Fashion designer JJ Valaya at the recently concluded FDCI India Couture Week in Delhi; his latest collection ‘Alma’ pays great attention to detail with ample choice of crystals, antique patina and gold work, rhinestone-encrusted eyes, embellished face nets and hairline, floral halos and glitter lips that speak loud and clear of trends this wedding season

“Sewing being luxury is sustainable by nature”

When people buy luxury, they don’t buy it for a season but love it for eternity. That’s why Indian fashion designer and designer JJ Valaya doesn’t pay too much attention to trends. “Trends are fleeting. He’s here today, gone tomorrow. But when you do luxury, by its very nature, there has to be a degree of timelessness that comes with it. We do a very clever kind of mix in the designs where we keep the timelessness of our pieces and the magic of change just as alive.

This is why tailoring in India is designed for years and years for generations,” says Jagsharanjit Singh Ahluwalia, 54, born in Jodhpur, known as JJ Valaya after joining NIFT in 1989 and launching his eponymous brand in 1992.

Starting out in the rough at a time when the fashion industry was somewhat non-existent, Valaya is now a force to be reckoned with and a brand synonymous with the younger generation. “I don’t want to be stuck in the past and be known as a purely heritage brand, but a brand that connects with today and that’s really what we are as a brand. The Maharani of Kapurthala gave us back visit one day and said, “You really are the future of the past,” he says.

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In the world of Valaya’s impeccably decadent and opulent collections, the values ​​of conscious luxury surround its heritage pieces. Whether he was intrigued by global cultures, especially those related to the spice and silk routes, or by the embroidered and metallic embellishments of Rumeli, Bursa and Alma, where he draws conclusions from ancient civilizations such as the Romans , the Arabs, the Spaniards, the Turks and the Ottomans, he breathes Indianness with aplomb. The latest ‘Alma’ collection is another proof of this creative symbolism.

Starting with 42 pieces, split between menswear and womenswear, with an emphasis on bridal tailoring, the collection pays great attention to detail with a wide choice of crystals, antique patina and gold work, inlaid eyes of rhinestones, face nets and embellished hairline, floral halos. and glittery lips that speak loud and clear about this wedding season’s trends.

Edited excerpts from an interview:

What inspired you to create the new collection?
This season’s collection is called ‘Alma’, which means ‘soul’ in Spanish, and this collection speaks to the soul of our brand. Each piece is a different story. Although there is layered inspiration from the magical land of Spain, each piece has absorbed nuances and details from the past 30 years, from one collection or the other, and I have somehow incorporated them into the final piece. It’s not about cohesion, but about the particularity of it. Traditional patterns, designs from Spain, flowery buns, costumes of matadors in short jackets, patterns on the manton shawl (Spanish silk or knitted flamenco shawls known for their square shape) or the patterns of the fan called pericon have been significantly intertwined with Indian handicraft and embroidery techniques.

What changes have you observed in terms of “cultural fashion” over the past 30 years?
When I entered design school in the late 80s, fashion as an industry didn’t exist. People weren’t used to wearing clothes with other people’s names on them, a time when everyone went to buy fabric, went to a tailor to have something sewn, a time that had no computers or the Internet or fashion publications. We didn’t have fashion weeks, not even a fashion institute. The National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) was established in 1986 in Delhi and it was the beginning of fashion education in India. Now the change has been nothing short of phenomenal. I was lucky enough to be part of these movements from the very beginning. In 1998, we were a handful of designers who thought of a “fashion body” and created the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI).

We’ve seen your illustrious work in fashion, photography, jewelry and now homes – what led to this transition? What excites you the most?
What you call transition, I call evolution. If you feel you can contribute to another discipline in the creative field, nothing should stop you. We have ultimate luxury museum pieces in India, some of which take six to eight months to manufacture. We are working on the JJ Valaya precious jewelry line which will be launched soon. At Valaya Home we create coveted furniture, interior projects and wall tapestries, a large collection can be seen at Leela Palace Delhi, Chanakyapuri, Delhi. Other than that, we have a wonderful licensing collaboration in place, the JJ Valaya and Obeetee carpet line is launching in September and we are working on the second upholstery line with upholstery, and a wonderful and successful tile line with FCML .

Your work is best represented as elegant maximalism.
India is a maximalist country with intricate festivals, food and flavors. Even the original Indian architecture used rocks to create beautiful temples, full of carvings. At the same time, we want to be modern and look cool, so there’s a lot of influence from the west, which is fine as long as you don’t abandon your country, and infuse elements of the west that help you redefine the cultural aspect of where you come from. It’s something I believe in. We practice elegant maximalism: sophisticated, timeless and standing the test of time.

How much has your fashion and design ideology changed after the pandemic?
My design ideology hasn’t changed because of the pandemic, but the pandemic has been a great teacher in teaching us to live in the moment. There’s been kind of a massive josh in people traveling more, luxury booming like never before, people are spending more now. This change is positive for both people and businesses because it has changed the very mindset of people and there is a reversal effect on businesses, especially luxury businesses.

What importance do you give to price levels and collaborations with brands in your label?
We have different kinds of subsections from luxury to bridal couture line to luxury line. Price levels change in all three because we have identified our markets and know what will resonate with them. Brand collaborations, on the other hand, are very important, but only with brands that count to be the best.

Have you created sustainable fashion pieces?
Tailoring being luxury is inherently sustainable. We take months to create something that lasts for years. We don’t like fast fashion. People don’t buy from us today and throw them away a month and a year later. JJV is our accessible gateway line to luxury based on second-hand clothing. Almost 80% of the collection is made from sustainable and eco-friendly fabrics with Tencel Luxe, and has developed fabrics that are both luxurious and hard-wearing, but at the same time eco-friendly.

What is your idea of ​​fashion technology and how integrated is it into the label?
I’m quite a geek actually. Technology can be a blessing or a curse. When you build a website or social media pages, you suddenly have a store all over the world. With e-commerce, you’re accessible to everyone, and we’ve seen traction. There is a significant shift in the digital interaction we have with our customers. But the flip side is when we enter an era of too many choices.



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