Fashion designer Narendra Kumar, or Nari, as he is fondly known, is the Indian fashion industry’s storyteller. Be it his ensembles or his runway shows, you end up being surprised by almost everything he does. He has been a part of the industry for over 25 years and has been associated with Lakmé Fashion Week since its inception, but the designer still shows the same amount of passion and enthusiasm as he did for his first show.
In an interview with HT Café, Kumar talks about his menswear collection — The Millennials — how demonetisation affected the fashion industry, and why Bollywood still needs designers and stylists.
BOLLYWOOD V/S DESIGNERS
The Hindi film industry has pulled its socks up when it comes to fashion, but Kumar still feels that Bollywood needs help from the fashion industry. “I think a lot of contemporary Bollywood is [fashionable] because of the fashion industry. I mean, there are actors who can act, but I think that without designers and stylists, they wouldn’t be in the same place [as they are today]. Otherwise, we would still be looking at actors [with styles] such as Govinda and Sanjay Dutt,” he says.
Kumar is of the opinion that in this day and age, stars have to look good all the time. “Whether you’re walking into the airport or buying vegetables, you need to look good. It is a matter of your career,” he says.
THE RUNWAY STAR
While most fashion designers choose Bollywood celebrities as their showstoppers for their fashion shows, Kumar says he doesn’t need to follow the same pattern. “My clothes are always my superstars. I never needed Bollywood to do this for me. I believe very strongly in what I make. Maybe for marketing, but I think that it is really not necessary,” he says.
Kumar says that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move to discontinue currency notes last year affected a lot of people in the fashion industry. “It would be stupid to say it did not. As you know, a lot of the fashion industry revolves around weddings.
WATCH: Fashion designer Narendra Kumar shares the Top 5 things a man should have in his wardrobe this season.
If weddings are going to get affected, so will the designers. But people don’t understand that it’s not just about the designer. If a designer made a lehenga that costs about Rs 3-4 lakhs, they employ 20 people. These people work every month, and their kids and their families need the money. By cutting that out, you are cutting down employment, and this is probably the worst effect of demonetisation,” he says.
“I want people to experience different emotions [through my shows]. I made fashion shows when I was in love or out of love; I made shows based on social issues, and also did shows because I heard someone play a piano at 5.30am,” says Kumar, who says he realised the power of storytelling when he narrated the story of his parents on the ramp through his collection. “The show was about my parents. My father is Muslim and my mother is Hindu. It was about how they were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, and how in society today we give up (important things) so easily because we want a cushy and happy life. It was a heartfelt story and it analysed relationships in modern times,” he says.
A FASHIONABLE CHANGE
It is important for designers to keep their brands relevant, says Kumar. His upcoming show embodies the idea of millennials, who are free thinking, spirited and open to experimenting with life. Reminiscing about his journey, Kumar says, “I have been with Lakme Fashion Week since its inception in 2000, and I am here now in 2017. And as a designer, it has been more than 25 years. But even today, I feel the same sense of enthusiasm, pride and nervousness that I felt the first time I did a show.”