A Spirit Boundless

Like most progressive fashion houses globally, we have always had a desire to extend our DNA into the realm of luxury Lifestyles. Like most progressive fashion houses, we did so by introducing a line of fine furniture, signature tapestries and cushions a couple of years back, making us the first Indian fashion house ever to create a dedicated and comprehensive experience for home with a space of its own. Like most progressive fashion houses, we vehemently celebrated our country through this expression. But, unlike most others, we also celebrate craft in its entirety in the JJ VALAYA Home collection.

In a modern world which has embraced technology and minimalism to an almost disturbing level, it is perhaps only the arts and crafts that will keep mankind’s connection with its past alive and prospering. Therefore, as creators, whilst it is important for us to keep commerce and ’trends’ in mind, it is also our moral responsibility to embrace our past as unabashedly as we can and reinterpret it as much as we should to make it relevant for today. Looking around, you will notice that a commercially successful Ralph Lauren Home still highlights the American way of life to the hilt, a Versace Home celebrates Baroque Italy in all its ornate splendour whereas an Armani Casa subtly advocates its modern minimalism, a Rifat Ozbek (once a well-known fashion designer of Turkish descent, now completely focuses on Home Interiors and especially on his cushion collection Yastik) whereas an Issey Miyake indulged in a unique cultural handshake with Finnish company Iitalla to create the ‘Iittala X Issey Miyake Home Collection’ which combines Scandinavian and Asian craftsmanship with clean aesthetics to create a balanced ambiance. Essentially, wherever you look, they’ve all chosen to celebrate craft and their roots in their own unique ideologies.

Creativity is a fascinating journey and I refuse to be shackled by limitations of any kind. JJ VALAYA Home is just about warming up to create masterpieces inspired by craft and detail, interpreted of course by the Royal Nomad in me, albeit with a strong Indian spirit. Though there is a wave of minimalist cool that exists in India, we are intrinsically a country of maximalists (a cursory glance at our festivals, weddings, food, architecture, clothes etc. will only reinforce my point). Yet, we are also a modern evolving nation and what makes this so exciting for me is the ability and opportunity to create a line which evokes the very spirit of India, using the crafts and expertise that India is replete with, and simultaneously, to intriguingly appeal to a mature global audience. Overt ethnicity may be passé but Inspiration most certainly is not!

Needless to say, this is one journey I intend enjoying, and most certainly, to my heart’s content.

All images above are of products from JJ VALAYA Home.

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media

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The Sixth Sense

Let’s talk about food.

Traditionally Taste is classified as one of the 5 senses, but for me personally, it takes on the mantle of the Sixth sense…The sixth sense is essentially another term for extra-sensory perception; and food for me is one of the best barometers of what to expect from the rest of the experience, be it in a restaurant, a cafe, an airline….you get the drift?

I have 3 wonderful stories to share, which perhaps will ably also elaborate my point…

Story 1: If one is to fly Business Class within India, you have 3 choices: Jet airways, Air India and Vistara. The first has been around for a while, has good connectivity but sad planes, the second is the oldest (besides being the national carrier), but unfortunately is not too good with punctuality and the third, the newest, has limited connectivity as of now (plus the uniforms suck!)… I personally refuse to fly Air India (too many comedies of error), I was a regular with Jet (still a platinum card member, I think) but have now gravitated towards Vistara. What made me switch? Proximity of the boarding gates to the baggage belts at Mumbai airport was one reason, but more importantly, and you may not believe it, the reason was…A Kulfi (an Indian ice cream) that they serve in flight! Surprisingly, on subsequent social evenings, I discovered that I was not the only one who fancied their delicacy and that indeed, this was one of the factors that many had connected with when it came to Vistara. Sometimes, no highly paid consultant will tell you about the little things that make a difference and listening to the customer can be a great alternative. Net result: I now fly only Vistara in India.

Story 2: This one was a journey of self discovery! I love good coffee, and though I’ve had several moments of coffee coups in my life, I ended up discovering the best coffee ever, existing right in my own backyard..literally! A butler at my flagship store in Delhi somehow figured out the perfect recipe for the perfect coffee! Don’t take my word for it… just visit our space in Delhi.. don’t buy anything if you don’t want to but try the coffee! Net result: I’m visiting my own store more often now.

