With ensembles that change colour in the sun, Kunal Rawal is set to present exciting designs in menswear at LFW

The 34-year-old is set to showcase his new collection, Rousing — highlighting a UV fabric — at the finale of Lakmé Fashion Week, which will take place as a sundown show 

Rebecca Vargese Published :  14th February 2020 06:00 AM   |   Published :   |  14th February 2020 06:00 AM

Kunal Rawal

It is not often that one comes across a designer who is so candid about a design flaw in the clothes and textiles he has created. Let alone one that has put together looks for the likes of Pharell Williams, Rajkumar Rao, Shahid Kapoor, Ranbir Kapoor and possibly every other new-age male Bollywood star. But, that’s Kunal Rawal for you. 

Last season, the Mumbai designer had put on display, as part of his LFW showcase, a few ensembles created using photosensitive fabrics. Yet, instead of being hailed for the novelty of his design, the garments flew completely under the radar and went unnoticed. “Sure, it was disheartening at that point, but ideas continue to evolve. I have noticed, in the course of my career, it has always taken me about two or three seasons to perfect an idea and put out a wholesome concept.” However, that is not to say that Kunal started working on the idea just before his Winter/Festive 2019 showcase. “It was something that I had worked on for over two and a half years, and last season I wanted to share my concept as quickly as possible,” he shares with a laugh. Now, a season later, having smoothed out all rough edges, the 34-year-old is set to showcase his new collection, Rousing — highlighting this UV fabric — at the finale of Lakmé Fashion Week, which will take place as a sundown show at the Bandra Sea Link Promenade Garden. 

How much has the collection changed and evolved since you first experimented with the fabric last season?  
Last season, I was very excited and just wanted to share my idea, and the garments turned out to be really expensive. We were still playing around with the UV pigment and were experimenting with it on different things. I dipped my threads into it. I was using it on my surface texture. I was mixing it into the khadi (white coloured paste to print light shades on darker fabric) for my screen prints. Essentially, I was overdoing the solar pigment (laughs). This time, there is more restraint. I have been able to create looks and textures that are retail friendly.

You are known to experiment and manipulate fabric to create your ensembles. Do you think there is ever a bias in favour of textile over silhouette or vice versa?  
I got into fashion and design for the love of textiles, and the process of how the treatment of fabric changes the form and drape of a silhouette still intrigues me greatly. I think the love for textiles grew in me as a child. 

My father had an export house when I was growing up, and on many occasions, he would take my sister and I for ice cream and then drive to the factory at night. I remember being completely enamoured by how the clothes were created. I can also clearly picture the fabric room in the factory and this huge mountain of swatches. My sister and I had a game, we would close our eyes and try to identify the material through touch. I think I was always hooked onto fabrics and now the love has grown. 
Textiles are a very important aspect of garment construction. The way it falls, creases and looks define the final silhouette. This is why it is so important for me to create my own fabrics. I can, then, manipulate it to fit my definitions and my needs.

As a designer who is showcasing at a Summer/Resort line up, colour palettes are going to be vibrant and bright. How do you navigate this space, while keeping your grunge aesthetic intact? 
I think, as a label, our idea of grunge is multi-layered. Yes, we don’t have super bright colours, but this season the collection does have a lot of pastels and sheen. It is the treatment of the fabric that ensures there is a grunge element to it. Some fabrics that I use are washed out, in other cases the embroidery is created using multi-hued threads. Other times I add metal yarn to the mix. There are a lot of things that make something grunge. After all, the style is about being individualistic. 

What are the highlight surface techniques and base fabrics that you have used in Rousing?
There’s a lot of tone-on-tone embroideries. Prints have been enhanced with thread work, metallic surface texture in shades of gunmetal and oxidised silver and gold has been employed. We have developed about 25 new fabrics for the collection. There is cotton linen with a two per cent metallic yarn, I have used the waffle weave. Raw silk is a first-time addition. There are also embossed velvets, mul and neoprene cottons. 

What are some of the silhouettes to look out for?
You can expect to see a lot of our kurtas, kurta shirts, bhandgalas, bundis and deconstructed sets. We have played with the hems and lengths, so keep a look out for interesting hemlines. 

You also showcased your first androgynous designs for women at LFW in 2019. Given that androgyny presents no restrictions in terms of fit and contours and no preset gender-related expectations, how does this shape your process? Do you find it liberating?
Very much. I am glad that the market is opening up to the idea of androgyny and gender-fluidity in fashion. But I think it’s still on a very prêt level. In that sense, you only see women wearing their boyfriend’s jeans or maybe picking up a shirt from their significant others’ wardrobe. I am waiting for when the market is ready for androgynous clothes. I already have an entire line that I'd like to release as soon as there is some momentum. 

Kunal Rawal will showcase Rousing on February 16.