What's keeping you busy lately?
(Smiles) I've been working on my next bridal line and a collection that I am packing off to Paris. Summer is a very hectic time for me.
Is your collection for Paris, contemporary or traditional?
I don't ever do anything that's completely contemporary. There's a traditional touch in everything I create. My prêt line is young and sporty, my bridal line is becoming more and more traditional.
Aren't Indian consumers getting more inclined towards wearing western clothes, what with the influx of international brands?
It's the fashion market, as a whole, that's expanding. We can't ignore the power that these stores have.. they can retail at large numbers.
If you ask me, Indian designers are still doing a better job compared to foreigners. We design clothes with the Indian body and shapes in mind.
Westerners can wear a black dress with stockings for evenings during summers, but we can't. We are not cut out for the shapes and silhouettes of Chanel and Versace.
Do Indian designers feel threatened by competition from foreign brands?
Our price points are far better and that's where we have the upper hand. Overall, I'm glad that big brands are making an entry into Indian markets. They make us tougher.
Critics say that your work is getting repetitive...
Every creative person goes through dry spells. It happens all the time.. at times, your palette is a void. At times, your inspiration goes for a toss. You feel like taking a step back. It's a stark reality every artist faces.
But let me add that I don't work on predictions. There's never been a time when I've thought, "Oh this is ‘in fashion' in Paris, so I should replicate it."
Go on. I'm all ears.
There is certainly pressure when people come up and ask, "What's new?" But that hardly bothers me. I create my own handwriting, my own thumb rule.
Yes, one does tend to get repetitive with that. For example, M F Husain's paintings cannot look like Anjolie Ela Menon's.
Your motivation has been textiles and crafts. What is the situation of textiles and handlooms in India today?
When I started off, the core motivation was from textiles. Handlooms are in a bad shape. But then from having no work, to the present 16 million craftsmen in operation, is a huge number.
You're on the board of the Fashion Design Council of India. Can something be done to even out the Delhi and Mumbai rivalry?
Don't even go there. It's so boring to go on and on about that issue. We do need to consolidate our base.. but you know that won't happen.
Any other art form that inspires you?
Ah, that's a nice question. If I hadn't been a designer, I would have been a painter. I know it's cliché, but I'm a fan of M F Husain. I draw inspiration from his colour palette. I also admire Anjolie Ela Menon, Ravi Verma, and Arpita Singh.
Film-maker Deepa Mehta is your cousin. Your son, Ashwin Kumar, is a director too. Ever thought of making a film?
(Laughs) I'm from Bengal. It's difficult to belong to the land of Satyajit Ray and not be moved by his films. Film-making runs in our blood, but I'm happy being a designer.
I've designed for Deepa's films and Ashwin's films. Making films is more exhausting than designing.