Fashion is a subjective palate of expressions that can either look like a disaster or a magical dream, when put out for the world to see. And therefore, the eye to create something new, unique and redefine conventions, is a step that fashion designers are beginning to take nowadays.
Recently, I caught up with the young and talented sister duo Divvya & Nidhhi that have come a long way, in their journey of wanting become amidst one of the best fashion designers in the country. Their energy and passion to stick to their core, whilst breaking into newer avenues, shines throughout the interview…
Tell me a little bit about how did it all start. How did Fashion become a passion?
We come from a fashion background. We had that label before we came into Bollywood. We’ve done fashion weeks, been a part of Wills which is now Amazon. We’ve also been a part of Lakme Fashion Week now for 7 years. We were actually wedding designers to represent the country at the Japan Fashion Week back in 2011. But somewhere deep down we always knew that we wanted to do films. We had this love towards showing our work on screen. So it was definitely planned, not accidental for sure. We are from Delhi and not Bombay Girls. It was a slow and steady move and things just came to us with time.
What were some of the struggles you went through, if any at all, to crack into the industry?
Well, we are the first ones to have a business venture in our family. Having our own studio and our own label was something new for people around us. But we learnt it all at our own cost, because having a label is not just about you being creative. It’s more about the management of the idea. We didn’t have any business or fashion background. We had our own hiccups and our share of mistakes, which we learnt from and moved on.
Now you’ve featured your collection at the Lakme Fashion Week. What was it like when you showcased your work at LFW for the first time?
We can’t tell you those few seconds. It’s another high and you have to experience it to know it. We can’t express the feeling. But I think, after doing the number of films that we’ve done and after featuring at the Lakme Fashion Week for years, it’s difficult to pick out the best thing that has happened to us. Just to see your name on the big screen or that few seconds of a walk on stage, gives you that gratification. But in today’s times, if you feel you’ve arrived, you’ve reached that saturation point. So you should never really feel you’ve arrived. There is always scope for improvement and better work. I remember our last show we did (it’s been a while), we definitely want to go back and do more fashion weeks and shows. The best review we’ve heard about our work, is that we’ve outdone our own fashion sense. And that was perhaps the biggest compliment to receive. We had out marked all the previous fashion weeks we had done in the past and raised the bar. Even in films we intend to do the same, but it also depends on what kind of film you are signing up for.
How different is it working on a film set with the costume and production department, as against a fashion show or a live stage display?
Both are extremely chaotic. If you go backstage you’ll know how crazy it gets, where in a split second things can go wrong. You can’t think twice in the moment as it’s all about taking a call while it’s all happening. But in films, Bollywood is very chaotic. We’ve done international and Hollywood films which is a little more organised. So in that sense, we’ve had the best of both world’s. But the thing is, people just love the chaos over here much more, and that is what keeps them going. So you start getting a sense of it and living with the chaos and making some meaning out of it. There are so many things happening while you’re shooting, there’s so much drama, and sometimes there are multiple arguments taking place, but by the end of the film it’s all worth it. From our own experience, we just forget it and don’t give it so much of importance. Because, ultimately what really matters is the end product.
You’ve worked on films like Fukrey 2, Banjo, and as recently as Daddy with Arjun Rampal. What was it like working with Arjun? And how do you capture the essence of the costumes based on the character? What thought went into it?
It was a real treat to work with Arjun. Of course, every star comes with their own set of baggage and even we had our share of stories that we had heard before we actually went on to meet him. We had notions that he might not be an easy person to work with. But with us it was completely different, mainly because Daddy was not a film about him looking good or like a hero. It’s more character driven and also because he’s the producer of the film, which made him more responsible in every sense, to be an actor and less of a star. He completely trusted us, as he had submitted himself to his character’s personality, and was willing to let us transform him in order to achieve that. He told us “I don’t want to be the one telling you to do this. I want you to tell me how to look the part”. Him and us were always in sync from day one and we are not exaggerating. We remember his reaction during the first round of fittings and he was absolutely blown away and so impressed with our designs. Because we had actually made an entire wardrobe for Arun Gawli, and he wasn’t choosy at all. In fact, there wasn’t a single outfit that he didn’t like or approve of. And that is something we had never experienced before.
The director trusted us with the fact that we knew our job and exactly why we were there, which made things even more easier for us. Therefore we were lucky in a sense how well we gelled with the team from day 1, as everything looked to be in perfect sync. From the director to Arjun, we could sense that comfort level building as the days went by, as against those times where you work with a big actor and you’re just doing your job and not enjoying it. But in Daddy, things were different. We actually took it so personally and upon ourselves, as the film is really close to our hearts. Somehow it didn’t feel like we were actually working. Even though it was chaotic and very exhausting, there wasn’t a single day where we didn’t enjoy what we did, because of the way we were treated and how well the understanding between us and Arjun happened to be. So in the film, you’ll notice that there weren’t many fashion elements, but there was a lot of detailing that went behind creating those outfits. Back in those times people were not dressed in such a flashy way, but their clothes had so much of a story and detail attached to it. And to recreate that, was definitely a challenge. Also, because we come from a designing background we get to make them all from scratch and put them together, to give it an interesting touch. The film is not about bell-bottoms or kurta pyjama. Every single thing has been detailed, which even the director told us – “don’t make him look like a star”. Every character has a back story, and why they’ve been placed for the manner they’ve been presented in the nature of the script.
I also stumbled upon your fashion label WALNUT. The name is very interesting. Tell me a little more about it.
We were very lucky that we got everything to do together. We started this venture together and we had this vision of portraying what fashion means to us. The idea wasn’t to do a lehenga or a saree, just because there’s a market for it. That of course gets you more money, but it wasn’t our sense of style. When we started this, we always understood it differently from the rest, as we had a lot of people around us, especially friends, who discouraged us. They would always ask “how will you manage to sell this or who would buy it?” But the truth is, if you don’t believe in your own product, you can’t sell it. Back in Delhi we had the most niche cliental coming to our studio, which were very regular and they were all very high society clients.
The best thing about WALNUT is, what you see on the ramp is very wearable. You can take it from the ramp to your home, as there were so many more designs and customisations we were doing because people starting loving our label. Vogue picked us for the first, second and third collections and that being three in a row, was a huge deal. What we were designing was something that others started emulating. And through all of this, we realized that designing something should showcase YOU and what YOU stand for. When that personal identity makes its way, you create your own market. We are known for our prints, for our structured dressed and we were often doubted. We always believed that because you don’t have it, people don’t know about it. It’s our first baby starting this venture, and we definitely want to go back from where we begun.
What plans for the next couple of years from here on. Are you working on another film soon?
The best part is that we’re two of us, so we always want to do more than one thing. We are always doing two feature films at any given time. Right now what we’re working on is a completely different thing. It’s different from clothes and films. We’re working on an online portal and developing a software, where you can go and design your own shoe. We’ll be giving customers more than 200 material options and there can be end number of permutations and combinations depending on your preference and taste. And while you’re designing it, you can actually see it happening on your screen. We’ll be delivering it at your doorstep. It should be launched sometime next month, as we’re currently in the test run mode. It’s called the Naked Shoe Company. We remember when we conceptualised the name WALNUT as well, there were a lot of people at Fashion Week coming and telling us about how much they loved it. We wanted to be something apart from Divvya N’ Nidhhi. So many would turn back and tell us “are you the designer of this, because I wear Walnut”. And that has always been the aim – for people to know the brand, not just our names.