EXCLUSIVE Q&A WITH PAYAL SINGHAL: SHAPING THE FUTURE OF MODERN INDIAN FASHION
EGW Global Magazine | Nov 01, 2023 | 0 | Read Full Article
Discover the world of Payal Singhal, where tradition meets contemporary style in the realm of modern Indian bridal and occasion wear. In this exclusive interview, delve into the visionary journey of Payal Singhal, a fashion maven whose designs have left an indelible mark on the global fashion scene. Explore the unique blend of heritage and innovation that defines her creations and find out what sets her brand apart in the ever-evolving fashion industry. Join us as we delve into the inspirations, milestones, and aspirations that have shaped the Payal Singhal brand, paving the way for a dynamic future in fashion and lifestyle.
In the captivating realm of South Asian fashion, one name shines brightly: Payal Singhal. Established in 1999, Payal Singhal's eponymous fashion house has become synonymous with modern Indian bridal and occasion wear that transcends borders. With a rich tapestry of history and culture as the starting point, Payal Singhal's approach infuses tradition with a fresh perspective, ensuring each collection resonates with the contemporary world.
The quintessential #PSGirl, as celebrated by Payal Singhal, is an embodiment of wanderlust, individuality, and an unapologetically forward fashion sense. She is firmly rooted in her heritage but possesses the fearless spirit to explore uncharted territories. It's this essence that underlines every Payal Singhal ensemble, effortlessly transitioning from traditional to non-traditional settings. The brand's signature aesthetic, characterized by its contemporary and minimalistic design, carries a vintage heart. Wearability, comfort, value for money, and an enduring impact have been the guiding principles etched into each creation.
But Payal Singhal is not confined to the world of haute couture alone. In the pursuit of offering an all-encompassing experience, the brand has swiftly evolved into a coveted lifestyle powerhouse. Beyond breathtaking ensembles, it now encompasses a diverse array of categories, including footwear, home decor, weddings, lifestyle products, accessories, and more.
Payal Singhal, the driving force behind this iconic brand, is a creative luminary whose journey is as inspiring as her creations. Born into a family deeply immersed in fashion, films, and art, Payal's DNA resonates with design. Her grandfather, renowned artist and photographer J.P. Singhal, and her father, the entrepreneurial force behind London Fashions, ensured that creative thinking was not just a genetic trait but a way of life.
Hailing from the bustling metropolis of Mumbai, Payal's tryst with design began at an early age when she sketched her first couture look at the tender age of 15. It was a prelude to her destiny, marked by accolades such as the 'Designer of the Year Award' by Shopper's Stop, with the winning look adorning the iconic Miss World Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. Fueling her innate talent, Payal honed her skills by graduating in fashion design from SNDT Women's University, Mumbai.
Her pursuit of excellence led her to global shores as she undertook summer school programs at The Parsons School of Design in New York and pursued certificate design courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology, also in New York. Armed with a rich reservoir of knowledge, Payal Singhal's eponymous label was born in 1999.
Payal Singhal is a vanguard of innovation, resolutely committed to making traditional wear relevant in the contemporary context. As she puts it, "The quintessential #PSGirl is cool, confident, and a connoisseur of art and culture."
EGW’s Q & A with Payal Singhal
In a candid and insightful exclusive Q&A with EGW Global Magazine, Payal Singhal shares her journey, inspirations, design philosophy, and a glimpse into what excites her about the future of Payal Singhal. Join us in exploring the creative genius behind this iconic brand.
Q: Could you share with us the inspiration and driving force that led you to establish the Payal Singhal brand, with a focus on modern Indian bridal and occasion wear?
Payal Singhal: When we started out almost 25 years ago, there was a vacuum in the market for modern Indian clothes for the younger generation. The only options for young women were to get something stitched by the neighborhood tailor or alter their mother’s outfits. So we decided to fill that void, and younger, fresher silhouettes became our niche. From the first collection which was replete with backless kurtas, cropped kurtas, tasseled stoles instead of dupattas, and other similar silhouettes, young girls could relate to, we have stayed true to this brand philosophy.
I started off in fashion at a time when there was no real platform for design in the country. Social media, fashion week, and celebrity stylists were unheard-of concepts. From that to the current state of the industry, the evolution has definitely been massive.
Q: Your designs are celebrated for their unique blend of tradition and contemporary style. Could you elaborate on your design philosophy and how you approach this delicate balance in your creations?
Payal Singhal: The ideology, from the very start, has been to bring contemporary Indian wear to the fore while still taking inspiration from vintage craftsmanship and sensibilities. It’s all about catering to the modern South Asian woman who is a global traveler and has a strong, inimitable sense of style. I love everything vintage and also India’s beautiful history. But I also feel it needs to be adapted and contemporized for the present generation. Hence, modernizing silhouettes is the need of the hour according to me. So is marrying comfort and fuss-free silhouettes with style. The desire to create something new and spectacular from age-old crafts and techniques is what drives the brand to create a balance of tradition and modernity.
Q: Starting a fashion brand is undoubtedly a journey filled with challenges and triumphs. Could you take us through the story of how you began, your initial steps, and the vision you had for your brand from the outset?
Payal Singhal: In 1992, at the age of 15, I won the Shopper’s Stop Designer of the Year Award with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan wearing the winning outfit. When I graduated from SNDT Women’s University Mumbai in Fashion Design, I won an award for the most elegant collection at my graduating fashion show, Chrysalis. So I basically grew up on the runway and learned on the job.
