Five years ago, the Indian luxury swimwear market was virtually non-existent. But two young designers decided to make a daring foray anyway. They introduced the one-piece maillot in classic silhouettes and colour blocking when they debuted with their Winter/Festive collection in 2010.
Since then, the maillot and all of their other swimwear variations have flown off the ramps and into the wardrobes of many, many Indian women. Shivan Bhatia and Narresh Kukreja set a trend, and suddenly Shivan & Narresh, the label, became a rage.
Keeping us sexy: Designers Shivan and Narresh are all about catering to the Indian body.
"Over the course of five years, with us opening the market and consequentially people’s mindsets, our styles have become bolder," says Narresh. "But our designs are still rooted to India. They [feature] modesty of cut but boldness of colour. Indian women have embraced the idea as the aesthetic is extremely global but the essence is still very Indian."
After completing their graduation from National Institute of Fashion Technology, Delhi, and their Masters from Milan and Rome respectively, Shivan and Narresh launched their label at Cannes in 2008.
"Initially the thought of moving to India was intimidating, especially after experiencing a more evolved swimwear market in Europe. But there was also an adrenaline rush to start a new category back home," says Shivan. "It was a challenge to work on such an intimate form of clothing back in India where fashion only meant occasion and wedding wear."
But their idea of swimwear that could be worn beyond the pool caught the attention of India. "A maillot, for instance, can be taken from the beach to a resort or a bar by just wearing it with a skirt or pallazzos at the bottom," Narresh says.
"A trikini [bikini bottom with two halter tops for each side of the torso] can be converted into a stunning dress by pairing it up with a pencil skirt or even shorts. A bikini is extremely versatile as a blouse and works amazingly well when paired with our resort saris for the perfect cocktail or destination wedding look."
It is this idea of amalgamating the swimwear staple with the Indian drape that gave rise to their landmark creation: bikini saris. "While it’s perfect for holiday goers for lounging by the beach or pool, draping it over the shoulder transforms it into an incredibly glamorous resort sari that is being widely worn at cocktails and destination weddings," says Narresh.
The bikini sari has enjoyed tremendous popularity ever since it was conceived and has invaded the wardrobes of "young honeymooners to older women in their 40s and 50s who are body conscious."
The duo studied Indian body shapes for over nine months to develop designs that are cut and contoured to fit the Indian body type. Shivan says that this was the most essential foundation to provide confidence to women who even today, have to forcefully fit themselves into standard European and American sizes.
Shivan & Narresh is also the only luxury swimwear brand in the world to offer customised swimwear. "Femininity to us is the effortlessly curvaceous Indian body that needs to come out of the closet and be celebrated," says Narresh.
"Women in India need to be proud of their curves and celebrate this freedom." Looks like their bikinis are already doing the trick.
From HT Brunch, March 15
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