Mixing his Indian heritage with his Italian training, Dhruv Kapoor’s SS22 collection debuted last Saturday at Milan Fashion Week on the 19th of June. The collection was a dreamlike meld of fantastical colouring and patterning with fine tailoring – typical of the Dhruv Kapoor brand. Discussing his origins, inspirations, and previous collections, the up-and-coming designer aims to break with masculine and feminine stereotypes to move toward an empathetic future. Though production has been affected by the pandemic, Kapoor remains infectiously optimistic and translates this into his whimsical designs.
Dhruv, you describe your brand as having ‘[f]earless self-expression, twisted modernity, and a strong emotional current’. Can you expand upon this and tell us more about the ethos behind the brand?
Sometimes people are afraid of colour, of combinations that might seem odd or a vibe in general that might seem too bold or too delicate- I personally like to work with these combinations and the possibilities are endless. Twisted modernity is our approach to genderful clothes rather than stating the obvious through our seasonal work and lastly Emotion- this one is my favorite, for if the process or the product lacks emotion or does not instil one in our customer- be that of boldness, power, love or anything it may trigger- the process feels incomplete. The clothes will speak to you, for you and assist you to be your greatest version of you.
How did you get started in fashion design? Is having your own label something you have always strived for?
Since middle school I was sure of building something in fashion. Everything on TV or the regular subscriptions we would get at home- the clothes would fascinate me. How they would build a character for a person in a film or an illustrated storybook vs looking at them in real life- they are two different people. How they could talk for you, how you can edit the way you are perceived- it’s like armour. Since then, I orientated myself in this direction and further aligned my personal goals with my professional ambitions focused on where I wanted to take them.
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Tell me a bit about your formal training and how this has influenced the Dhruv Kapoor brand. I understand you completed a masters in Milan; are there any Italian influences you have taken from your time there?
My time at Marangoni and living in Italy for almost 3 years was life changing. It’s there that I developed a peculiar taste- a taste that combines the excess India has to offer in terms of colour, embellishment and everything “extra”, mixing it with the minimal approach, tailoring and fine taste that I was exposed to during my time in Milan. That combination has a multi-dimensional approach and the possibilities are endless.
The short period of time when I had the opportunity to work with Etro in Milan- that was a reality check. I finally got hands on experience of how things work internally, [and see] what it takes to build something from the ground up. The process I observed and learnt there and at school in Italy, have stayed with me since the inception of my brand.
Moving now on to your brand’s intentions, I know you want to mix masculine and feminine energies – especially as feminine energy is traditionally viewed as weaker or more emotional. This is a really fantastic goal, but how do you translate this into your design practice?
The main intent is communicated as an emotion- which we mostly maintain while designing the collection. It’s important to educate those who work with us about intent, for we should all be on the same page. I love to make women look bolder. Sometimes commercially it might not work, since women also want to feel delicate on a red carpet or simply pretty- but our pretty comes with power. I am always fascinated by women leading institutions, countries, political parties, companies or anything or simply leading their lives on their own terms - it takes courage and that’s something I admire and always want to personify in my work.
Some of my personal favourite pieces from your FW21 collection would be the “Repurposed” Pinstriped Mega Shirt with Print Patchwork & Hand Embroidered Details, and the Asymmetric Empire Line Dress in Patch Print Crepe de Chine. How do you come up with the incredible patterns which feature in your designs?
I am a dreamer and honestly, I have no idea how it comes about. But the colour, the combinations or the drape, the fit they stand out to me. I meditate, I like to observe within, and I believe in the process of “downloading”. The information or the ideas exist all around us, accessible to everyone- but only when we are calm can we access or download. Our bestsellers are mostly pieces that are last minute additions (including both the pieces you mentioned above).
In the end, once the rigorous process of building is over- I am finally calm and I know, that in the end there will be some new things I would want to add, it’s like I wait for that phase - and they are always strangely conceived but preform the best- those are pieces that are developed with little or no chaos around. So, meditating and dreaming are my go-to things while preparing a collection.
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Can you tell me more about how the FW21 collection aligns with your brand philosophy?
“Future is empathy” was our starting point, for there is nothing that “love” can’t conquer. No weapons, no war or no conflict, not even A.I.- it can’t compete with the human emotion, especially one of love. From there it evolved into motifs, embroideries and silhouettes- each with a reason and each with a strong intent to make us feel powerful.
Now, would you be able to sum up the aesthetic direction and inspiration for your newest collection?
Working on Spring Summer 2022 was pure magic. It seemed unachievable in the middle, with India going through a crisis and a strict lockdown in place. But when you see no way out, you dream, and you dream big. Somehow, my team and I managed to create. The new season is all about hope and transitional phases we all go through in life- whether consciously or unconsciously. We explore the “in-between”, that liminal space where the transition happens and how we lead lives “in hope”.
It’s partly romantic I’d say. 
I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it is to produce collections during a pandemic. How has this affected you and your production process?
I am untouched by it. I try to not let my surroundings, or the environment affect me in a negative manner. There is always a way out and I strive to find the way out. The process was a huge challenge. Half our suppliers were shut, especially the local suppliers, and it was a challenge for us to repurpose some older material- in terms of fabrics, embroidery material and give it all a new life- to reuse what we had in stock. Challenging at first, but I enjoyed it to the fullest. We had to take a lot of decisions and change a lot of initially planned pieces, because we could no longer make them due to unavailability of raw materials. But in the end we managed, I managed it all with the help of my team who I adore. Together we could make it happen. So, 50% of Spring Summer 2022 is made using with existing fabrics and materials.
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Do you think this current moment will encourage consumers to shop more locally and or from independent brands rather than large chains?
I am not so sure, but I know that there is an economic boom that awaits us all. People want to go out, they want to feel good, they want to dress up. We noticed a massive shift in the buying patterns - our direct clients have suddenly moved to more experimental styles than the basics and this includes the ever-expanding menswear markets. This fascinates me and encourages us to work harder to provide and cater to this new taste. Consumers like to shop at large chains because of the trust they have in them - the trust of optimum quality and trust their judgement of trends.
One of the t-shirts from your FW21 collection is splattered with the text: ‘Future is Empathy’. My final question is then, what does the future for look like for Dhruv Kapoor?
[Laughs] I love this one!
Future shall always be bright. It’s something we hope for and when we have that opportunity to hope for anything under the sun- let it be the best, the brightest.
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