New Delhi: Jaya Bachchan`s "strongly individualistic personality" and Dimple Kapadia`s "nomadic and unpredictable nature" made celebrated couturiers Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla represent the two Bollywood actresses as muses in several of their iconic works.
For many years, Jaya and Dimple wore the clothes six to eight months before any of the designer duo`s collection was released. If Jaya, with her strongly individualistic personality, represented one kind of iconic muse, the other was Dimple. What khadi was to Jaya`s intellectualism and simplicity, zardozi (gold thread embroidery) was to Dimple`s sensuous beauty.
Together, the designer duo has built a 25-year partnership that has included designing for leading actors and actresses, working with directors on costumes for epic Bollywood films, and building a brand that exudes luxury, artistry and Indian tradition.
The two met by chance in 1986. Jani was born in Mumbai and started out as a costume designer in the film industry. Khosla was born in Kapurthala and started out in the family leather business. The decision to work together was taken instantly and their first collection, `Mata Hari`, arrived just four months later.
To celebrate their 25th anniversary year, Jani and Khosla have come out with ‘India Fantastique’, published by Thames & Hudson Ltd., in two volumes - Fashion (Volume I) and Interiors (Volume II).
Known both for their fashion creations for men and women and for interior design, their reputation extends far beyond India: many international celebrities wear Jani-Khosla creations, among them Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, Sophie Marceau and Sarah Brown.
The first volume of ‘India Fantastique’ displays dozens of the duo`s impossibly elegant designs created over the past 25 years, including close-ups of exquisitely crafted details. The second volume focuses on their extensive work in interior design. Their hallmark maximalism runs riot in privately commissioned interiors, which incorporate art, artifacts, antiques and vintage textiles.
The book says that at the apex of Jani-Khosla`s evolution with khadi is their association with Jaya.
"When they first met Jaya in 1987, she was on a hiatus from filmmaking and had created an exhibition of khadi garments with Devika Bhojwani at the Taj Hotel in Mumbai," the book says.
As early meetings cemented into longstanding friendship, Jaya became for many the public face of Jani-Khosla.
"She was ready to embrace a new style of dressing," they recall. It was for her that they made the first 48-panel kurta with 3D zardozi embroidery that dropped near ankle-length, dressing her in it for an appearance at the Berlin Film festival. A seeming contradiction for a short person, this kurta became iconic and widely imitated.
Jaya became their lady in white, commonly appearing in Jani-Khosla chikan (whitework) or khadi garments. By extension, the Bachchan family absorbed and reflected this style - part nationalist, part haute couture.
When Jani first met Dimple, it was as an anonymous and unsung assistant to Xerxes. He was the bearer of garments for her film ‘Saagar’ (1985) and was struck by her beauty.
Recognising her independence, Jani-Khosla saw her personality as "nomadic and unpredictable, highly visible in her freedom".
Like Jaya, Dimple had patronised Jani-Khosla in Mata Hari without knowing who they were now she became central to their design fantasy.
"Creating clothes for cinema stars within their roles, and for the social wear, are two different trajectories: the first involves cinematic character, the second individual personality and style. With Dimple, both these categories merge, for she wears their clothes both on screen and off," the duo writes.
"I started wearing Jani-Khosla around 1986. The entire styling and play of colours is what drew me. Their clothes can make even a regular woman look special. These were the kind of clothes that I would like to wear. This is what I wanted to possess," says Dimple.
Both Jaya and Dimple speak of the manner in which the clothes drape and cover the body; their actually feminine feel.
"There is a great sense of grandeur in their garments. There is also a lot of modesty," says Dimple.
Jaya in turn sees this as Jani-Khosla`s humanity and inherent respect for a person.
Within two decades of their practice, the Jani-Khosla label acquired a legion of admirers, including close friends like actress Amrita Singh, with her highly individual sense of dress, as well as industrialists Lakshmi and Usha Mittal, and the Ambani family.
The duo`s signature proximity to tradition and culture always attracted Amitabh.
"Their belief in the exotic and unique, unexplored, timeless artwork in their land of birth has been astonishing. Discovering and exploring the myriad range of fine workmanship, and then ensembling it with their own, has been akin to adding ornamentation to melody," the Big B writes in the foreword.
An exhibition of the designers` work was held at Sotheby`s London in September to coincide with the launch of ‘India Fantastique’.