JJ Valaya: For Brands to Survive, You Have to be Commercially Viable
Life is lived in its moment, not in these major plans and all, expressed JJ Valaya, when News18 caught up with the celebrated couturier before his show at the recently concluded Lakme Fashion Week x FDCI, hosted in Mumbai.
JJ Valaya who was just wrapping up a video interview before we spoke to him, felt at ease when informed it would be a tete-a-tete with News18. Dressed in an all black ensemble paired with his iconic signature chevron print turban, JJ Valaya gleamed as he spoke about his ‘new love’, his bridge-to-luxury brand JJV Kapurthala. While his first love will always be his brand JJ Valaya, JJV was born out of his love for wanting people to wear his designs for every occasion and not just weddings.
“JJV is a brand new line, it is my new love. What I love about both of my lines is that I get to play with the grandeur of couture with JJ Valaya. Like you know we have been doing weddings. And now imagine we take that same energy and do something which is cooler, more accessible within a certain price bracket and carry the same ethos and DNA. All of sudden you don’t have to be a bride or groom to wear them, that excites me about JJV,” shares JJ Valaya.
What JJ Valaya does with embroideries, JJV does with prints. When JJ Valaya launched JJV, he celebrated the chevron print which went on to become a favourite. While Valaya kept the perennial form intact, he mentioned that he did explore with the print his recent collection. When asked if the recent collection is an extension of his previous one he showcased in Delhi, he says, “Once a brand is established, collections evolve. They can’t be radically different. People who try too hard to make things look different, simply because they feel it is required to appease a lot of people.”
He further adds, “You got to appease the people who relate to you. Be true to them, be loyal to them. People always go wrong thinking, maybe I should do that or do something else and they lose the essence of their own story. I don’t believe in that, I mean if I have a story, I will tell it the way I want to, but I will tell it to you and make it more and more interesting every single time.”
So, does his couture sensibilities gradually blend into his bridge-to-luxury brand? “If I lose my ethos, I have lost my plot. What we do with embroideries there [JJ Valaya], we do with prints at JJV. I have been able to experiment with prints a lot more. And then we garnish it with a hint of embroidery. That’s almost synonymous with the brand. And me creating a garment without any embroidery doesn’t make sense. We just garnish it, we do not overload it.”
To India, With Love
Valaya has always found ways to celebrate India in his brand. And he feels lucky to be born in India. When asked what about the country resonates with him? “I love India. I feel ‘Thank god I was born here’.There is so much here, that I could be reborn several times but still not be able to explore it. Spice route, silk route…so much inspiration,” expresses Valaya, adding, “My only true yearning is to dive back into the past and pull out things that I can assure you this generation has never heard of and redefine them.That way I keep history alive and that’s my small contribution to trying to do that. I don’t want to resort to undue mimicry. I don’t need it, that’s not in my DNA, not my ethos. Only dream is how many people would want to wear me and feel fantastic about themselves, that’s my agenda.”
Business of Fashion
In a world of finding your voice, it’s more important to sustain as a brand too. According to Valaya, a lot of people are trying to do a lot of experimental things, which may please fashion editors and is photo worthy, but in the end commerce has to be kept in mind. “For brands to survive, they have to be commercially viable. Invariably, it all comes down to that. The good ones realise it and become brands and those who don’t realise it become artists. That’s the difference,” adds Valaya.
And the Oscar Goes To…
Whether it is his show or a shoot, it’s like cinema that unfolds in front of JJ Valaya. For most creative people, this is the power of visualisation. They know exactly how it is going to look, how they want to look. And no wonder, the magic JJ Valaya created on screen with his designs created for Queen Ramona in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, received an overwhelming response worldwide. Costume designer Ruth Carter who worked closely with JJ Valaya and his team, bagged the Best Costume Design award at the 95th Academy Awards 2023.
Valaya also went on to Instagram and wrote a heartfelt note, which read as: “We are thrilled beyond words and congratulate the super talented Ruth Carter for winning the Oscar for Black Panther Wakanda Forever and creating history by being the only black woman to win two Oscars! Thank you for making the House of Valaya a part of this magic. We can’t wait to celebrate!”
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