This is our best look so far on a celebrity: Shantanu & Nikhil on THE MAN cover star Kartik Aaryan

Shantanu & Nikhil design with a joie de vivre that parts ways from stereotypes, yet always keeping the look au courant even as it bucks trends and caters to one's inner youth

On Nikhil: Black bandhgala with leather details and embroidered tonal motifs paired with denim; On Kartik: Signature Ivory  drape kurta; On Shantanu: Drape jacket with vintage coin buttons, denim and turtle neck On Nikhil: Black bandhgala with leather details and embroidered tonal motifs paired with denim; On Kartik: Signature Ivory drape kurta; On Shantanu: Drape jacket with vintage coin buttons, denim and turtle neck

What is the Shantanu & Nikhil anti-trend?

Every trend has to have an anti-trend helping to break stereotypical notions about fashion, especially when it comes to menswear. It has to be unconventional as a brand while being relevant. Going against what is ceremonial and decorative, towards minimalism, it also has to delve into nostalgia while modernising it with elements that have military chic and neo patriotism, a feeling of egalitarianism where feminine and masculine energies overlap and become one. 

What is the stereotype and what's the norm?

What you see all the time—full embroidered garments, classic shapes, certain structures, old-school shapes. We do the anti-trend of it, what you won't see normally. We brought in drapes, asymmetrical shapes, new fits, tighter armholes, slim shoulder lines, etc. 

Isn't that the natural cyclical nature of fashion?

Everything in the world is cyclical. We brought drape philosophy into menswear. Up until 2014 we had not seen it, the only men's drape we saw was the dhoti, lungi, or the drape of a dupatta. Now it will be cyclical. In eight years or so it will come back. Male cousins, fathers, friends wore loose fits for comfort, usually a pyjama with a drawstring. That hadn't changed for years. 

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What were the innovations you brought in?

Innovations happened when fashion kicked in. For us it was the drape philosophy. Structure meeting drape. A move towards femininity, a look that was provocative and progressive at the same time. By the time the market understood, this become a staple. Every collection has it now in some form. We brought in military-inspired brooches, certain fits, Indian silhouettes. You may call it patriotic chic. Every country is patriotic and political. All army heads wore military clothing with badges. In India, we had the band collar. Nehru made it popular. That had actually been there for centuries, from the time of the Mughals. 

What is the shift?

There’s a paradigm shift from the clothes to the wearer with a touch of minimalism. Every piece needs to narrate a story. There’s a shift from the clothes to the narrative around it. People have started to enjoy these stories.  

Is it the stories that sell then?

Collections do sell for the stories; if a story is good they connect better. For instance while working on an Army-inspired collection, there are badges to reflect heroism. 

What's the current look?

Summer is a smaller capsule, a prelude to Autumn/ Winter. It’s all about reinventing, adding new depth, colour blocking, leather detailing, embroideries, etc. In short, it's contemporary, while avoiding floral prints. 

Your take on sustainability...

Sustainability is the key: We never over produce. We avoid manufacturing what is not required. We add unique elements and freshness to our collections without putting a burden on the planet. In the world of fast fashion (producing clothes in bulk, using extra resources), we believe couture culture (producing only what is required) will come back. 

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Has social media bastardised the mystique of haute couture?

Social media has positives, too. Couture has got an instant platform, you don't need a photographer to showcase a look. You can see and experience the outfit. You can instantly decide if you like something, there's no need to be invited to a show. You can navigate it on your phone and choose if you want or not want to order it. More people get a chance to dress better. 

From where do you get inspiration?

It happens from life. Like riding a motorcycle, seeing army trucks in Ladakh, from travel. Inspiration just happens. It's an existence not a process. There's a lot of reading...going back to certain moments in history that resonate with us and can be modernised and narrated and brought into our collections. 

Fast fashion vs couture...

If fast fashion is a trend now (it's a question mark on sustainability), then anti-trend has to be couture, which has taken a beating worldwide. But it will be back as fashion goes through a cycle. Couturiers could go into a huddle and bring it back. That confidential exclusive experience will come back. Bespoke has already come back. 

There are so many fashion designers out there all doing their own thing... 

Being relevant and being disruptive means we have to be on our toes. There are people thriving on others designs. Designers need to take stock of what their signature is. In our case, disruptive becomes the norm. When we brought in the drape kurta, for example, people laughed, but then everyone was wearing it. Bring in your own take with a tweak, that's disruption. Take men's jewellery, it was a kalgi, a necklace, a pocket square, watches or a cummerbund at weddings. We introduced badges, hangings, specially moulded buttons.  

Disruptive ideas work for younger people. What about the older consumer of fashion?  

Millennials lap it, it's right up their alley. It's also for the aspiring lot, for individuality and upliftment. Different age groups wear our clothing with equal zest. 

Shantanu & nikhils's take

Your personal favourites?

A mix of sport and sartorial, jeans, athleisure

What would you never wear?

Checks, prints, stripes

The best thing about being in fashion today? 

Going to work when it doesn't feel like going to work. Getting paid for what we love doing. Better than going to school. That was more stressful

Formal/casual every man should have

Bandhgala, crisp white shirt


Pictures: Errikos Andreou

Creative & fashion director: Nupur Mehta Puri

Location: Sin City Rooftop Cafe, Mumbai

Assistant styling: Kajal Singh

Production: Neha Ahuja for N2Root


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