For someone who has famously designed costumes for 350 Bollywood movies, has a furniture line, and a very characteristic design vision, Rocky S is poised to reach the stars as he embraces a fashion world that is redefining itself by the minute.
By: Suman Tarafdar
Posted on: February 15, 2023
Not many who follow Bollywood will forget Raveena Tandon in the song ‘Tip Tip Barsa Paani’, draped in a yellow saree in Mohra (1994), creating one of the most memorable moments for many fans. Ditto for Hrithik Roshan in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001). For almost 30 years, designer Rocky S, who was responsible for their looks, has had a starry presence in Indian fashion, his oeuvre reaching well beyond his work on Bollywood stars. Best known for the precision of his construction technique, meticulous design details and dream-like finish, he has been a favourite with the fashion conscious in India. Balancing cool and cheesy, high-end and accessible, basic and trendy, brand Rocky S has carved its own niche.
His collection is designed for the contemporary generation with an Indian blend. It is created by using a balance of colours, tints, forms and vision that redefines a wearer’s beauty. Featuring signature patchwork handcrafted embroidery with the label’s botanical print, his exquisite beaded deep neck blouse is paired with an airy organza saree, combining tradition with a modern interpretation of femininity. In an exclusive interview, he sheds light on his journey, where Indian fashion stands now, and the possible directions ahead as technology comes to play an increasingly larger role, even in fashion. Excerpts.
Suman Tarafdar: With Covid having a far-reaching impact on many sectors, including fashion, how has it impacted your design sensibilities? How has the impact of the pandemic been on the Indian fashion space, if any?
Rocky S: The COVID-19 pandemic was a challenging period, yet it provided me with an opportunity to delve deeper into self-discovery and explore new avenues for my designs. I am eager to immerse myself in the rich cultural heritage of India and become a part of the tradition of creating stunning wedding attire for brides and bridesmaids. The joy and happiness on their faces as they walk down the aisle in my designs is truly priceless, and as I delved deeper into the art of sketching and creating, my passion for this work only grew stronger. It is with this inspiration that I embarked on my festive collection.
The pandemic has had a significant impact on the Indian fashion industry. Supply chain disruptions and temporary store closures have resulted in a drop in sales, and economic uncertainty has also had an impact on consumer spending. However, it has caused a shift in consumer behavior, with an increased demand for comfortable, casual clothing. Our industry has had to adapt and pivot in response to these changes, as well as hasten the shift to online shopping. Despite the difficulties, Indian fashion brands have demonstrated resilience and are gradually recovering and adapting to the new reality.
ST: At a time of rapid changes, e.g. in technology, lifestyles, etc, what are the priorities for the Indian fashionista? What is she looking for?
RS: The Indian fashionista is a constantly changing market with shifting priorities. Currently, Indian consumers prioritize fusion wear, which combines traditional and contemporary styles, sustainability and ethical fashion, comfort, and versatility in clothing, affordable luxury, and technology-enabled shopping experiences. They need apparel that is high-quality, stylish, and reasonably priced. They also desire clothing that is versatile enough to be worn for a number of events. With a growing middle class and increased use of technology, Indian consumers are looking for a seamless shopping experience that blends traditional and modern styles while emphasizing sustainability, affordability, and convenience.
ST: The Indian design market at the moment seems to be dominated by the wedding market. Do you see this as a positive for the sector, and you, especially in the couture space?
RS: The wedding market's dominance in the Indian design market can be viewed as both positive and negative. On the one hand, it provides a significant source of revenue and a platform for designers to showcase their collections but has the potential to limit creativity and diversity. Wedding market demands can lead to designs that are heavily influenced by traditional styles rather than pushing the boundaries of innovation. Designers must balance their focus on the wedding market with a focus on practical, wearable fashion that is well-suited to modern lifestyles and emphasizes innovation and diversity.
ST: As you have had extensive experience designing bridal couture, club wear, accessories, and for films, what have been the differences in designing for each category?
RS: When it comes to design, each category presents its own set of challenges and opportunities. The emphasis in bridal couture is on traditional styles, cultural sensitivity, and practicality. Clubwear is all about incorporating the most recent fashion trends into daring and bold designs. Accessory design necessitates a careful balance of form and function and in film design, costumes must reflect the theme, tone, and mood of the character while also being functional and able to withstand the rigors of film production. Each category is distinct and necessitates a different set of skills and considerations, making it a dynamic and exciting field to work in.
ST: How do you see technology as an opportunity to enhance your work?
RS: Technology is undoubtedly changing the fashion industry and providing us with new opportunities to improve our work. We can streamline our processes and become more efficient with virtual try-on, digital prototyping, and the ability to optimize our supply chain. Not to mention the impact of technology on customer engagement and sustainability. We can ensure we're not only creating alluring art but also being responsible and sustainable by using technology to connect with customers and track our supply chain. Overall, technology is a valuable tool for us as designers.
As consumers become more conscious of their environmental impact, I anticipate a continued emphasis on quality, craftsmanship, and sustainability. In addition, technology will play a larger role in the industry, with designers using digital tools to create virtual try-ons, optimize supply chains, and connect with customers.
ST: From the time you started, how has Indian fashion evolved in directions, influences, market size, sector expansion, etc? What have been the major milestones for you?
RS: Indian fashion has undergone a transformation in the last 30 years, moving away from traditional designs and towards a more contemporary and global approach. The industry, now worth more than $100 billion, has expanded to include not only traditional garments but also accessories, footwear, and beauty products, with e-commerce seeing significant growth. International trends, traditional Indian textiles, art, and cultural heritage have all influenced the fashion scene, resulting in a fusion of traditional and modern styles. Technology has also contributed to the evolution of the industry, with designers using 3D printing, virtual reality, and other cutting-edge technologies to create new and innovative designs.
My career has been marked by several defining moments that hold a special place in my heart. One of them was styling Raveena Tandon in the classic movie Mohra, which remains an iconic look to this day. I took pride in styling the handsome Hrithik Roshan in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham. I will be grateful to Shankar sir for the opportunity to work with the legendary Rajnikant sir. Another highlight was my first showcase collection in Milan, which was truly a dream come true. Lastly, creating a beautiful bridal lehenga for my niece was a personal milestone that will always be cherished
ST: How do you see Indian fashion, and your space within it, evolving in the future?
RS: As a seasoned professional in the Indian fashion industry, I can tell you that this is an extremely exciting time to be in this industry. With the rise of the middle class and increased consumer spending, the market is expanding and diversifying. As consumers become more conscious of their environmental impact, I anticipate a continued emphasis on quality, craftsmanship, and sustainability. In addition, technology will play a larger role in the industry, with designers using digital tools to create virtual try-ons, optimize supply chains, and connect with customers. Overall, I am optimistic about the future of Indian fashion and believe that there will be ample opportunities for innovative and talented designers to flourish.