As he embarks on his twenty fifth year as a fashion designer , Rohit Bal, one of India’s best known celebrities talks about his tumultuous journey that has taken him to the pinnacle of success in his chosen field.
The designer recently celebrated his twenty fifth year with a mega show at the Hyatt’s Living Room in New Delhi where he did up the interiors in his characteristic flamboyant style and had his special list of celebrity invitees like Arjun Ramphal, Sonam Kapoor, Priya Paul, Aatish Taseer, Ajay Bijli, Shabana Azmi, Umang Hatheesingh among others dressed up in Bal ensembles created for the occasion.
He says,” I think the most challenging task when I started out in the early eighties was to create an Indian designer label, to create clothes that sold by the name of the person who created that outfit was a concept that didn’t exist at that time in India.
Basically the handful of us who started out in the early eighties like Suneet Varma, J J Valaya, Ritu Kumar for instance, had to create ourselves as designers and there were many barriers to break through before people recognized what we were doing.
At the time when I started out fashion designing was not really a profession. There was no glamour, money or fame attached to it then.” Now more than two decades down that road, Rohit talks what it takes to become a successful designer in India.
Q: What would you say is essential to succeed in the fashion industry?
R B: Talent alone is not enough. Of course you have to have talent, a huge amount of talent but it is also about the whole package around you. You have to be able to market that talent, you have to have a charisma that will set you apart, a streak of eccentricity, talk well, showcase yourself to people, dress well. And then again all this must be an intrinsic part of you; you cannot just be a pretender.
The one person who inspired me and was my mentor was the late Rohit Khosla who was truly a genius and was single handedly responsible for creating the Indian fashion industry. He had a personality that would light up a room when he entered it. You simply could not ignore him. Sadly he died too young. There’s a never ending list of qualities you have to have if you want to achieve success in this field.
Q: How would you define your personal style ?
RB: Simple classic and very individualistic. If I could, I would restrict my fabric to Mulmul and Khadi and my colour palette would be only ivory or ecru. I would not even use a colour. But my collections and in my shows , you will see a extravagant , opulent , super dramatic and larger-than-life canvas , that is my creative side. Personally, I am simple and close to my roots but the creative exuberance and excess is also a part of me because that comes to the fore in my shows and my clothes. So there are different facets to me and contrasts like drama and simplicity, opulence and minimalism all combine to make me what I am! But yes deep down I think I am a simple, even childlike person.
I weep very easily. I weep at all my shows. There is nothing I can do about that. I just am someone who cries easily. I am emotional. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Q: Over these twenty five years, you have done so many shows, how do you feel at the end of a show?
RB: Every show comes with great challenges and a huge amount of very hard work. The audience only gets to see the glamour of it all but every show has at least six months of painstaking labour behind it. There is so much expectation from me and when the show is over and I get a standing ovation, there is a sense of exhilaration and deep gratitude and relief. I hope I never get blasé about it – after all this is what I live for! Which is why I have wept after all my shows. That’s the way I am and will always be.
Q: What is the overriding emotion when you look back?
RB : One of wonder . I cannot but ask myself where did all the time go? Where did it fly? That’s what I look back and wonders. It’s been such a great journey and one that just swept by so swiftly.
Q: Do you have any regrets or is there anything you would do differently when you look back at the twenty five years gone by?
RB: No earth shattering regrets. God has been very kind. Every moment has been incredible. I still feel bang in the middle of it all. May be I wasn’t a good businessman, I didn’t have a mind of an entrepreneur, I still don’t. I am into fashion because I love doing it. But then again, I won’t be who I am if were that way and I love being me.
Q: What would you say has been your most memorable moment of the twenty five years gone by?
RB: When the glimpses of recognition first started coming, people walking up to me asking for autographs and taking photographs. It felt amazing and I was overwhelmed by the amount of love and support and appreciation for my work that people showed me. All the attention was heady and it was nice then, not anymore. Now I wish for a more private life.
Q: What lessons have you learnt from this journey?
RB: There have been so many lessons learnt, both personal and professional. The most important being that the world is not such a nice place as I expect it to be and at times it is more beautiful than I expect it to be.
Q: You recently celebrated 25 years in fashion, tell us how?
RB: I invited my most cherished and people I think are the most stylish, 25 men and 25 women and did a grand photo shoot and a party. I dressed up every one in mulmul outfits, because it’s what got me the recognition and I still love it the most, mulmul. We converted the living rooms to appear as the main hall of a palace and it took 3 nights and 4 days to complete the decor.
Q :How does future appear to you on professional and personal front?
RB: The future appears for me to be living on a beach. I see the ocean, the sky, peace, calm, serenity. I feel the freedom of spirit. I see love in the time of pollution.
Images provided by Rohit Bal
Written byShashi Sunny
Shashi Sunny has been a writer and journalist working in a senior capacity in many leading publications such as PEOPLE magazine and Magna Publications such as Society Savvy and Stardust. She has interviewed a wide range of celebrities, achievers and newsmakers for these publications. She has over 25 years proven expertise in writing and communications and organizing hi profile events. A post graduate in English Literature from Lady Shri Ram College New Delhi, Shashi has also taught English Literature at Delhi University. She is currently freelancing for several publications.