They had the cream of Mumbai society at their 10th anniversary celebrations recently. Relatively low profile by choice, you will not find Monica and Karishma splashed across the media. And yet their designer creations have been worn by virtually every A list star or celebrity in India from Aishwarya Rai to Deepika Padukone to Gauri Khan — they have every high profile name on their clientele list. The front row seats at their recent showing were occupied by the likes of Roohi Jaikishen, Farah Oomerbhoy, Gayatri Oberoi, Monica Garware, Schauna Chauhan, to name a few. Excerpts from our conversation.
Congrats on your 10th anniversary. Why have you maintained such a low profile all these years?
Thank you! Well, it hasn't been a conscious decision. As it is, as designers we'd much rather let our work do the talking. We love what we do, and so we do a lot of it! Our time in the studio is sacred.
Let's trace your story. How and when did this interest in designing clothes begin and how did the two of you start collaborating together?
We've always been creatively inclined. Fashion and design have always felt like a natural extension of our personalities and how we express our artistic bend. So, this seemed like a natural progression. We met via mutual friends and hit it off immediately. As it goes with creative people, we started bouncing ideas back and forth with each other. The decision to start working together only felt obvious. We started out collaborating with and researching for major labels across Europe and eventually, the world. That journey was so rich, eye-opening and immersive, we realised that the only way to carry this experience forward would be by returning home, starting our own couture label that was rooted in Indianness yet had a global DNA.
Maria Grazia, the artistic director of Christian Dior spoke very warmly about the two of you in her speech. Can you share some memories of your association with her?
Oh, there are so many! But in the 20 years of us knowing Maria Grazia, the one memory that really stands out to this day is the very first time we met her. Back then, Maria Grazia and Pierpaolo Piccioli were heading the accessories division at Fendi, and we were just fledgling designers with so much passion and enthusiasm to taking India's legacy of craftsmanship to the world. MG saw our work, and told us she believed in our vision and talent. Coming from a powerful presence like herself, it was all the fuel we needed to keep going. Since then, there has been no looking back for us. In a way, she helped us lay the very foundation of our careers, and to this day she continues to be a mentor and guiding light.
The Indian fashion industry has evolved so much over the years. Are there any local designers whose works you admire?
We really admire Rohit Bal's work! His work is so refined and distinct. The attention to detail and stellar workmanship in his outfits is just brilliant!
What about internationally, any designers who have impacted you over the years?
It has to be Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto. Rei Kawakubo is an icon, a visionary and her work is so radical. And the way Yohji Yamamoto plays with silhouettes and draping is simply inspiring. Both these designers have taken Japanese avant-garde aesthetic global in the most stunning ways.
You specialise in heirloom pieces for modern brides. How did this interest in bridal couture come about?
What makes any object special and unique to its owner is its heirloom value — the ability of an item to retain its beauty and carry on from one generation to another. This is especially true for bridalwear — since so many emotions are attached to it. Garments stop being mere objects and instead become storytellers, and over time that becomes a legacy. We wanted the brides of today to have something like this, something they could cherish, that would bring them and their future generation a unique sense of warmth. During our time with international couture brands, we found a keenness to make our mark in India, and couture and bridalwear are very well-intertwined together here. But, we also noticed a distinct lack in subtle, understated and eclectic bridalwear - something for the discerning bride. So, that's how our foray into bridal couture came about.
What kind of woman can carry of your clothes? Any celebrity icons who have recently sported your outfits? Can you talk about your experience with them?
We'd like to think that our brides are very discerning and evolved in their sense of style.
What is life like for Monica and Karishma outside of work?
We love travelling and immersing ourselves in different cultures! It's important for us to diversify our perception of the world and take ourselves out of our comfort zones constantly. And travel gives us the privilege to do that. Apart from that, yoga and meditation. Our personal lives are all about quality time with the family.
On a personal level, who are the designers that you wear?
Karishma: I love Dior, Tibi, Preen, Sandro and Maje.
Monica: I have a preference for Dior, Marni and Stella...