quaint town of Catania in Sicily. The collection presents timeless elegance and indulgent luxury for the quintessential Shantnu and Nikhil cocktail brides. It is a labour of our love as we bring the best of both worlds- fine Indian craftsmanship with Italian design inspiration stemming from the ornate gilded designs of baroque architecture.
What is the inspiration behind the collection?
Our latest collection is a mesmerizing collection that draws inspiration from the enchanting allure of 1920s Italy. The silhouettes from the collection explores exaggerated ornate veils paired with bejewelled capes and gloves for the cocktail bride, reminiscent of the opulent Gatsby era.
This collection pays homage to the modern-day cocktail bride, elegantly adorned in intricately embellished silhouettes. Our creative ideas often blossom during our journeys, and this particular trip holds a special place in our hearts as it gave birth to this exquisite collection. Catania, especially the Sicilian Region, captivated us with its old-world charm, boasting awe-inspiring ruins that tell majestic stories of the past. Etheria truly encapsulates the essence of classic aesthetics reminiscent of Versailles and Rome, while remaining faithful to the underlying spirit of Italy. Etheria is a celebration of timeless elegance and a testament to the artistry that transcends borders.
Elaborate on the kind of techniques and colour palette used in the collection.
Etheria embodies the perfect fusion of Indian craftsmanship and Italian opulence, creating a captivating blend of artistic expression. This collection showcases impeccable attention to detail, harmoniously intertwined with elaborate motifs to bring an enchanting layer of drama to life. The vibrant and diverse colour palette of Etheria further enhances its allure, with darker shades like royal navy, charcoal grey, and flaming red, specially crafted for the dazzling cocktail bride, destined to shine throughout her enchanted evening. On the other hand, softer, pastel tones like ice aqua, soft mint, and blush hues are skillfully curated to elevate her grace and charm during the day.
What does the S&N bride and groom look like this season?
The S&N bride and groom is a silhouette of the quintessential cocktail bride with a contemporary twist to the traditional Indian couture and ceremonial wear. Etheria empowers them to embrace their roles as protagonists of their own vintage romance.
Fish cut gowns
Photo Courtesy: Shantnu and Nikhil
Tell us about one piece we should look out for and which one you loved creating the most.
We cannot really choose a single silhouette which is close to our hearts as all of them have taken several hours of detailing, embroidery and design to bring to life. But definitely, the gowns are something which we look forward to, as it builds the persona of the quintessential cocktail bride.
You are masters of drapes, what’s in store this time?
In terms of drapes, Etheria captures an extensive array of Italian silks, intricately handcrafted baroque lace inspired by the architecture of Catania. The baroque-inspired work is impeccably executed, incorporating numerous glass beads and white pearls, while the distinctive Shantnu and Nikhil leather has been used for exquisite detailing and embroidery.
Etheria
Photo Courtesy: Shantnu and Nikhil
What is the biggest change that the couture industry has faced in the recent past?
One of the biggest changes in the couture industry in the recent past was the increasing focus on sustainability and ethical practices. Consumers, especially the younger generation, have become more conscious of the environmental and social impact of the fashion industry. This awareness has led to a growing demand for sustainable and eco-friendly haute couture.
Describe your aesthetic in a few words.
Cocktail, contemporary, classic
Etheria Shantnu and Nikhil
Photo Courtesy: Shantnu and Nikhil
The biggest challenge you faced while designing the couture collection?
Our biggest challenge while designing this couture collection was the fact that Etheria was heavily inspired by Italian influences – art, culture, architecture, decor and so much more – than that it was a bit difficult for us to boil it down and just showcase all of it in a collection. Due to this, we definitely think that there will be an extension to Etheria because there is so much more beauty and art that needs to see the light of the day and not a single collection can justify that.
How do you stay relevant in the ever-evolving world of fashion?
The deep-seated emotion of being ‘anti-trend’ within our brand gives us a sense of elasticity to continuously reinvent. Being trend-centric is market driven but being anti-trend is about driving the market and that’s our philosophy.
We believe that disruption and innovation are the only two pillars on which we as a brand stand. From creating an unconventional space for couture, revolutionizing the male ceremonial wardrobe and to now carving out a new repertoire- S&N by Shantanu & Nikhil; we continue to put constant effort to stay relevant and showcase brand resiliency.
How do you plan to pivot for a younger generation?
The younger generation is all about being practical and sustainable. Their mindset is ever-evolving and they always try to integrate the latest trends and the best knowledge they receive even in their wardrobe choices. Therefore it is important for us to cater to these needs in terms of design sensibilities. Creating classic and timeless silhouettes is something that we always include in our vision so that it is suitable for an array of occasions.
Etheria
Photo Courtesy: Shantnu and Nikhil
How would you compare the landscape of Indian fashion with global fashion?
We see significant progress in the recent years of couture weeks in India, as they gradually establish themselves on the global stage. Previously, it was considered to be in its early stages of development, the Indian fashion industry has undergone a remarkable evolution. Indian designers are now embracing new realms of creativity, seamlessly blending traditional craftsmanship with contemporary design sensibilities. By incorporating innovative techniques and materials, the perception of Indian couture has been redefined, captivating a broader international audience.
Nevertheless, it’s important to acknowledge that, when compared to well-established international couture weeks in fashion capitals like Paris, Milan, and New York, Indian Couture Weeks still have room for growth. These fashion capitals enjoy a historical advantage and have long been synonymous with haute couture and luxury.
Despite this, I firmly believe that Indian Couture Weeks possess immense potential to carve a distinct identity in the fashion world in the forthcoming years. With India’s rich cultural heritage and artistic traditions, we can offer a unique and authentic experience to fashion enthusiasts worldwide.
Nowadays, there seems to be a shift towards couture being more casual looking. Is it something you are planning to explore?
We were the first designers in 2020 to launch our pret brand S&N By Shantnu & Nikhil. We saw the shift in preferences, people wanted more from their couture brand and not just a one-time wear outfit.
ret has the same nuances as any other couture brand, the same design language and the aesthetics and luxurious feel to it, even in terms of quality. It’s just that it’s much more valuable to the consumer who is buying it. So yes, of course, couture has a more is more casual-looking aspect to it too.
Sara & Aditya- Shantnu & Nikhil
Photo Courtesy: Shantnu and Nikhil
Adding glamourous to draw the curtains were the immensely talented Bollywood heartthrobs, Aditya Roy Kapur, and the charming and vivacious sensation, Sara Ali Khan.
Ecstatic about walking the ramp for Shantnu & Nikhil, Aditya adds, “Walking for Shantnu & Nikhil feels like home-coming as my relationship with the brand and the designer duo Shantanu and Nikhil dates way back in time. I have always loved wearing Shantnu & Nikhil to parties and other festive occasions as it is a reflection of my personality and style and now that I am walking the ramp for Shantnu & Nikhil at India Couture Week 2023, it all feels like a full round circle.”

The muse for the evening, Sara Ali Khan said, “I am over the moon to be the Shantnu & Nikhil Cocktail Bride for the evening. It is like taking my family’s legacy forward as my father walked the ramp for Shantnu & Nikhil several years ago. The silhouettes and design sense truly reflect power-dressing for the modern Indian bride.”
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The FDCI India Couture Week 2023 kickstarts in Delhi: Day 1 and 2

Arushi Sakhuja

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