Story 3: The Oberoi Gurgaon is a lovely hotel and one of my favourite haunts when I need to chill a bit in ‘Gurugram’. At 361, their coffee shop, they serve a particular kind of bread called the Flaky bread which is an absolute treat. I can assure you it’s a definite contributor to the girth but its worth every millimeter that you add on! Net result: The ambience and superb service aside, this lone bread has become one of my core reasons to make the hotel one of my favourite meeting spots.

Finally, while still on the Oberoi, I must make a personal recommendation. A few nights back, I had a chance to sample visiting Michelin star Chef Mario Paecke’s seven course tasting menu and what a treat it was! I’ve always been a bit of both, a hearty Punjabi (a posh one?) and a connoisseur of fine gourmet experiences (though slightly conservative in my approach to what goes into my mouth)… I’ve oscillated between the draw of the generous calorie-laden portions of desi food and the art of the elegant droppings of fine cuisine… I’ve debated constantly within myself about the simplicity of the classic Dal-Roti vs. the complexity of mysterious sauces and garnishes. Frankly, there’s magic in both, but on this particular night, the Oberoi with its ambience, its wines and Chef Mario’s talent and his artistic presentation had a fan in me. Many thanks Amitabh Rai for the experience.

If in Delhi, do visit and give yourself a treat!

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Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media

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The Zen Monk

 

Spending time with artist Satish Gupta in his beautiful zen like studio is in itself a gratifying experience… to indulge oneself in such intense levels of character, culture, creativity and conversation justifies every single moment dedicated to the company of this modern day monk. Satish has always been special…he started dabbling in art at age 4, trained himself to excel in his chosen skills, has since created a large number of works spread across Canvas, Sculpture and Poetry with myriad inspirations involving portraiture, seascapes, Gods and his current passion, Buddha. Years back, his kindness and generosity gave me my very own Satish Gupta portrait, unarguably one of my favourite possessions till date…Years later, I had the chance of photographing him and presenting him with his portrait, unarguably one of the favourite portraits done by me!

Such is the magic of energies, specifically, positive energies and Satish’s work studio, ZAZEN is where his energy finds its peace (the images should support my belief). I spent a day with him yesterday, photographing my Spring-Summer fashion collection (another post coming your way soon) in this very beautiful environment and I realised that each and every time I visit him, I come back with a beautiful sense of calm and awe, emanating not respectively but together, both from the space and the man.

I deeply cherish my friendship with Satish and his wife Amita. Our many associations have only made our relationship deeper… from dressing him up for his wedding with Amita, to putting their son Ananda on the cover of my first ever book on fine art photography. Today, as he heads out to Venice to feature his work, MANDALA at the Arsenal of Venice amongst some of the best artists from across the planet, I’d like to thank him… for all the creativity that he’s brought into the world and specially, for bestowing upon me such a valuable friendship.

Create…my monk…Create! The world celebrates your gift!

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media

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The Concealed Nude

My apologies for the long gap between this post and the last one; its fashion season in Delhi and time itself gasps for relief! Anyways, Spring is now in the air, and along with a Saturday afternoon, Art and new found friends, today was quite the perfect cocktail actually. As most of you know, I thoroughly revel in cross pollination of cultures so an afternoon spent with the Arpels was a wonderful time for an introduction to their world. Stephanie Arpels is an artist with her forte being abstract nudes and Francois Arpels, scion of the French jewellery empire Van Cleef & Arpels runs his own Luxury advisory & fund; Together, they also seem to signify the Yin and the Yang of an inspired  existence. Their warm home, which also serves as Stephanie’s studio (and Gallery) is an oasis of creative calm and it gave me great pleasure to view Stephanie’s show of her recent works. India has impacted her in a significant way… the grays and blacks of her Paris expression has made way for her singular and perhaps most important influence in India: Colour! The show moves from a monochromatic palette into muted colours and then into brights finally culminating into Klimt like golds (incidentally also the colour of a major Indian fetish: Gold Jewellery!). Its a fascinating journey and I’ve always found it intriguing to witness how one culture can impact another when it comes to creative expressions…Stephanie’s control over texture and her interpretation of the nude are both laudable, but, ironically, it were the monochromes of ‘The Passion’ and ‘Black & White shading’ and the subdued tones of ‘New York Inspiration 2’ and ‘The Buttocks’ that captivated me. I suppose the unfamiliar is always exciting… Being an Indian, and being surrounded by colour in the work I do, gravitated my attention towards those works that were devoid of it, and I am sure that the opposite would hold true for the west, where Stephanie’s coloured nudes would undoubtedly have the western gaze transfixed with their myriad aura.

