There’s few who can combine traditional aesthetic with modern design in every attire, but designer Sandeep Khosla (one half of dynamic duo Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla) does it with skillful ease. In a tête-à-tête with us, he tells all about his work, his love for Bollywood fashion, and a special land that doubles as his inspiration. By Bayar Jain

Conventional runway shows are a thing of the past, courtesy the Blenders Pride Fashion Tour 2019. For its 15th edition, a new face of fashion revealed itself. During the three-city tour, three themes — Craft, Blend and Identity — worked in sync to create a universe of pride. Among the multiple celebrated designers who showcased their work are the dynamic duo Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla, two Indian designers who work in sync to infuse traditional Indian craftsmanship with European tailored silhouette. In a conversation with us at the preview of Blenders Pride Fashion Tour 2019, Sandeep Khosla talks about this collaboration, his love for Bollywood fashion, and a special land that doubles as his inspiration.

1. Tell us a little bit about your collaboration with Blenders Pride Fashion Tour 2019.

We’re celebrating 15 years of the Blenders Pride Fashion tour, and we’re [Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla] doing three special shows. Our theme is ‘My Blend, My Pride’. The entire event revolves around pride; the pride of being together for 32 years, our brand, everything that we stand for, the work that we do, the things that we have redone. Blender’s Pride wanted to do something spectacular this year, and they wanted to make it special this year by having four specific shows. So, there’s us and there’s two other designers — one in Hyderabad and one in Kolkata. We’re doing one in Delhi where a number of designers are going to be celebrating pride, and they’ll be talking about what their take on pride is.

2. What’s your take on the 2019 Blenders Pride Fashion tour theme?

We’re very proud of what we do. We’re proud of the karigars who work for us. We’ve taught them new techniques, we’ve learnt a lot from them, and they’ve learnt a lot from us. We’re very proud of the chikankari that we’ve reintroduced into this country and into this world, and making it a bridal garment today. We’re very proud of many, many things! So, pride fits in really well with Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla as a brand. 

3. Where do you usually travel for your design inspirations and why?

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2018: Here comes the Bride! What a year it was for Love. Sonam Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra and Isha Ambani stole a million hearts dressed in Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla couture at their weddings. Each one, a vision of impeccable grace and immortal romance in exquisitely detailed, custom ensembles that paid perfect homage to their formidable beauty, personalities and spirit. They had us swooning then, and we continue to swoon even now! @deepikapadukone @priyankachopra @sonamkapoor 33YearsOfAJSK . . . #abujanisandeepkhosla #abujani #sandeepkhosla #journey #memories #milestones #highlights #anniversary #design #fashion #culture #craftsmanship #classic #handmade #handembroidery #brides #ishaambani #deepikapadukone #priyankachopra #sonamkapoor

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In my home; to the things around us. We love travelling; in fact, we’re travelling all the time. India has been our muse, and India is so diverse. That’s why our show is called ‘My Blend, My Pride,’ because we’re blending various Indian crafts and cultures together, and bringing them together as one under Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla.

For this particular theme, I travelled inside my head. This time, we’re going to be addressing textiles, which got lost in transition some years ago. Now, we’re revisiting our roots in a certain way. It’s the second part of an edition we did last year, where textiles was our main theme. 

4. What’s your take on sustainable fashion, and do you see a rise in consumer awareness regarding this?

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More from ASAL – an extravagant extension to Abu Sandeep's legacy! The beauty of these ensembles lies in their ability to transport us to other eras and myriad moods and destinations whilst remaining absolutely current and twenty-first century. They contain the past in the eternal now and carry stories of glamour in the details of their craftsmanship. #33YearsOfAJSK . . . #abujanisandeepkhosla #abujani #sandeepkhosla #journey #memories #milestones #highlights #anniversary #design #fashion #culture #craftsmanship #classic #handmade #handembroidery #asalbyabusandeep #delicateembroideries #youthfulrange #fineclothing #contemposrary #timeless #everflowing #imagination #classical #traditionalsilhouettes #ananyapanday

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It’s all really good that sustainable fashion exists, but I’m not really clear about the rules as yet. There’s still lots of grey in sustainable fashion. I mean, what really is sustainable? I’ve had lots of panel discussions and conversations with various friends and designers on this. We will be getting towards it very soon, but at the moment, we’re all about crafts.

5. How are you incorporating sustainability in your labels?

We do khadi, and we work with lots of pure cotton. We’ve worked mostly with only pure fabrics.

6. When it comes to Indian styles and patterns like Ikkat, Phulkari, Chikankari, etc., which one is your favourite and why?

Chikankari, because we’ve revived it. Of course, bandhani because we started our career by keeping it in its un-crushed form. Bandhani is done with hands and has little knots. When we started 32 years ago, we didn’t iron out the sari and, instead, kept it the way it was. So, it was unfinished — something that was unheard of in those days. Now, it has become a trend. 

7. If you had to source all your fabrics, designs, and styles from only one Indian city, where would you go and why?

Only one Indian city? Timbuktu, wherever it is! I’ll go to my La La Land, and invent and reinvent things there. I would even go to Jaipur, but I wouldn’t get everything in Jaipur.

8. Milan, London, New York and Paris are considered the fashion capitals of the world. Which, apart from these four, would you include in the list and why?

I think it’s about time that some cities of India become a part of it. It’s been long overdue. The West is constantly inspired by us. All the embroideries are done in our country, all the technique goes from our country. It’s just that nobody has been back here, so we’ve not made it as a fashion capital yet. But, we should have a fashion capital in India itself. I suppose it’ll be Mumbai or Delhi. 

9. If you had to bring any past fashion trend back in style, what would you pick?

I love everything! We’re always inclusive in our fashion. Bollywood has a huge influence in our lives, from the past to even today. Meena Kumari was somebody we idolised, Jaya Bachchan and Dimple Kapadia have been our muse. Now we’re addressing daughters, and grand daughters. We’re proud!

10. What, in your opinion, is going to be the biggest fashion trend in 2020?

It has to be surprise. If I lay it out, then Chandni Chowk would be having it on before I could do it. 

11. Your top three places around the world for retail therapy?

Paris, New York, and of course, London. Our retail therapy is not buying clothes. Our retail therapy is buying junk, visiting antique markets, and doing all kinds of thrift shopping. 

12. Can you share a few trousseau tips every bride should swear by?

The can-can that can’t. You know the big can-can which have a life of its own? Ditch it. Don’t ditch the beauty, the confidence. Just be loud and proud.

Related: Designer Payal Jain Tells Us About Her Globally Indian Success Story