For fashion designer JJ Valaya, lockdown has been a boon. When at home, he not only designed a fashion collection for the digital India Couture Week 2020 from scratch but also completed a luxury home project. “There was a required calm with no disturbances and phone calls. We were laid back and that gave me a very high quality time to create something,” he says.
There’s no stopping the 52-year old fashion maverick. He recently launched an all new e-commerce website for his eponymous brand JJ Valaya, and, next year, will open his flagship store, World of Valaya, in Delhi.
LuxeBook celebrates Valaya’s new achievements and looks back at the couture king’s career milestones.
Flashback to the 90s
The year was 1992, when Valaya founded the House of Valaya, a luxury fashion and lifestyle brand after graduating from the National Institute of Fashion Technology. He refers to that period as an era of Doordarshan with no internet and no fashion weeks. India, then, only had one premier fashion institute and the designer fraternity was still smaller but an emerging one. “Cut to now, I can’t stress enough on how India and this industry has evolved since then,” says Valaya.
An online prodigy
The Delhi-based couturier was one of the first ones to launch a website for his label back in the mid-90s when internet was still a new phenomenon in the country, and perhaps a luxury accessible to a select few. He says, “The whole concept of creating a website was very unique back then. And, they were not for e-commerce but for information. Through the years, the site took a backseat and we started paying more attention to real-time stores.” But almost 25 years from then, 2020 is about taking offline and online both, to the next level. That’s how the idea of revamping the virtual world of Valaya was born.
“We treat valaya.com as a bespoke experience. It is magnificent, futuristic and interactive and also maintains our brand’s prime essence of being connected to luxury.” He adds, “People come to experience the World of Valaya and it’s not only about buying. They also see our legacy and journey spanning 28 years, all thoughtfully curated virtually.”
Navigating the site is easy and enchanting. There are Valaya’s popular collections such as ‘Tabriz’, inspired from the mystical Persia of 16th-19th century and ‘Shifting Leaves Chevron’, a range for men and women that resonates with Rajasthani architecture and Art Deco movement. Decadent jewellery and accessories are also available.
“We have launched a couple of online exclusives too. I feel, it is important because there should be something new and exciting on the website.” One is a line of signature men’s shirts ‘Jhalamand House’ and another is ‘Build your own IKA jacket’, a cooler version of Valaya’s cult, limited-edition Alika jackets. With this DIY option, buyers can customize their jackets by choosing a fabric, colour, print and embroidery.
A host of lifestyle and home offerings will soon be up online too. “The whole idea is to establish a virtual World of Valaya,” the master couturier sums up.
For the luxury consumers
Even though, luxury can’t always be bought online, consumers and brands always find a way to improve and adapt. Selling high-end couture often involves dealing with an individual’s preferences and choices. At the physical Valaya store, a client from anywhere in the world can connect with the team to take on-call appointments and video walkthroughs of the atelier.
A similar detailed, in-person experience is offered online as well. “The human touch, detailed appointments, measurements, everything has been done to make sure that we don’t lack in any way and the customer goes back very happy.”
For a majority of buyers, sustainability is going to be a keyword, Valaya observes. This indicates that people will invest in high-quality clothing that they can pull out and use again. “In our case, clients who purchased our garments 25 years back still come back to us to get those pieces altered in their daughter’s sizes.” This is the biggest test a brand can be proud of – the test of time and generations. “There can’t be a finer example of sustainability than this,” he says.
Future of brick and mortar
Also a founding member of FDCI, Valaya thinks that the future of brick-and-mortar stores is bright amidst the thriving popularity of e-commerce. “This is because whatever happens in technology or otherwise, life has to keep its balance intact.” The convenience of e-shopping in no way compensates for the experience of in-person shopping, especially in luxury. He adds, “Imagine going on vacation on a screen vs. flying to the location. Luxury is no different; it activates all senses of sight, sound and smell and for that brick-and-mortar spaces are a must.”
According to the pre-pandemic plans, Valaya and his team were supposed to launch the real-time store in July, followed by the launch of the website. But, the pandemic age has certainly upended all of it. “Now, the flagship ‘World of Valaya’ will open doors in 2021. It will be a very large space, which would house fashion, jewellery, home interiors, art and photography.”
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