JJas he is popularly called, Valaya is one of India’s finest and most enduring designers of haute couture. He can be best described as a nomadic royal. From a student at the National Institute of Fashion Technology to the founding member of Fashion Design Council of India, JJ Valaya completed Silver Jubilee in fashion world.
How does the brand JJ Valaya see the expectations of the new generation?
We are in the business of fashion. So, if you don’t move with the time you would be obsolete. Fashion cannot rest on one period of time and then think that everyone else would change around it. It has to change.
Technology has so much changed the world.
We are living in a digital era. It has literally shrunk the world. There was a time, people used to go to library. That’s stopped. The research is now online. In most cases, actual travel is also not involved. You can literally travel to any place. But, like everything else in life, every coin has two sides. The good side is, there are tools to make everything look stunningly beautiful. The bad side is, with that comes a lot of fakeness. So, it depends on how you use or play it.
When and how did JJ Valaya take to fashion?
Well, at that point of time, because it was the only creative avenue that I saw where one could actually make a living off. Artists never made money. As you know, 25 years back it used to be the khadi-kurta-jhola-kolhapuri-chappal look. They struggled, so art was not an option. Fashion was something brand new. It hadn’t really come in to India. It was getting ready to come in to India. It was an avenue where one could actually research, and I like research. I like to go into the past where I could reinterpret and redesign things from a new perspective. Architecture was another option, and I was studying to be a chartered accountant, but I moved to fashion. I am glad I took that decision.
How challenging is the business of fashion?
I think it is incredibly interesting and buoyant sort of profession to be in. It’s a taxing profession because it requires constant change therefore you cannot rest on your laurels. It is one of those professions where change is imminent and change is fast. So every six months you have to show something new.
How do you draw a graph from the Day 1 to this 25-year-long journey?
Typically everybody likes the graph to go only one way which is up. But that is never that way in life. So we get the beautiful Himalayas happening, so the range is sort of quite amazing, and I think the Everest is yet to come.
What according to you is fashion?
Fashion is a game of psychology, it’s not about clothes, it’s about what you do to me, it’s about how people feel when they wear your clothes, it’s what happens to the attitude, it’s how they start walking differently, it’s how they meet people differently because of the confidence levels have gone up. Nobody looks at fashion that way, everyone says, O what a garment! It’s what the garment does to the person, and that is the onus of fashion. So if I make something, and somebody wears it, and I physically, visually, emotionally felt that the person changed, I know I have accomplished what I had to.
What are the deciding factors what a person is going to wear?
Each one, besides having different physical DNAs, also has a very different mind frame. And you have to look at everything. There’re people who are utterly simple, but want to wear something special for an occasion. You have to see who you are dealing with, and see what best you can do with them. It is as simple as that. If you don’t have a vision, you can’t do anything.
One-Liners By JJ Valaya
- The Everest is yet to come.
- Fashion is a game of psychology, it’s not about clothes.
- Let the clothes do all the talking.
- Never give up on your origins.
Everybody cannot afford a good designer.
What has money to do with design? What happens is, if you show yourself in a certain manner, and you’ve done some credible work which has been appreciated, you’ve been highlighted, you’ve been celebrated, then people naturally assume you’re expensive. However, the truth is that most good designer trades are at par and absolutely affordable. There may be different set of clients, so there’s always something for everyone. It’s not going to be absolute bottom level, though. We’re in the trade of luxury, it will remain that way. But perceptions are mostly out of the place. So, actually one should go and have a look.
Any particular colour…
The colour of Valaya is midnight blue. That’s always been our signature colour. I love red, because I think India is all about red, be it sindoor or the colour of a wedding outfit or anything, most powerfully it is the colour of passion. Blue is the colour of royalty, pretty much our underlined signature. I like ivory because of its versatility. Ivory and black are two neutrals, everything that you wear on these two, it looks fantastic.
Where is he expanding
With a 25-year-old label, Valaya is known for his fascination with royal themes and fine fabrics. He is now delivering wedding themes on locations, having already ventured into Valaya Homes designing interiors. While the essence of Valaya Home is – past must coexist with the present, the thrust in designing weddings is greatly on aesthetics and effective planning.