An alumnus of the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) in New Delhi, Varun Bahl’s sartorial journey began in 2004 when he launched his eponymous label. He made his international foray by showcasing his Spring/Summer 2004 collection at White in Italy, and was later chosen by the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana (National Chamber of Italian Fashion) to showcase his SS '07 and AW '07-'08 collections at Milan Fashion Week. This made him one of the first Indian designers to ever participate for the calendar.
Varun’s work seamlessly weaves Indian handcrafted embroideries with a modern colour sensibility. His creations come in the form of traditional saris and lehenga ensembles, and contemporary separates such as trousers, tunics, jackets, and dresses. He is known to maintain the lightness of his fabrics instead of overloading them with heavy embellishments.
In 2010, he launched his menswear label in collaboration with film producer and director Karan Johar called Karan Johar + Varun Bahl. He has also partnered with brands such as Audi, Mercedes, and Snapdeal.
Today, Varun’s retail network spans more than 20 outlets, including three flagship stores in Mumbai and Delhi. His designs are much coveted by Indian celebrities such as Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan and Ranbir Kapoor, among others. His latest venture is Aurum by Varun Bahl--a luxury wedding design company that curates bespoke festivities with precision, creativity, and Varun’s signature touch.
CNBC-TV18 anchor Sohila Bajaj chats with Varun Bahl as he discusses the fashion industry’s many challenges and how it shaped his career as a designer.
Here are excerpts from the interview:
Sohila: If you were to look back over your 15-year career, what would you say your biggest challenge was?
Varun: Being a designer in India 15 years ago wasn't easy. It wasn't about the creative aspect, it was the customer's preferences that mattered. The customer in India is very different. Designers then were exposed to the international market and we worked the way the world works. But the Indian customer doesn't shop like the international customer.
Sohila: Now, with so many fashion weeks, a multitude of designers coming in, and the rise in fashion journalism, do you think it is harder to make a name for yourself?
Varun: I guess if you're good at what you do; if you're original; you will stand out.
Sohila: What is your take on clicks versus bricks? Is it better to sell through your brick-and-mortar store or online?
Varun: Online reaches out to a lot more people. It helps to be online because we can't have stores everywhere. And, people living in other parts of the country or abroad cannot travel to the stores to try the products. So, online has its purpose and it’s doing a good job.
Sohila: So what’s next for Varun Bahl?
Varun: I am completely focused on Varun Bahl Prêt, which is a new line.
Sohila: Why the foray into prêt after 15 years of couture?
Varun: I want to reach out to as many people as possible. I want everyone to own a Varun Bahl creation. Not everyone wants couture even if it were affordable. I want to make something that is available for almost everyone.
Watch more episodes of Tailor Made Biz here.This is a partnered post.