Designer-duo Dev and Nil's summer sub-collection Jal Jangal talks about the plight of tribals
Designers Dev and Nil, known for their quirky experimentations with organic and natural fabric, working with surface texturing and silhouettes, are most well-known for their signature prints — such as, a print of the ubiquitous Calcutta yellow taxi, which was, in fact, the brainchild of their brand, Dev R Nil. Now, 15 years down the line, the progressive couturiers, who carry forward a streak of eccentricity in their fashion sense, still keep up a healthy love for reinventing themselves with each collection. Early this year, the designer duo, who love making sartorial political statements, came up with a politically charged Cat series to usher in the spring-summer season.
With May setting in, the designer duo recently unveiled a sub-collection for this summer called Jal Jangal, of the Jal Jangal Jameen series, which will define the theme around which they will work this whole year. Nil, one part of the designer duo, did an exclusive shoot of the Jal Jangal series with Indulge at their sprawling Reymount Road studio, near Alipore, and held forth a hearty chat on what defines their work , this year’s summer styles, and their grand plans to foray into men’s designer underwear. Excerpts:
Tell us about your latest Spring Summer 2019 collection.
It’s a sub-collection of SS’19. Since India has a tropical climate, we end up wearing summer clothes for seven-eight months of the year, and every couple of months, we like to have new inclusions in our collection. The first installment was the Cat series, which dealt with the politically charged atmosphere we have right now, with deep mistrust reigning supreme. We used cats with their eyes looking at each other with suspicion, to create a mood where no one trusts each other. The Jal Jangal series is also a continuation of the same mood, with all stories interconnected.
So, what’s the Jal Jangal collection all about?
Jal Jangal Jameen talks about the plight of the tribals. We have seen lately how these people are being displaced in the name of development, with forests being destroyed, leaving them without a livelihood. So, this line features the interplay of colours including aquamarine blue, turquoise and green, with bamboo leaves used in a specific way to project that fading away through optical illusions of patterns and colours.
When are you coming out with the final installation of the Jameen series?
Jameen is yet to come, and it will be dealing with topography and nature as a whole. We are planning to present all three together in the upcoming season of Lakmé Fashion Week.
What have you stressed on the most in your new summer collection?
Fluidity is the most important part of our summer line, and there is a lot of use of summer-friendly fabrics including linen, georgette and cotton. The silhouettes are not clingy, but there are a lot of dramatic elements like the shimmering effect of water, and busy foliage print patterns, which talk about Jal (water) and jungle. Regarding silhouettes, we have to keep in mind the age group of our client base, which ranges between 18 and 60 years, and so there are cropped tops, trousers, throws, travel throws, saris and jumpsuits. Nonetheless, it’s not a mish-mash, but a well-thought-out line catering to all.
What about the summer menswear line?
For men, we are still sticking with the political Cat series, and from Jal Jungle series, the same prints will be modified and seen on jackets, kurtas, shirts and trousers, since our prints have no gender identity.
As designers, how much have you changed and evolved over the years?
I think, with every season, we have changed, and now, we are all about responding to whatever’s happening around us. And, with every season, we challenge ourselves to experiment with and discover newer textures. Over the years, we realised that print and texture are our strongest points. We played around with all kinds of conceivable print patterns — be it stones, doors, windows, taxis and sunglasses. Now, you see so many taxi prints, but we started them! As designers, we feel that we must explore all avenues of design. We are not bothered about our signature style, and we want to evolve with time — that’s what defines our clothes. We thrive in challenges, and the whole thing is about being relevant to the younger clients, who are key to survival.
How do you deal with design lifts or copies?
It’s flattering, and we feel privileged to be trendsetters. If you are copied, you must be doing something right.
Do you actively engage in sustainable fashion?
The whole idea of sustainability has been quite a talked-about issue. In the past 15 years, we must have done something sustainable to be still around. We source our fabrics locally, be it printing techniques or weavers, and try to upcycle scraps to create new fabrics. To this end, we have collaborated with an NGO Ek Tara in Tangra, where locals will be recycling scraps and create textured fabrics. One of our biggest achievements is that we are one of the most compliant fashion houses in the country, with all our workers getting Provident Fund and healthcare packages.
What are your fashion tips for this summer?
Wear breathable fabrics like cotton, linen, and cotton silk or linen silk, for evening wear. Stretch cotton-printed pants are very much in this summer, and you can try printon-print, same-print different colours and solid on print, which will look good. The colours that are popular this season include jewel pops, white to silver to grey, yellow, aqua and teal blue.
Moving ahead, what are your plans as a brand?
We are planning to get into men’s lingerie, introducing fun prints with quirky styles. There’s no strong underwear fashion brand in India. Besides this, were are looking to open more stores in the main cities, and have small format stores in smaller metro cities, where our prints work.
Hair & Make-up: Abhijit Paul; Model: Damayanti Giri; Pics: Satwik Paul; Costumes: Dev R Nil