Fashion for the heart

Renowned Indian fashion designer Salim Asgarally, who presented his collection ‘Colours of Life’ at the Dubai Bride Show, chats with City Times about his latest designs

By Vijaya Sukumar (Contributor)

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Published: Thu 24 Apr 2008, 12:01 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 2:45 PM

WOMEN AROUND the world nurture and cherish their family, be it as a daughter, a wife or a mother. She is the binding force that holds the family together. Understanding her crucial role in society, renowned Indian fashion designer Salim Asgarally presented Colours of Life, his Spring Summer line for 2008 at the Dubai Bride Show yesterday.

The main theme of the show was to highlight the importance of the Dubai Health Authority’s Go Red for Women Campaign. The objective of the campaign is to spread awareness of the prevalence and risk of cardiovascular illness amongst women which is as high as 8.6 million deaths each year out of a total of 17.5 million.

A bride symbolises hopes, dreams and aspirations as she steps into a new phase of life with a heart full of love, ready to take on the role of a wife and mother. Inspired by this theme, Salim presented a vividly vibrant collection of Arabic jellabiyas, sarees, kameezes and Indian bridals.

He chats with City Times about his latest collection and its theme.

What prompted you to support this particular campaign and incorporate it as the central theme of your fashion show?

A client of mine is a doctor associated with the campaign and I was quite taken up with this endeavour by the Dubai Health Authority. My family has had a history of cardiac problems and I felt it was really nice that this area was being looked into. In general women’s health is neglected as compared to everybody else because they are so caught up with their families. So to be able to concentrate on something of this sort was quite commendable. I thought that it would only be appropriate for me to dedicate my show to the effort so that is how I decided to collaborate and be part of the cause.

How have you incorporated this in your collection?

The collection is called ‘Colours of Life’ and it focuses on the different colours in a woman’s life. It expresses a woman’s beauty and innocence through the myriad colours that are being shown in the collection. Especially red which I think stands for the woman’s heart and the campaign also says the same thing so I thought it went very well together.

Tell us something about the designs in the collection.

The collection is both Indian and Arabic with a little bit of Western. We have sarees, jellabiyas, kameezes, dresses that can be worn both as kameezes and party dresses and we have Indian bridal, which is the heavy Indian lehenga. Arabic jellabiyas have a lot of Indian touches, in the sense the embroideries are Indian, the feel is Arabic, the silhouette is Arabic but there is something that denotes the coming together of these two cultures which have lived together for centuries. There has always been a trading relation between India and the Gulf that has been kind of brought out in the jellabiya itself. This collection is specially designed to bring together years of cultural assimilation between Indian and Arabic people. The Arabic jellabiyas have been created in hues of yellow, maroon, red, turquoise and silver and gold with beautiful Indian embroideries and so also the range of sarees, which are coupled with long-sleeved vintage blouses.

Would you say that being an Indian designer gives you an edge in this region because of the connection that you speak of?

I think it is an interesting edge because the minute you step out of a particular culture and become a part of something else, you bring with you a lot of other things, which create very interesting dimensions. That is what I have seen happening over here.

How do you maintain the balance between ethnic and Western sensibilities, especially while catering to a global market?

You can never deny the reality of your roots, where you come from is your truth. That has to show up in the sensibility of your garment, your silhouette can be very contemporary, very Western but the sensibility, where this outfit comes from, the inner feel of it comes from your roots. You just have to be yourself and let it come through and that by itself brings about the balance.

How exciting is it for you to bring your collection to Dubai?

It is a very interesting medley of people and cultures coming together over here and as a designer I find it very stimulating. When you step into a place which is different culturally you automatically start absorbing and learning a whole lot of new things and that gets incorporated somewhere into your creativity. It doesn’t happen at a conscious level but when you sit back and take a look at your collection you realise you have done something very different from what you have been doing earlier. It shows the influence that a place and its people have had on you. This is what I see coming forth in this collection.

What is your perception of a bride as a designer?

As a designer I see a bride in beautiful colours. I do not see a bride in white because traditionally from our roots and where we come from brides and weddings always mean colours. It’s about colour coming together in all its different hues; it’s about a lot of embellishments. For me a bride is not one that is very simple and minimalistic embroidery, I believe in a bride looking like a bride, which is like an Indian bride.

What kind of embellishments, silhouettes and fabric have been used in this collection?

We have played a lot with the trapeze silhouette, and most of the kameezes have been cut on the trapeze line. We have used a lot of gold and silver be it in accents such as appliqué, be it in thread work and the use of gold and metallic silver fabric in frills. We have used a lot of knife-edged frills through the line. These are the two areas that differentiate my collection from the previous one and give it a very nice edge and feel.

You have diversified into prêt-a-porter, couture, bridal, men’s wear and home accessories. Which do you find most challenging personally?

Design, I feel is something which is all-encompassing and can lend itself to a whole lot of things. It’s just how you apply your mind to it and it’s about filling up a space, be it about dressing a body or dressing a house. When you have done something over a long period of time and then you start something new as in working in a different space automatically you find it very stimulating. So for me when I started doing lifestyle about four years ago I found it a whole lot of fun. Then we started bags and shoes and I enjoyed that as well. I’m always looking for new and different challenges; maybe I’d like to do a whole lifestyle hotel some day, like Versace.

What kind of a woman is your muse?

It is a very strong woman, in terms of her sensibilities - where she knows what she is about, where she is going and what she wants out of life. It is that kind of inner character and beauty that I appreciate.

How would you define style?

Personal style is an inner expression of who you are and there are certain truths of yourself that come across in the way that you project yourself and in the way that you dress and the style mantra that you adopt. Try to fake it and you will go wrong, but if you are honest with yourself you will automatically find your style.

You are one of the few formally trained designers in India. According to you how important is training vis-à-vis natural talent and experience?

Design is something you cannot learn in school because it is an intrinsic ability, a talent and gift, but it has to be honed and it has to be technically correct. You have to learn the tools of your trade - you have to know how to cut patterns, what makes your garment drape better etc. One learns all the nitty-gritty and technical details in school, without which you may be very talented but you may not be able to bring out the best of your talent. That is where training and formal education in design comes in.

Salim Asgarally’s Spring Summer line will be on display at stall ZQ28 from April 24-26 between 2.30pm to 10.30 pm at the Dubai Exhibition Centre

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