Kunal Rawal and his Take on Functional and Transitional Fashion

Photo Source: GQIndia

Kunal Rawal — the youngest designer to showcase his collection at Lakme Fashion Week, a known name in the entertainment industry for his apparel, and a connoisseur of trendy and avant-garde men’s wear. These are some of the accolades that best describe Rawal’s success in the fashion industry. But, of course, that’s not all.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Kunal Rawal (@kunalrawalofficial)

A firm believer in designs that marry “traditional work of art” with functionality, Rawal strives to provide men with ample options of clothing that can be worn alternatively and that best suit their comfort.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Kunal Rawal (@kunalrawalofficial)

Brown Girl Magazine had the privilege of speaking with the designer himself, as he talks about his journey, unique designs, aesthetics and the inspiration behind his brand pillars.

[Read Related: 3 Gender-Neutral Fashion Trends That are Blurring the Lines]

How did your label come to life, and how long have you now been in the industry?

I have been in the industry for 15 years, from the inception of my first-ever label Dstress to now having our occasion wear label! I was first introduced to the garment export industry and having knowledge of construction, silhouette and textiles, I started my first label Dstress — a youthful men’s contemporary wear label. Parallel to Dstress, I have been doing costume designing for several prominent personalities in the Hindi film industry. A natural next step for me was to create an ethnic-evening wear collection for the modern Indian man.

Which one of your collections is your favourite and why?

I think each collection is special to me in its own way. As a brand, we tend to draw inspiration from what is happening around us at the time and I think that’s why each collection is special in its own way. I think one collection that is close to my heart is definitely ‘Rousing;’ this was the collection we showcased in 2020 at the Bombay Worli sea link promenade. The whole show came to gather really well, and it really did highlight our brand pillars. Being a Bombay boy, we love drawing inspiration from the city, and I think being able to showcase my collection at such an iconic and surreal location really made the clothes come to life.

Another collection that really resonated with me was ‘Bennie & Clyde’ because the whole campaign was shot in New York City — a city I absolutely love. This collection showcased a lot of multifunctional versatile pieces. As a whole, I feel this collection really represents the ‘New Aesthetic,’ with tone-on-tone embroidery, beautiful geometric patterns, and versatile separates coming together to make a great piece; this piece amalgamates everything we love. You can break most of the outfits in the collection and wear them just as a kurta, or a Bandi kurta set, or a 3-piece suite depending on the occasion.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Kunal Rawal (@kunalrawalofficial)

I also gravitate towards this collection because our philosophy has always been that our clients are not bound by geographic location. We design [by] keeping in mind the global modern man and this collection really draws inspiration from both deep-rooted traditional and modern-day luxury, to create the perfect fusion for the modern-day man.

Can we talk about your latest collection, ‘Vision Quest’, which you showcased at India Couture Week? How was this collection different from the rest?

“Vision Quest” touches upon the thought of vulnerability and individuality. As we go through life, we’re constantly trying to find ourselves, and I don’t mean in an existential way. I think occasion wear in the past has been dominated by restrictions. What is appropriate for a man or a woman to wear, what colour will look good on them or what will make them look out of place?  We’ve had to work with these certain parameters to ensure how the garment would look but now the world is changing, and people are becoming more experimental with their looks. This collection is meant for all kinds of people irrespective of their size, shape, the colour of their skin or their gender. Today it’s about expressing your individuality, whatever that might be, and that’s what the label stands for.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Kunal Rawal (@kunalrawalofficial)

Last season we played around with solar pigments, where garments would change colour when hit by sunlight, this season we have played with glow-in-the-dark pieces that are accompanied by heavy embroidery. This is another element that I’m very excited about because it makes the piece more relatable to young India. The idea behind this collection was to make occasion wear fun again. We’ve incorporated new layers of smart design — most of our sherwanis now showcase hidden pockets to add functionality to the outfit. We’ve played around with fabrics mixes like linen, jute linens, cotton-based suiting fabrics, organzas, denim and handloom fabrics. Basically, you will see a lot of new fabrics that have been incorporated into the collection to create new levels of comfort and functionality.

Talk to us about how your father’s sense of style is an inspiration for you and your work.

Well, let’s just say that I think my father is hands down the most stylish man. He will be my all-time muse. He has a very innovative sense of style that borderlines on anti-trend. He’s always been into fashion and clothing, which rubbed off on me, and I strongly believe that has a lot to do with who I am today. What I love about his style is that he takes individual pieces and makes them his own, which has translated into one of the pillars of our label. When you come to our store you will see a lot of individual pieces that can be mixed and matched to create full looks; this is something that we started doing because of him and I think it’s one of our strongest pillars.

Your favourite 2021/2022 runway trend?

Functionality is such a strong trend right now. Consumers are looking for intricate pieces that can translate into more than one look and I personally feel this is the future of fashion. I think customisation and personalisation is another trend that I absolutely love. In today’s day and age, it is so important to be true to yourself, and being able to make your outfit your own with small customisable details is so important.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Kunal Rawal (@kunalrawalofficial)

A fashion faux-pas that you advise against?

The Jali Ganji’s from the 80s, it’s never been in vogue, and I hope it never gets there!

Tune in to an exclusive Instagram LIVE session with Kunal Rawal himself, as we unpack his India Couture Week collection ‘Vision Quest,’ later this month!

By Sandeep Panesar

Sandeep Panesar is an editor, and freelance writer, based out of Toronto. She enjoys everything from the holiday season to … Read more ›