Coming a long way from the Lakme Fashion Week in 2011 and styling remarkable celebrities, Nikhil Thampi has made it known that a formal training is not always necessary when you have the talent and passion for what you love. Through colours, fabrics and a lot of sunglasses, here is a quick glimpse at the fun loving designer’s journey in fashion. He was in town to launch his collection at the multi designer store ‘The Deccan Story’, which is available in their store throughout this month.
How did fashion begin for you?
Nikhil Thampi : It was an overnight emotional decision. I am a psychology graduate and as every Indian boy has to join the family business, I joined my family business which is aviation. But you know, as they say, a creative person cannot be chained to a table and a desk so I was one of that. I gave it two years but I just wasn’t content in the whole atmosphere.
That is when a very close friend of mine was participating in a fashion week in Bombay, and she emotionally blackmailed me to help her. I was on vacation and thought of it as a one-month cool project. That was my inception in fashion, where I had to set up a brand at Lakme and since then I have been in love with fashion. It is a great expression, and a language lot of people use to express themselves. Like you like writing , I am not much of an expressive human being I like being behind the scenes but I love my clothes to have a language of its own and from then since now that’s one brand ethos that we still follow. It has been six years and since you are interviewing me, I am guessing I must have done something right in my career graph which is just ascending and I hope it remains the same way.
“I believe clothes should have a personality; more than comfort or being organic it has to have some sort of personality, durability and versatility that is something we work with”
How has your journey been so far?
Nikhil Thampi: Very good six years, it feels like a dream. Every day there’s something different in the industry and you have to live up to it. I have no technical background, I don’t know the rules of the game. But that is also a good part, I can break it and I can do what I believe instead of what the world does and that’s how I think we are balancing out really well.
How do you adapt according to the competition?
Nikhil Thampi: Here in India, technical support is something I think I lack because my brand ethos is very impactful but technically looking forward I think I am pulled back. I think I need to see and study some more, to see how I can technically advance myself further. I have the intrusion, I have the vision but the execution takes a little bit of time.
Tell us about your new collection?
Nikhil Thampi : This collection we have done here is a mix of western and Indian. Just last year we released ‘SYLPH’, which, I think did phenomenally well and I think its a new take on Indian wear. I didn’t stick to the availability in the market; you see a lot of people do head to toe embroidery, border work but I purposely keep myself away from it; it is not my strong point.
In ‘QUANTUM’ collection, metal work and silhouettes are in focus and the collection is doing amazingly well celebrity wise as well as commercial wise.
What is your take on fashion weeks?
Nikhil Thampi : I think India is missing fashion from fashion weeks. If I can be very honest, I think everything that is happening right now is very retail driven, more commercial driven but the whole aspect fashion is missing. You see a lot of sustainability fashion coming in a lot of organic wear but then organic and sustainable can also be fashionable, it doesn’t have to be boring or homeless looking.
That is something which is depriving me and I haven’t been on a runway show since two years and I am waiting to get back on the runway for fashion I feel is missing in India
I personally feel lot of garments on runway don’t have the wearability factor.
Nikhil Thampi : Absolutely, thank you. Even I am very deprived of a balance in commercial wearability and fashion. We have always followed a protocol for my brand. If it’s a 40-piece collection we divide it into tens. Ten will be absolutely fashion forward editorial friendly pieces, ten that are extremely celebrity friendly, ten pieces for commercial value and ten to express my style and handwriting. So as a client you can pick a piece from any section that suits your taste, I think a balance like this is what designers are missing today.
Collaborations are a huge trend right now, if given an opportunity who/what would you collaborate with?
Nikhil Thampi: Sunglasses. I am obsessed with sunglasses and own almost 700 pair of it. I am also dying to do and fragrance collaboration, I think Indian designers haven’t really dabbled in that field yet and internationally, you take any brand they have an amazing fragrance. I mean, for me it is really important, more than your clothes you need to smell really good.
Do you think Indian men are being more experimental in term of fashion?
Nikhil Thampi: Oh absolutely this is something that I am very excited about. 6 years ago when I did the ‘Cows Kurta’, everyone made fun of it and said no one is going to wear this and now everyone is wearing it. I think the evolution of brand knowledge is definitely here, also I think I must thank social media for it. If social media wouldn’t exist, men would not be experimental and be stuck in their articular zone of it but now men’s wear is just on the bloom and more exciting than women wear.
Coming to your colour palette what inspires you?
Nikhil Thampi: I am colour blind to be honest if you ask me to design a collection, I would do it only in black. But I work on earthy tones, I prefer it also because I think it complements the Indian skin tone, women have these beautiful diverse complexion in our country from olive to fair to white so definitely there is a lot of versatility and any skin tone in earthy tones works the best so for me I love my earthy tones.
If you had to pick one milestone moment what would it be?
Nikhil Thampi: I think we did this Indian collection called Indian punk with kathakali faces, 5 years ago that got me going overnight. I think it was our third collection ever and it just blew out of proportion, post that it was the metal belt that took off really well; these two collections gave me an identity.
One trend you really hate- Low waist anything; if I ever see someone’s butt crack again I am literally going to pull it up
Your celebrity favourite- Anushka Sharma has my heart and soul because she was the first celebrity who had worn my label.
What is the trend of the season right now- Block colours like tone on tone.
What is your personal style like- Very boring and perpetually black.
Four things you don’t leave home without- Perfume, sunglasses, watch and an extra t-shirt.
One travel destination that really inspires you- Italy, any day.
What do you enjoy the most, about your work-The ideation process.
Two people you really stalk on Instagram- Masaba Gupta and Sonam Kapoor
What is your take on social media-Love it I am tagged as an Instagram designer and I am very glad about it, no one has the time to go on the website anymore, it is more about social presence and Instagram is a new platform. The sales we get through social media are phenomenal.