Having been in the fashion industry for more than three decades now, designer Ashish Soni sure knows a thing or two about then and now and bringing two eras together. For those waiting to see him leave us in awe of his remarkable creativity and vision, the couturier and Sunil Sethi—President, Fashion Design Council of India, curated the theme for the recently-held Chivas Alchemy event over the gone weekend. The two couldn’t have come up with anything better than the 'Kaleidoscope of Time' which recognised the layers of time celebrating old and new worlds of luxury through fashion, art, music, and food. It was an immersive amalgamation of the two eras as 18 alchemists from the four words came together.
Sharing his thoughts, Sethi, Founder, Sunil Sethi Design Alliance, and co-curator said, “This year, with Chivas Alchemy, we wanted to celebrate the complexity of time in luxury. We created an exquisite convergence of art, design, and luxury, and it was fascinating to see how each of the 18 alchemists brought their splendid style of creativity to the table, making this an unparalleled experience.”
In an exclusive interview with Bazaar India, Soni, the designer, speaks about realizing the value of time and incorporating it into the event’s theme, his process of designing, choosing to be sustainable in his choices, his favourite fabric wool, and much more.
Harper’s Bazaar: Tell us about how you came up with the theme for Chivas Alchemy? And weave together fashion, art, music, and food.
Ashish Soni: In terms of how the curation came about, normally we’ve celebrated the five senses over the last editions of Alchemy. This year, we wanted to celebrate four different pillars instead of the senses. We thought about what would bring a range of creative differences together and that’s where the concept of food, fashion, music, and art came together, along with exceptional bartending. The idea was to celebrate people who are truly stars in what they’re doing in this field. The next thing to do was tie it all together. The one thing that the pandemic taught us was the importance of time. We didn’t value it as much as we do today. A lot of us have realised its value today. So we thought what about celebrating the Kaleidoscope of Time, which is basically curating fashion for what it was to where it is today. In terms of food—what it used to be in the form of memories, what your grandmother cooked for you. So we tied up the entire journey, across all genres, by having creative people to bring it all together.
HB: How much of your personality and style can be seen in the theme for Chivas Alchemy?
AS: So you know, this is another side of me. It’s another hat that I wear. I really enjoy it because it’s another aspect of creativity where I move away from fashion. I love spaces and love entertaining people. I hope that people get to see how good a host I am at the event today and you’ll see a lot of me once the party starts (the interview took place on Saturday, May 6).
HB: Take us through your process of designing.
AS: So the art and fashion space has been done by Sunil Sethi, President - Fashion Design Council of India, while the other space has been done by me with Vikram Design Studio, who are the producers of the show. We’re celebrating things that signify time. I wanted to keep things sustainable and not use plastic. Even in terms of screens, we’ve used recycled nylon. Everything has been used in the past and can be used somewhere else. Gone are the days when you used to waste energy and resources. We’re all about utilising things to the fullest.
HB: You entered the world of fashion because of your love for movies? Which were these films?
AS: I was born in the early 70s, when Mr. Bachchan (Amitabh) was the biggest phenomenon back then. I even watched black-and-white movies that starred Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, and Raj Kapoor. There was Top Gun and Flashdance when I was a teenager. I’ve been heavily influenced by movies, especially in terms of style.
HB: And who, according to you have been the most fashionable actors of Indian cinema?
AS: From Indian cinema, I’ve always felt that Dev Anand was the ultimate style icon. The sense of style was exceptional from the collar, the scarves, and the hats. Rajesh Khanna as well, who came a couple of years later.
HB: Coming to your favourite fabric, what is it about wool that you love so much?
AS: It’s just the form and the way I can play with it. I have made kurtas, pajamas out of wool. I just feel that the finished product in wool is like none other.
HB: How do you try to make your collections more sustainable?
AS: We weren’t that sustainable pre-pandemic. But now the thinking has changed entirely. We’re all about wasting less, buy less fabric and consume it better. We’re trying to see where we can incorporate zero-waste techniques, and have moved away from plastic packaging over the last year and using cloth bags. We’re taking a step to see how we get into the recycling industry and help with packaging.
HB: What's your advice for fashion students looking to make their mark?
AS: Just be true to yourself. There are so many creative options, and platforms for you to get noticed. It’s much easier to come into the limelight compared to the past. So, if you come up with something that’s true to your identity, you will get noticed. As far as where could they go wrong, I feel that their quest to follow trends and not create one is an area to be careful about.