Born Jagsharanjit Singh Ahluwalia, the name was shortened to JJ Valaya to define the journey of a chartered accountant who went on to become the couturier behind the Valaya fashion label. Having been brought up in an army background, the designer was always awestruck by the grand lifestyle that the officers beheld. From the gallant march pasts to the welfare workshops taken by his mother for all the wives of the jawans; these childhood experiences acted as major influences that pushed his creative streak.
Having spent almost three decades in the Indian fashion industry, the designer is a treasure trove of fashion trivia and an inspiration who made a major comeback on the runway. Today his empire boasts of labels such as, House of Valaya, JJ Valaya Muse, JJ Valaya, Valaya Quantum, Valaya Base, Valaya Home and The Home of the Traveler.
“Army kids are bought up differently. I changed six schools because my father got posted every three years. We grew up in a different kind of environment, where we learnt how to let go of old friends and make new ones, we knew how to adapt to new homes, we knew how to shift in a minute; we would just pack and move. My mother was an avid kidswear designer and her forte was party dresses for girls. Within that, her forte was embroideries. She used to do smocking, French knots, shadow work and all the kinds of things that people don’t hear much about nowadays, but were popular back then,” says JJ.
He further adds, “I was constantly exposed to craft, colour, embroidery and the beauty of this country. I used to paint and was the best artist in school for years. And, that one decision worked out beautifully for me...”
Emergence and rule
He trained under the pioneer of Indian fashion, Rohit Khosla during the 80s, before starting his own label. With his elder brother TJ Singh, JJ founded The House of Valaya in 1992 with the launch of its couture label. The designers’ creative vision, together with his brother’s organisational abilities have been the key factors behind the success of Valaya as a luxury brand. As we sat reminiscing about his journey, JJ chuckles and says “My god, such a long journey, how am I going to narrate it in a nutshell? Let’s just say I have enjoyed every single moment of it, and the fact is that I continue to enjoy it till date. I am looking forward to every single moment that is going to come as well.”
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