Ever since we launched in 1999, the focus has been on modern Indian bridal and occasion wear laden with international appeal. While history and culture have always been the starting points, tradition is approached with a renewed outlook to give every collection present-day relevance. I have always had the utmost clarity about what the Payal Singhal brand will stand for since the very beginning — we are about occasion wear for the global Indian. I wanted to make traditional silhouettes part of one’s mainstream wardrobe and not restrict it to occasion-based ethnic wear. The emphasis has always been on wearability, comfort, value for money, and effortless impact. As a brand, we aspire to enrich the lifestyles of those who appreciate art and craftsmanship and are able to be the difference while being trend-setters and real-world, alike.
Spending six years in New York during the brand’s formative years (2004-2010) also bestowed the brand with a distinct ethos and put it on the global map. We have always believed in anticipating the needs of patrons, and that has allowed us to organically grow into a lifestyle brand. We launched a kid’s wear line to fill a void for age-appropriate children’s occasion wear in comfortable fabrics in 2010. Realizing the need to invest in the future, our e-commerce website came in 2013, and we also became the first Indian label to launch an in-house editorial magazine, PS Diary, in 2016. PS Men came about late 2018 and 2019 was a year-long celebration of our 20th anniversary #PS20. This year, we opened our third store in Mumbai, and our standalone outpost in Delhi. We are also just gearing up for our 25-year celebration in 2024.
Q: Your creations often reflect your love for fashion and artistry. How do you nurture your creativity and keep your designs fresh and innovative in an ever-evolving industry?
Payal Singhal: I am a very visually driven person, and textures and patterns (often from art, architecture, jewelry, intricate patterns, and vintage costumes), inspire me. It’s also exciting to translate these into something wearable. To create something new and see a concept turn into a reality also drives me. I am particularly drawn to the Victorian era and the Mughal Era. There is just something about the romanticism, elegance, and conduct of the period that draws me to it. I am also influenced by lifestyle and people—for me, it’s all about visualizing how someone would wear my outfit and adapt it to their needs.
These concepts are strong pillars of my design process, and wanting to constantly create, innovate, and work on something visually different and exciting is what keeps us making new and fresh collections each season.
Q: The design process is an integral part of every collection. Could you give us insights into how you approach designing a new collection, from ideation to final execution?
Payal Singhal: My design process works in reverse to the norm. Silhouettes are the first thing that excites me—this is the first aspect I choose. I then move on to the embroidery and fabric, with the color palette being chosen last. While designing for fashion week is a more streamlined process, I’m constantly looking for inspiration all through the year and putting these together in 3-4 collections a year. I’m forever scouring for visually exciting things, taking down notes, sketching in my diary, and finding inspiration when I travel. My design process is a bit erratic, but there is a method to the madness, and that is what gives every piece its essence and ties it together.
I can’t design in isolation; it’s not just about the sketch for me. For a design to become a reality, it needs to be approached with a 4D attitude. You need to think about the person who will wear your design, the occasion it is meant for, the trend it takes a cue from; the colors, fabrics, and textures it utilizes, how comfortable it is, and whether it is within a justifiable budget. I believe in looking at the entire picture.
Q: Your designs have a distinct appeal that resonates with a global audience. What do you believe sets your creations apart and makes them stand out in the fashion world?
Payal Singhal: I think the fact that the clothes are essentially rooted in tradition but have a more modern and global design sensibility with creative and innovative concepts each season is what makes them so popular with a global audience.
Q: Cultural influences often play a significant role in fashion design. Could you share how your South Asian heritage and cultural elements influence your designs and the stories they tell?
Payal Singhal: The DNA of the brand is a global approach to Indian crafts and techniques which give them relevance across destinations and occasions. Our approach is best summed up as India Modern, whether we are working with Benarasi and bandhani or mukaish, zardozi, gota, nakshi, pitta, or Kutchi mirror work. These craft forms are all used on contemporary occasion wear, creating a medley of the old and the new.
Q: What are some of the most memorable moments or milestones in your journey as a designer that have shaped your path and vision?
Payal Singhal: Winning the ‘Shoppers Stop Designer of the Year’ show at the age of 15. Even after so many years, it continues to be a defining moment in my career as it validated my choice of fashion as a career.
Opening our first flagship store in Manhattan in Gramercy Park in 2005 was another very memorable milestone. It also made the brand very Bombay-New York, which continues to be a distinctive design language of the brand until today.
And recently opened a flagship store in the iconic Kalaghoda area of Mumbai at the very store where I did my design Internship for 25 years back and from the same designer as my landlord was truly memorable for me personally and as a brand!
Q: Your work has a deep impact on brides and individuals celebrating special occasions. Could you share some heartwarming stories or interactions with clients that have left a lasting impression on you?
Payal Singhal: There are so many stories; it’s almost impossible to pick one. But I remember working with a young African American couple for their wedding in New York, and I remember asking who in their family was Indian to understand why they were choosing to wear Indian bridal clothes for their wedding. The bride said, “No one; we just love everything Indian!” And to date, that makes me smile.
I also had a young Indian Jewish bride once who couldn’t afford to buy one of our bridal outfits and was so smitten by one of our samples that it broke my heart to see her not be able to buy it. I let her have it for less than even cost just to make sure she wouldn’t be sad thinking about the dress she loved but couldn’t afford on her big day.
Q: Looking ahead, what excites you most about the future of Payal Singhal? Are there any upcoming projects or aspirations you'd like to share with our readers?
Payal Singhal: We are focused on expanding our product lines and #PSFamily around the world and creating an Indian global lifestyle brand alongside some exciting collaborations in all areas of home fashion lifestyle and technology! So, stay tuned!