There’s nothing restrained about Abu-Sandeep. Their office is crammed with dramatic art that edges brazenly into your peripheral vision. Their film inspiration is the diva mother lode: Meena Kumari in Pakeezah and Madhubala in Mughal-e-Azam. Their latest show at Lakmé Fashion Week was an ode to fashion’s most outré decade, the ’80s. But this is not just them putting on a show; it’s who they are. Over almost three decades, the duo has created clothes that can only be described as celebratory and larger-than-life. It’s why they are such a massive hit with brides and red-carpet regulars alike. This year, they returned to the runway after a break of five years, and designer Nikhil Thampi met up with them to find out what thrills and confounds them these days.
Nikhil Thampi: What made this the right time for a comeback?
Abu Jani: We are very demanding of our own work, and the budgets for our shows have always been absolutely crazy. Everything has to meet our standards before we present it to people. But with the world of fashion media changing so much, we felt it was time to get something going.
Sandeep Khosla: We wanted to tell everyone: we’re here, alive and kicking, and not irrelevant yet!
NT: To the average observer, the highlight of your work is its maximalism, but how would you define it?
AJ: We always pick more over less, whether we’re designing interiors or clothes. And over the years, our clients too have developed a finer eye, and they demand this of us.
SK: Even if we do the simplest garment, without embroidery, say, the finishing will be so crazy and so detailed, that it circles back to maximalism. If we try to do a garment in a blended fabric, it doesn’t work — it has to be pure. We started at a time when people wanted a change from synthetic Hong Kong fabrics. There is not a single synthetic thing in our collection. It’s luxe silk, cotton, crêpe or georgette all the way.
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