Many congratulations Stephanie, on interpreting the nude (and the skyline) in such an interesting manner and a very warm welcome to both of you to your new home, India.

For those of you who may be interested in seeing more, visit www.stephaniearpels.com… figure it out for yourself whether you wish to be coloured by India or be seduced by the monochromes of Paris.

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media

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Jaypore

Whilst my erratic and ever changing schedule has bestowed upon me a degree of remorse for not being able to accept the generous invitation from Samir Andrea Kasliwal for his birthday celebrations and also the royal one from the Maharaja Sawai Padmanabh Singh of Jaipur for Holi festivities at the palace, I am left with no option but to try and create peace within by reminiscing some sweet moments from the past.

From one of my recent trips to Jaipur (or Jaypore as it was known in British India), and before this memory gently ambles into the mind’s recesses, I thought it wise to share my joy on my very brief visit to Bar Palladio. This lovely space (not surprisingly run by a European), besides being an aesthete’s delight, was quite the gastronomic discovery, especially since one did not expect Jaipur to throw up anything like it. Much recommended to anyone visiting the Pink City… Go and enjoy the exotic embrace of the perfect shades of Turquoise, Teal and Indigo whilst sipping on a fine aperitif and savouring delectable Hors d’oeuvre. (Which I delightfully indulged in, courtesy the company and conversation of my dear friend and restaurateur extraordinaire, AD Singh).

Personally, I’ve always loved that wonderful twist that happens to the expected when expats set up something in India… the synergy of an alien mind fuses magically with the environment that only India can offer and, more often than not, throws up some wonderful hybrid experiences. The reverse also holds true, and unlike the past, where every immigrant fom Bangladesh and Nepal invariably opened a very sad, aesthetically deprived, agarbati smelling “authentic” Indian restaurant, today, one can find fine gastronomical experiences in various parts of the world run and owned by Indians.

I’ve always looked forward to such instances of osmosis…of food, of music, of soul… of love… to me, the coming together of beings, of cultures is extremely exciting and the byproducts of all such mating are generally exotic in nature. More of this spirit is required in the world today … the oneness of humanity, above race or religion has never been more relevant before.

Finally, a very Happy Holi to all of you ( for those of you who’re not aware, it’s the festival of colours in India and Nepal which signifies the triumph of good over evil and also heralds the onset of spring)… so bring in as much colour as you can in your life as well as in others lives. It really is a beautiful world full of beautiful souls… just look at all with different eyes and you’ll be amazed at the magic that you’ll be able to witness.

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media

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All that glitters is not Gold

I have to admit that I am a die-hard fan of all things burnished and antique simply because I truly believe that they impart a great deal of inherent character and timelessness as opposed to the overtly new and shiny. So imagine the first thought that crossed my mind when one of the world’s largest crystal companies, Swarovski approached me to create a line of fashion jewellery with them…Glitter, Glitter and more Glitter! Except…it did not take long for me to vanquish the fleeting moment and instead, embrace an entirely new one: being convinced of using a Swarovski product which did not shine and perhaps, which most people did not even know, existed in their portfolio…Pearls!

