Shop Talk: Payal Khandwala
Shopping is an art. While some love the process, it can be a real chore for others. For a lot of women it’s a social experience, and for some, it’s a very personal one. Regardless of how one shops, though, personal style can never be identical for two people. The way they shop, the way they style their purchases, how they decide what they need, how they store them… these are the kind of questions we often have when we think about some of the most fashionable people in the industry.
And that’s why we’ve launched the column SHOP TALK, where we identify industry influencers with a unique sense of style and ask them to spill the beans on how they think about their personal style, where they shop, what they splurge on, and their fashion weaknesses and confessions!
If ever there was someone in the fashion industry who was an instant #GirlCrush for us, it would have to be Payal Khandwala. Her colourful creations and specific aesthetic have made her fan following grow by leaps and bounds in the mere 5 years that she’s been around (seems like forever, doesn’t it?)
To celebrate her label’s anniversary, she went Back To Basics with her Spring/Summer ’17 collection, and it was epic. Here she tells us all about her personal style, her creative journey, and most note-worthily, how and where she shops.
Congratulations on your latest collection and the label turning 5. Can you tell us a little bit about why Back To Basics, and how the brand has evolved since the beginning?
I wanted to make a concerted effort to concentrate on what put us on the map in the first place. Our unique play of colour, focus on proportions, and emphasis on shape and silhouette are what set us apart. Also, I think because I design clothes that I wear, I make clothes that keep women comfortable and empowered. This is why the language is distinct, because it is authentic.
Over the years, I have tried to give our customer more options for their wardrobe — we offer clothes that will take them from school pick-ups and lunches all the way to dinners, parties, and weddings. We might be the only brand that does that under one label, because I want all the women that subscribe to the DNA of the brand to look no further, especially if they have to dress for any and every occasion.
We’ve also simplified our clothes a bit to make them less intimidating and made them more inclusive, so that they reach out to a larger demographic. Our starter kit would definitely include an easy pair of palazzos, well-tailored shirts, tunics with interesting shapes, a shirt dress, our pleated ponchos/capes, a handwoven sari, and a brocade skirt/palazzos.
How would you describe your personal style?
It’s a combination — a bit bohemian, but also elegant. It’s an extension of my personality — I am quite informal and free-spirited — but I’m also practical and love details. So I think my personal style is an extension of this.
If I had to pick a style inspiration, it would be my grandmother. She was particular and quite stylish; an artist and a seamstress, like my mother, she wasn’t ‘fancy’, but had a subtle sense of pride when she wore her sarees, the way she did her her hair, her bindi…like a ritual almost.
What was your earliest fashion memory?
I designed an outfit for my school farewell party. It was, what one would call today, an epic disaster. Black satin and net, it was an example of everything that was wrong with fashion in the late ’80s!
If not a designer, then what?
A painter, but I already did pursue that… if neither, then maybe a dancer, but I’m not sure I have any discernible talent in that department!
How would you describe your aesthetic in 5 words or less?
Thoughtful, simple, luxurious, dramatic, comfortable.
How did your choice of work inform and influence your style in the early years?
In the early years, it was inspired by street style, my years growing up in Bombay, and time spent in New York and Barcelona made it quite eclectic and also a bit sartorial.
But now I think, subliminally, my art informs a lot of the choices I make when I design clothes and also what I choose to wear. I love colour and pick things that focus on good proportions. I make the clothes I want to wear, so now my style is also rather seamless. It’s rooted in elements that are Indian, but quite global in its spirit.
How do you put together an outfit in the morning?
I wear practically the same thing everyday in different colours! It’s one less decision to make in the morning, so I tend to pick what’s on top of the pile.
I work with clothes every day, so I’m not fussy when it comes to dressing myself. When I go out then I make more of an effort.
Do you shop online?
Thrifting and vintage shopping — is this something you do a lot of?
I absolutely love flea markets, and I used to love walking in the East Village in New York to discover all the vintage stores when I lived there, but I prefer to buy vintage textiles and paraphernalia from local markets in India, Thailand, Cambodia, Istanbul, Kenya, Morocco when I’m travelling.
I don’t really buy vintage clothes as such, I prefer knick knacks, artworks, beads, tribal necklaces. You have to pick (like everything else) things that will work with the rest of your wardrobe. Don’t be impulsive and pick a dress you would never wear, unless you are on a movie set from the ’50s, for instance, or unless you can work around it to make it look more contemporary.
I’m not a big fan of costume dressing for day to day life. It seems like too much of an effort, in my opinion. Unless, of course, you’re collecting for the joy of collecting stuff and you have a lot of space!
Tell us about some favourite thrifted/vintage pieces you’ve found over the years.
I have some beautiful old jackets from Afghanistan, Vietnam, lots of heirloom brocades from India, vintage silver jewellery from India, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, beads from Sudan and Mali, Nagaland and Nepal.
Do you like shopping to be a social thing with friends or is it something you like to do alone?
Now that I make my own clothes, I don’t go shopping that much, but I prefer shopping alone. I’m quick and I know exactly what I want, so I don’t particularly like being slowed down.
Where do you shop?
Mostly when I travel, I like to buy vintage finds from local markets and different cultures. But I’m not a big shopper. And I don’t hoard.
What are the particular items of clothing you prefer to invest in?
I like to invest in vintage textiles from India. I’ve been collecting brocades for almost a decade; in my opinion, they are the king of textiles, and some of that particular type of artistry is lost now, so they are precious to me.
Your most recent purchase?
I bought a vintage Omega from Milan.
Favourite up and coming designers?
I love Péro, Bodice, Antar Agni, and Ikai.
Go-to items in your wardrobe?
Palazzos, maxis, shirts, tunics, easy jeans, and saris. All colour-blocked, of course!
Your thoughts on footwear and accessories?
I wear simple footwear — it has to be comfortable. Handmade sandals are my favourite, and I love men’s mojris.
I love accessories too, and I have a cupboard full of vintage silver jewellery, beads, etc. I think accessories can really complete a look, if picked well.
All of Payal Khandwala‘s latest creations are available at her flagship stores in Mumbai and New Delhi, and at Ogaan in New Delhi.