I’ve fused history, art, fashion in new project: J.J. Valaya (Interview)

By Madhusree Chatterjee, IANS
Friday, February 11, 2011

NEW DELHI - India’s ace designer J.J. Valaya’s new line defies his known vocation. The collection, he says, is a glimpse of 500 years of the evolution of the capital presented in contemporary photographic frames but it comes with a special line of classic clothes too.

It took six months of research and four months to put the collection together, said Valaya of his new collection, Decoded Paradox, which has been created specifically to capture the historical progression of the capital.

The accompanying label is JJ Valaya Vintage, which is up for sale, the designer said.

The project comprising both black and white and coloured photographs is a fusion of the past and present - history on today’s streets of Delhi - photography and fashion, he said.

I hate drawing boundaries around myself. The creative sphere is boundless. After two decades in fashion, I felt I was at a moment when I could look at it from a creative professional’s point. Fashion is one one part of it, Valaya said on his turning photographer. Henceforth, he will be both - a designer and a photographer, the couturier said.

Valaya’s inspiration is Danish designer Lars Larsen, known for his art photographs. He is the only other designer who has published anthologies of his art photographs, Valaya said.

A National Institute of Design (NID) product, he draws his artistic roots to the canvases he painted as a boy in school.

My father was in the army and we travelled across the country. I painted on canvas. I might even come back to those. One must do anything you want to express oneself creatively, Valaya said.

The designer does not believe in the inside one room. In my dictionary, there is no one room, but several rooms. I believe in inhabiting them all together, Valaya said about his fondness for art, fashion and photography.

The 43-year-old designer who launched his label JJ Valaya in 1991 in India and JJ Valaya Life abroad after graduating from NID, is known for his opulent bridal trousseau and rich formal wear. He set up his store in 1994 and diversified into home furnishings and tapestry.

Valaya is steeped in heritage, his clothes drawing their spirit, motifs and embellishments from India’s rich traditions. It spills into his photographs as well.

I took one year to put it together. Whether it is my fashion or photography, I spend a lot of time on research. I picked up subjects that have existed in the capital for the last 500-600 years and tried to put them in the present context, seamlessly, he said.

Valaya has transposed a Maharaja on the streets. There is a composition of a Maharaja sitting on the streets of old Delhi surrounded by musicians. I have brought two different periods of time together in a single frame. Placing history and the present together had to be handled in a delicate manner, he said.

Making the fusion seamless was a challenge, he said. When you are living in a particular period of time, everything belonging to that period of time is relevant. The past seems irrelevant. Casting was one of the challenges; it had to fit within the nature of the shoot, Valaya said. The designer used a Pentax camera for the shoot.

I cast my characters well in advance, designed their costumes and developed some of the locations. But there was an element of surprise - while one location would be planned, the others would be unplanned.

Valaya has created a special line of clothes for his photography project. It reflects the relevance of the period - Mughal and Rajput clothes that they wore when they came to Delhi. I have been through books and sketches to assemble intrinsic images, he said.

Valaya Vintage clothes, he said, were already selling. People want to wear vintage clothes; there is a demand for classic clothes even today.

Valaya is now doing two things at the time: sketching for the 2011 fall winter collection and thinking of his next photography project.

But I want to take Decoded Paradox to Paris, New York and London, he said.

The two-city exhibition opens Feb 16-18 at the Olive Bar & Kitchen in Delhi and in Mumbai 25-27.

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