Now, as some of you may know, I have a history with Swarovski; Years back, when they came into India, I was appointed their first ever Brand Ambassador and ever since then, I have thoroughly enjoyed working with them and creating stunning couture which has dazzled all with its brilliance (pun not intended). Swarovski is a flag bearer in the crystallised realm and I know for a fact that nothing comes remotely close to them when it comes to their quality in products they excel in… add to this the fact that they’re a constantly evolving brand and coming out with amazing concepts year after year only makes this association that much more energised. However, this one time, when I decided to move away from crystals and instead work with a beautiful assortment of asymmetric pearls, blended stunningly with oxidised gold metal and highlighted with subtle accents of Black diamond crystals, it was also about the coming together of Austrian perfection and the iconic craftsmanship of the jewellers of Jaipur. Needless to say, the result of this confluence was spectacular!

In life, I believe that to surprise is important…. but perhaps the real art lies in surprising yourself first before trying to prove anything to the world. In fact, this is probably the core fundamental of great design and art; it was also the sole belief that guided me into creating this line. To work with a crystal company and yet showcase a relatively lesser known facet of its prowess to the world can be challenging, but can often also result in a beautiful language. However, whilst this may seem like the beginning of a beautiful new idea, I believe that it is also the byproduct of a very successful old association, and one, where I am also looking forward to for many more seasons of creativity and discovery.

But for now, I’d simply like to revel in thoughts of sensual Indian duskiness accentuated with the lustre of gunmetal pearls and gold…of hints of turquoise with a kiss of black diamonds. Thank you Swarovski, for the brilliance and for giving us creators a chance to shine! Thank you India, for ever surprising all with your riches! Thank you both, for giving me my world, where I continue to have fun and derive immense joy from the beauty of contradictions.

The new and the timeless can indeed coexist… atleast in my world.

Photos courtesy SWAROVSKI. The Ranas of Kachchh collection of Fashion Jewellery by JJ Valaya in association with Swarovski.

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Making the Cut.

I have to be really honest here. When I was invited to judge the L’Oreal IHA Finale in Goa, I was unsure about whether I should even go. After all, what could I possibly contribute and imbibe (i’m a strong believer in the process of osmosis between energies) from a set of ‘barbers’? Sure enough, as i went straight from the airport into a room full of a significantly large group of ‘hair cutters’ and subsequently sat for 4 hours seeing them snip, colour, wash, straighten etc. etc., i became even more convinced that my initial thought had been well founded and this was a mistake. A couturier in the midst of this lot?

Then came the next day, and as the organisers hustled us into the venue of the Grand Finale followed by the guests entering the large venue, I had a doubt again! … this time about my earlier doubts. An elegant setup awaited us, and as the emcee came on stage with giant LEDs and stunning graphics morphing behind her, the 3.5 hours (which by any standards, is rather long) simply melted away under the spotlight of the intense creativity that followed on stage.

L’Oreal really gave it all they had and besides presenting a fabulous evening in a luxurious hotel, MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE, they gave wings to the dreams of several ‘artists’. That’s precisely when it sheepishly hit me, that for the first time in my life, I had been surrounded by artists and not even realised it. IHA are the Oscars for hair stylists from across the country, the preliminaries go on for a year all over India and are judged by a fantastic jury in each city, and then it all culminates into this one magical evening of (in)credible talent. They come from each and every corner of India, from insignificant small towns to large cities… besides the tools of the trade, they all carry one common dream within them…A dream to excel …A dream to be judged by the best and to be the best… A dream to reach for the stars… A dream to become stars!

This was the stage that set the ball rolling for the chosen ones for future fashion greatness, for being a woman’s (and man’s) best friend for life, for being coveted by celebrities, for possibly even becoming the next Vidal Sassoon. As I watched the nervous and not so nervous walk the ramp, and others create live magic right there on the stage, I felt a sense of gratitude… for being fortunate enough to be there that night and perhaps, for even having played a small role in introducing some future stars to the world.

Many congratulations L’Oreal…IHA is something you should be very proud of and the team that you have nurtured in India is truly exceptional… add to that the brilliance of my dear friend and your choreographer, Anu Ahuja! Thank you for making me a part of your story; the talent that I saw and the presentation that followed was flawless and I, for once, am truly glad that i was proved wrong about my own initial thoughts!

Aseem Kaushik and Team L’Oreal India…Take a bow.

PS* Please excuse the quality of the images this one time; digital zooms and excited fingers often have this effect on Photographs.

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media

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