Kunal Rawal: The Voice Shaking The Menswear Market

by Anjori Grover Vasesi

13-November-2019  |  11 mins read

Kunal Rawal Store

Taking an active part in the renaissance of the menswear fashion scene in India, Kunal Rawal is catering to the modern man of today, who is always on the search for something exciting, innovative and yet, fuss-free. With an exceptional, personal touch and attention to details, Kunal offers immaculate tailoring blended with interesting surface textures and contemporary cuts.

In a short span of time, the label’s lines have come to be known as highly wearable and functional keeping the commercial value as a secondary feature.

Experimental and highly intricate techniques such as French knots, thread work embroideries, laser cut motifs, bits and pieces of origami, metal work are the designer’s way of turning even the simplest of pieces into a point of conversation.

“I get to create many of my fabrics, which in themselves are surface texture-wise extremely enthralling, and work well as is. I love printing, so more often than not, my surface textures are a combination of two or three or even four techniques that come together. We also do a lot of different washes – whether it is the splatter wash, or it is the wave wash,” Kunal told Apparel Resources.

There has been a gap in the Indian menswear market with only two extremes being addressed – either the luxury segment or the casual segment. This demarcation has left a gaping hole in the middle for a more dynamic market to be addressed – something that Kunal identified at the right time.

Kunal Rawal

Kunal Rawal – the label, is typified by the contemporary but very personal nature of designs.

For inspiration, Kunal looks at his personal style and inner world – even while designing, he likes to think of himself as his target consumer. “I am sure about my style but I’m not sure about what I want – something majority of the men today feel. I have a personality wherein I like to dress differently every day. Most millennials today want to have fun with their clothing choices, so I get into a sort of role reversal and think about what a consumer like me would want,” Kunal told AR.

Designed and crafted in Mumbai, Kunal Rawal label works with clusters all over India, more so with artisans based in Mumbai. “The simple truth and motivating factor behind this exercise is that the kind of craftsmanship and talent/skill that we have in India, does not exist anywhere else in the world. Anyone would be a fool to not take advantage of this and to not travel to different parts of India for the different techniques that different regions are known for,” Kunal expounded.

A creative powerhouse as a designer, Kunal believes in the philosophy of ‘Go Big or Go Home’ – so it is not hard to see a lot of heart and thought being put into whatever he does – everything is intricately planned and executed to the zenith.

Take for example, his latest store in the heart of India’s finest luxury destination – DLF Emporio. Strategically located on the second floor, the store is the first thing you see while taking the escalators – dynamic, youthful menswear silhouettes stealing a look from behind caged doors and metallic, rustic interiors…

THE DELHI MARKET

Already two-stores old in Mumbai, Kunal Rawal label recently opened its doors to the Delhi market.

After being in the industry for over ten years, Kunal already enjoys a strong client base from the Delhi-NCR region, and opening a store in the capital came as a natural and organic progression.

“Delhi is undisputedly one of the biggest markets in India and anybody who wants to be relevant in the industry cannot turn a blind eye to this city – they have to be present in the Delhi market,” Kunal said, adding, “What I love about Delhi is that firstly, it’s a bigger market, and it also consumes occasionwear a bit more than a place like Mumbai; I have therefore always wanted to bring a little bit of my aesthetic and Mumbai-inspired pieces to a market like Delhi.”

For his store at DLF Emporio, Kunal teamed up with multi-disciplinary design and space artist, Rooshad Shroff for the second time after working on his Kala Ghoda store, earlier this year. Rooshad ensured that the label’s signature functional and raw aesthetics are imbibed within the store space by introducing industrial elements such as a hydraulic rack and a conveyor belt that showcases key products from the label’s latest collections. Brass cages, antique and militia-inspired collectibles and functional full-length mirrors provide the perfect synergy between Kunal’s thought process and the final product.

Kunal explicated, “I have always been about the industrial, factory-sort of vibe and the excitement of textiles, rather than feverishly, sketching in an air-conditioned room. A raw, industrial feel is integral to the label – if you take the mirror, for example, it moves from one side to another; then we have the conveyor belt concept, which I personally find very exciting – I love infusing elements like these together to create a story.”

DESIGN INGRAINED IN THE DNA

“My dad had an export house which he sold to his brother a few years ago. I remember as a kid, my dad used to take me and my sister Sasha, for late night ice-cream drives which additionally posed as an excursion to his factory on hectic nights, for him to check up on the production status and shipments. While he used to be busy taking his rounds, Sasha and I used to run into the fabric room and jump into thabis and thabis (heaps and heaps) of fabric and play this game where we shut our eyes and guessed what fabric it is,” Kunal narrated, reminiscing his childhood memories.

He then added, “For me, the interest in fabrics peaked at that time and that’s when I knew this is what I am going to be doing for sure. When you grow up with certain elements around you, they automatically get ingrained in your system and I got a real push through those experiences and ever since, for me, it has always been about fabrics, the way they fall, what one can do with them and how one can play around with different fabrics.”

ON HOW HE’S DIVERSIFYING HIS CONSUMER BASE

Riding high on the success of his recent Koovs collaboration, Kunal hinted at relaunching his maiden label DStress – which allowed him to work a lot on younger and fun looks.

In the past ten years, Kunal has had the opportunity to work in varied work environments as well as pockets of the Indian market. Constantly on the search for how he can reach the different markets within India, Kunal actively launches collaborative collections with like-minded brands and retailers.

Kunal Rawal label

Commenting on his latest success with the Kunal Rawal x Koovs collection, Kunal said, “From what I heard, the Koovs x Kunal Rawal collection has done really well. Working on the collection was like coming home for me because I love working with Western and contemporary silhouettes. Collaborations such as these are a great opportunity for me to unleash my creativity outside of the Kunal Rawal label.”

Unknown to many people, Kunal has, in the past, also worked with IPL teams for on-field and off-field gear for Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bengaluru. The designer has also worked closely with the Being Human Foundation, on paintings and graphic art. Kunal has also served as the Creative Head of Provogue for a year, apart from working on costumes in movies. Another big challenge faced by menswear in India is the lack of MBOs catering to menswear, an issue Kunal is hoping to nip in the bud by unveiling stores in major cities across the subcontinent.

“Currently we are retailing offline via our own bricks-and-mortar stores in two spaces in Mumbai – one in Juhu and the other in Kala Ghoda; DLF Emporio in Delhi being the third store. We are also opening a fourth store in Hyderabad in September,” Kunal informed AOI, happily adding, “We also have an e-commerce site on its way, scheduled to release this month, and are additionally retailing at a select few MBOs all over India including Aza, Deval and internationally at UK-based Aashni & Co., and other online e-tailers.”

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