PeepingMoon Exclusive- Would continue to evolve by introducing Artificial Intelligence to make the consumer experience more nuanced: Designers Shantanu & Nikhil

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After acing 20 years in the fashion biz, designers Shantanu & Nikhil never ceases to amaze us. The duo recently stunned us with their breezy, edgy and fast-paced Spring/Summer 2021 collection at the FDCI x Lakme Fashion Week 2021 that will easily strike a chord with the millennials.

In an exclusive conversation with PeepingMoon.com, the designer duo opened up on the fashion scenario after the pandemic, their untapped avenues and of course their latest collection, #SNSafari.

Recommended Read: FDCI x Lakme Fashion Week 2021: Breezy, edgy, fast forward to millennials on the move at the Shantanu & Nikhil show

Excerpts from the interview.

1. What served as an inspiration behind this collection?

Having completed one year in this enriching journey, S&N with much gusto now presents- #SNSafari a collection that reinforces the celebratory & blithe spirit of the brand. An idyllic backdrop of ‘celebration on the move’, a travel-inspired undercurrent & a new found tandem between folk and funk, #SNSafari is a celebration of oneself, of the journey and of the destination. Inspired by the notion of gaining ground amidst the humdrum of life, and exhibiting a sense of tranquility through chaos, #SNSafari depicts a structured yet controlled madness, bringing order to disorder. The collection draws inspiration from millennial musings on the move, adding an exhilarating hint to one’s luxury getaway wardrobe featuring unique design details for both men and women. Earthy tones, unconventional silhouettes and signature S&N attributes like off-beat details and bold drapes take the centerstage in a calming mélange of safari-chic styles. From asymmetric kurtas and cropped jacket shirts for women; to open cut sherwani’s and structured shirts with Nehruvian details for men, #SNSafari is a fun gamut of ultra-modern styles. Given the global sore that still grips us to an extent, for this collection we wanted to focus on a more uplifting storytelling- one that offers a sense of aspirational escape and transcends these current breaks to a place more tranquil yet spirited. Inspired by the notion of gaining ground amidst the humdrum of life #SNSafari is an experiential narrative of travel where we invite our audience to celebrate vicariously.

2. How do you think a virtual setup is different from a traditional runway?  Did you face any challenges?

If ever there was a time to turbocharge digital it is now and we are very glad that the format of showing fashion has moved towards a digital platform. Having been doing physical shows for 20 odd years now, we do miss that excitement, the back-stage rush, the sound of applause from a cheering crowd at the end of the show, we do miss that essence! However, with digital showcases luxury has become a lot more wider in its reach and more engaged with the audience. We are transcending geographical boundaries and tapping into a newer, larger audience which would not be possible in the physical format. Digital runway shows were long overdue and we are now challenging ourselves to create immersive virtual experiences while keeping alive our emphatic storytelling even on digital. For us, this digital model of a showcase definitely democratises fashion, makes it more accessible and furthers the brand-to-consumer equation.

3. How is this week’s digital FDCI X LFW different from the previous edition?

Newer times call for newer actions! The post-pandemic landscape has left us reimagining newer ways to collaborate within the industry. We for one believe that fraternity collaboration is the future & what better than the fraternity’s two gigantic players like FDCI & LFW coming together for a unique ‘phygital’ fashion week. This will be the very first-time LFW has collaborated with FDCI & done a digital edition, at such a scale that this not only sets a precedent for the fashion weeks to come but opens up the market to newer & better opportunities.

4. With people embracing the new normal do you feel virtual shows are the way to go?

The curtailment on movement casted light on the power of the digital space & e-commerce and its plausibility to become the central sale driver for luxury brands. While ‘Digital’ has been used synonymously with ‘future’ for a long time now, a consequence of the pandemic was also a sudden press for acceleration towards digitisation. Now with three excellently executed Phygital Fashion Weeks on to the 4th one, perhaps this is what the new normal is looking like. The digital fashion shows with how well these were executed across the globe are most certainly here to stay!

5. How did you and the team managed to pull off the rehearsals/ dress fittings amidst the norms of social distancing?

Fittings weren’t as extensive as they used to be, we got all our model measurements pre-hand and managed everything through phone conversations. As for the rehearsals, those happened on the day of the show itself, all precautionary measures were ensured. 

6. Do you think the global pandemic will change the look of fashion fests and red carpet events now?

Fashion, now more than ever is being looked at as a fraternity of global impact and community for change. We have integrated this shift in our philosophy & are now envisaging a future focusing on art, creativity, sustainable development and collaborations. There has also been a paradigm shift in the way consumers feel about fashion now, they are far more emotional in their choices and responsible in consumption. Thus, brands are required to forge a more inclusive and conversational relationship with their consumers.

7. How do you feel the pandemic of Coronavirus has changed things in the fashion industry? Do you feel these changes were long due?

The pandemic for us has been an opportunity to learn, grow & evolve. In this constant effort to stay relevant and showcase brand resiliency, we are now embracing a more seasonless model of design. We are understanding our consumers better by studying their purchase behaviors, needs and expectations from our brand. We have taken our core beliefs and democratized luxury in the new normal.

8. With perfume already ticked off your list, what new unexplored avenues can we expect from your label?

While the last year brought with it the 20-year mark on our brand journey, it has been a year of new endeavors for us and furthering this philosophy we are now expanding our footprint within the luxury industry by foraying into the world of fragrance.  From effectively launching our new bridge-to-luxury celebration-wear brand S&N by Shantanu and Nikhil; to recovering revenues, rebuilding operations, launching new stores; and even adding a fully functional e-commerce website to go the digital way, we demystified the chaos from the pandemic to open newer avenues for both our brands. We are continuing on this brand journey of redefinition, reinterpretation and expansion. Today, we have a platform where SAP-integrated data and technology talk to each other in our ongoing quest to bring consumers closer to the brand and its overall experience as an omni-channel network. We would continue to evolve around this vertical by further introducing Artificial Intelligence (AI) in order to make the consumer experience even more nuanced. Democratizing Fashion to now revolutionizing celebration-wear, with S&N we are furthering our edgy, global narrative!

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