The Beach Boys
How design duo ShrivanNarresh are revolutionising Indian swimwear.
Indians and beachwear design are rarely uttered in the same conversation. So when people started chattering about Shrivan Bhatia and Narresh Kukreja’s eponymous line of luxury swimwear at the recently concluded Lakme Fashion Week in the city, you knew something was afoot. Shown under the label ShrivanNarresh, the elegant line with its geometrical shapes, ingenious fusion of fabrics (jersey with Lycra) and marine-inspired palette was pretty much the best thing about what had been a largely underwhelming week of collections. The reaction, however, was just another affirmation of what the Delhi-based duo has been successfully doing since their debut collection at Lakme Fashion Week in March this year (see it here): creating a home-spun brand of designer swimwear, made specifically for the Indian woman.
Not that they needed much affirmation. For the first time in its eight-year history, the 2010 Kingfisher Calendar showed models in an Indian swimwear brand (for the months May, September and November). Another one of their swimsuits was also featured in the fourth Indian edition of the 2010 Elite Calendar, launched by international modelling agency, Elite. The beachwear designers owe these accolades to a series of happy coincidences. Shrivan (26) and Narresh (24) have known each other for over a decade first as family friends, then as fashion design students at the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) in New Delhi and later as masters students in Italy. They designed their first bathing suit, a bikini, while at NIFT in March 2006, which won them the Mittelmoda International Beachwear Award in Bali. “The Mittelmoda victory was really the turning point for us. We both got scholarships to study in Italy based on that happy outcome,” Narresh says.
In 2008 the pair was invited to launch their brand in Cannes at the Mare di Moda, Europe’s biggest swimwear exposition. Here, they presented a 100 per cent stitch-free collection. The style relies on an Italian bonding technique in which two fabrics can be fused without stitches. “It’s very expensive but we convinced Lycra that we wanted to be the first ones to use it for our maiden collection,” Narresh says. Since their return to India in 2009, the duo has stuck to designing more mainstream beachwear, which though not as technically cutting-edge, still retains the structured shaping and ingenious splicing of colour and fabric more often seen on pret lines. Even their limited range of cocktail dresses retain a sense of swimwear about them, cut from the waist-up to resemble a one-piece, but left long and loose to double-up as beach-to-night cover-alls. “We realized that we weren’t addressing a problem of fashion, but a problem of confidence”, he says. Not surprisingly, most of their clientele is aged 35 and up. ”Most women are done with the sports-style swimsuits available at malls and worn by their daughters.”
Their range of maillots, bikinis and cover-ups, available in Mumbai at Ensemble and Ogaan, are fitted but airy, figure hugging and as some have pointed out, also somewhat unforgiving. However, Narresh says that they are conscious of body size when designing their line, usually keeping a size eight in mind. “For larger women we only use jersey until the bust and cotton or woven fabric for the lower half of the body,” he says. Staff at their store in Delhi and other boutiques where their clothes are stocked are trained by the duo themselves on advising women on body shape and fitting issues. “For instance for the pear-shaped woman, we suggest an off-shoulder tankini, which would highlight her shoulders and legs and draw attention away from the stomach, which tends to be the problem area,” Narresh says. The duo even offers a bespoke service for exacting customers.
These concessions aside, it’s quickly apparent that their range is for women supremely confident with their body shape, even if you’re blessed with size zero genes. Their recent collection for instance, which is expected to hit stores later this month, includes a Lycra sari, a figure-hugging piece of fabric made of “extra life” Lycra that lasts three times longer than regular jersey. Wrapped to look like a traditional sari, it makes for an elegant albeit shape-baring wrap that is not kind to mid-torso flaws. “It looks traditional but has pockets and doesn’t require ironing,” Narresh says. “It can be flung over the swimsuit and makes a woman look ready for both the bar and the beach”.
ShrivanNarresh is available at Ensemble, Great Western Building, 130/132, Shahid Bhagat Singh Road, opposite Lion Gate. Tel: 2284 3227; Ensemble, White Hall, Ground Floor, West Wing, 143, August Kranti Marg, Kemps Corner. Tel: 2367 2416; Ogaan, 5/5 Grants Building, First Floor, Arthur Bunder Road, Colaba. Tel: 2283 3576.