Resortwear designer Narresh Kukreja of Shivan & Narresh on sustainability in swimwear and their collaboration with Koovs
The duo who introduced the bikini sari to the world, just launched an athleisure collection
When you're in an industry where there is little to no competition, it is easy to get complacent. However, that has never been the case with designer duo Shivan Bhatia and Narresh Kukreja of swim and resort wear label, Shivan & Narresh. In 2010, when they launched their brand, the concept of resort wear in India’s fashion industry was practically non-existent.
But that didn’t stop them from constantly pushing the envelope and coming up with revolutionary garments like the bikini sari and the mastectomy blouse. Their need to reinvent themselves and evolve with the changing times has been so strong that it has seen them expand from just swimwear to resortwear, event planning and most recently, athleisure. Created in collaboration with Koovs, the recently launched line of jogger pants, tops, playsuits, jackets and shirts, are pieces that wouldn’t be out of place in the designers’ own closets, or so we’re told. This International Bikini Day, we talk to Narresh Kukreja about the future of swimwear in India, sustainability and their collaboration with Koovs.
What would you say is the future of the swimwear market in India?
When we started out, it was a pure passion call to design swimwear. It’s a category that best expresses both Shivan’s and my creativity and design principles. India is a young country. And when we launched our label, fashion in India was all about bridal wear. Swimwear was not something that people thought about everyday. Now, things have changed. Our category, swim and resort wear, answers issues such as body confidence and our country’s history (traditionally, our clothes were always sensual and exposed skin, whereas in the west, it was scandalous). However, over the years, we’ve become restricted as a society and swimwear, while it has a niche audience, is yet to take off in India.
What are your thoughts on sustainable swimwear made using ocean waste?
It’s very exciting. We have been talking to a few vendors about this. We source all our fabrics from Italy, so it’s a bit challenging to coordinate and communicate from here. But our team has their ears and eyes open and you will hopefully see an eco-conscious line of swimwear from us soon.
Are we going to see anymore revolutionary silhouettes like the bikini and resort saris?
Definitely. We’re planning to get into couture this year and we have some interesting silhouettes in mind. We always do things a bit differently and we’ve decided to play with the shape of the Indian lehenga. The new shape is almost like an inverted wine glass. It’s very playful and modern.
How did you venture into event planning?
Our Celebrations wing was born out of necessity. One of our bridal wear customers wanted her whole wedding and decor to go with what she was wearing. She didn’t want to look out of place in her modern outfit surrounded by traditional fixtures and design elements, especially in the photographs. So that’s how it happened. So aesthetically, our events are like stepping into a universe that is an extension of our clothes.
Tell us about your collaboration with Koovs.
We started working on the collection about four months ago. Right from the start, we were very clear that we wanted to address a younger and wider audience. We wanted to offer the Shivan & Narresh universe at price points that were in keeping with what Koovs had in mind.
What is the concept of the collection?
The idea is to dive into the holiday lifestyle of Shivan & Narresh. We have used four signature prints in the collection. This is also the first time we’ve created outfits that fall under categories like streetwear, athleisure and sport.
How challenging was it to work on a new category of clothing?
It wasn’t too challenging. I think it was a section of our design skill that we hadn’t explored. With the collaboration, we just had to reconnect with that. It was like designing clothes that we ourselves wear on a daily basis, as millennial designers.
Tell us more about the prints, colours and silhouettes used.
We’ve created prints called Summer Night, Rose Magnolia and Lush Vineyard, so the colour story is a mix of black, red, skyblue and rose. They’re all summer colours, very conducive to holidays. I would say it’s a maximalist approach to athleisure and street wear. The collection also includes some evening wear.
What did you do differently with this collection?
Ten years ago, a collaboration like this would have meant us diluting ourselves down to high street. But now, it is necessary to surprise people. One must give the younger generation a peek into you as a luxury brand, so that when they grow older, they will become your customers. And that’s what we’ve done with this collection. The approach, design and styling is the same as what we do at S&N, but geared toward younger tastes. Another exciting fact about this collaboration is that there’s a lot of attention to menswear. Almost half of the clothes fall under menswear. For us, it’s still a young category as we only started designing menswear about one-and-a-half years ago.
What are some of your favourite pieces from the line?
I love every piece from this collection so much, that I wanted some for myself. Honestly, it’s what I or Shivan would have in our closets. There are some really cool joggers, bomber jackets, shirts and shorts that I would include in my wardrobe at the drop of a hat.
What are you currently working on?
We will be launching a new category. There are five animals that are part of our logo and each category is based on a different animal. There’s only one animal remaining, that we have not ventured into. We’re turning 10 next March and we’re planning to use the animal as inspiration to launch a new category in holiday lifestyle, which nobody has done so far.