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Designers Rohit Gandhi And Rahul Khanna On Revamping Fashion For 25 Years

The designer-duo continue to keep their exotic charm alive even two decades later.

Tejashee Kashyap

It was in 1997 when India was introduced to ace designers Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna's (RGRK) modern, sharply-tailored silhouettes. In addition to introducing sophisticated prêt-wear to Indian fashion, these designers also blended architecture and fashion design, metallic textures with softer fabrics, and structure with fluidity.

Having met at a NIFT workshop and then going on to build a brand together has been an amazing journey for the duo, “We still sometimes don't believe that it's 25 years in the business, it has been a rollercoaster, but a great ride and we are grateful for it,” Gandhi and Khanna tell us.

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The duo was in Delhi to showcase the label’s latest couture collection at the India Couture Week in July this year. “We just wanted to come up with a collection that speaks of our brand DNA and resonates with our clientele too,” they say. With a cocktail-glam aesthetic anchored by sleek silhouettes and a heady dose of glitter, their signature design language has remained remarkably consistent over the decades.

Designing new-age couture

Titled ‘Fibonacci’, the new silhouettes from the couture collection came with a mix of crystals and pearls, sequins, cutwork and tassels. “Our designs have and will always be inspired by art and artists. We have worked on newer silhouettes and embroideries with an amalgamation of art and figures, which is our brand language,” explained the designer duo. There were cocktail dresses and gowns, sheer skirts and trousers paired with belted jackets, jumpsuits, and capes. Even lehenga sets came paired with flouncy blouses and tunic sets while the men wore suits, tuxedos, layered kurta and jacket sets.

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Slits, power shoulders and elements that border on futuristic style and a colour palette dominated by metallic hues and coral, grey, teal and black defined the collection “In our latest couture collection of evening wear, movement marries precision with an architectural penchant for precision, guided by nature’s invisible rule- the Fibonacci wave,” they explain.“We have always worked on geometric and defined patterns. Our designs, patterns, and embroideries have always been very clean and precise.”

A walk down 25 years

Both Gandhi and Khanna are constantly trying to innovate. As a result, they have remained relevant in a rapidly changing market, designing for generation X, the millennials and now gen Z as well. Take for example when 22-year-old Miss India Sini Shetty wore a dazzling silver gown for her crowning moment or when Malaika Arora turned showstopper for their couture collection wearing a midnight blue cutout dress. The distinctive RGRK design language appeals to consumers of all age groups.

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The two open up, “We try and adapt newer styles but our techniques and patterns always hold value. As we said, be true to your brand values, your aesthetics and you will connect with all generations. We have had fathers bringing in their sons to us for their events and it only gives us immense pleasure. Creativity and commercial considerations always go hand in hand.”

It was organic growth and popularity that proved the designers' worth when they started their eponymous label way back in 1997. “When we started it was much more difficult to connect to people, build in your niche and also be commercially out there in the market,” they tell, discussing the highs and lows of the brand.

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“For newer designers, it becomes easier to reach an audience because of the digital world we live in,” the veteran designers believe. With new fashion labels popping up every day on social media, the duo agrees that knowing one's audience, knowing what's best, and working on the brand aesthetic should be of focus. “If your work is unique, it always gets commercially appreciated,” they add.

Tapping changing trends with innovation

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A look into Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna’s designs shows how their aesthetics speak a distinguished language while effortlessly merging into the Indian couture landscape where bridalwear still rules. Their design forte has remained simple and unique - impressing the audience with precision and innovation. “Draped sarees, fringes, tulles, and contemporary sets are going to be the talk of the season. With weddings becoming more intimate, we believe our brides and grooms are looking for outfits that speak their personality and something they can enjoy themselves in,” they share.

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However, having been in fashion for 25 years and maintaining relevance with people from all walks of life is no cakewalk.  It's no secret that changing trends and celebrity styles bring in game-changing numbers, “We don't believe in following seasonal trends. You have to develop your own personal style and have the vision to express it. We love the celebrities who wear us. We think people instantly connect with them as they have a wide reach. This gives us exposure and the brand becomes aspirational,” the duo signoff.

Photo: Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna
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