Peachoo Singh recently returned to New Delhi from Paris, where she co-designed the avant-garde label Peachoo + Krejberg for a decade. She started her own label here, keeping her friends’ tastes and her own in mind. Working in an understated palette – black, white, and champagne – her gently feminine clothes are equally at home in India and abroad. We talked to her about life in Paris and Delhi, her experiences in fashion, and the origins of the cocktail sari.
We thought singer-songwriter and actress Kavya Trehan would be the right modern muse for Peachoo’s clothes. Kavya made her acting debut last year in Kaash, which premiered at the Mumbai Film Festival (MAMI). Directed by Ishaan Nair, the film is about a Mumbai fashion photographer torn between two women. According to Kavya, “It's a quintessential love story, where in the course of the movie you learn a lot about love, life…it allows the audience to really connect with each one of the characters.” Kavya continues to perform with her band MOSKO as well. Her favourite song is Drance 109 by MOSKO. You can watch a performance here.
A. Everybody who was in Paris at that time (the 1980s and 1990s) was influenced by Commes des Garçons – it was the shocking modernity. The same was true about the Belgians [the “Antwerp Six,” which included Martin Margiela and Dries van Noten]. And Peachoo + Krejberg did sell in the same shops as Ann Demeulemeester, as Yohji Yamamoto, as Commes. It was the mode of the time – I don’t know one person who didn't fall in love. There are always two strains, though – in Paris in the ‘80s, there was also Thierry Mugler, Claude Montana, Versace – people were either interested in that strain, or the more subdued designers.
I find it very hard to say what my influences are, though. You're constantly influenced, and you constantly get inspired. Everyday it's something else: a book or textile or art exhibition. It's an unconscious influence.
A. She was actually one of the first people who came into our showroom and bought the things! She bought us for Corso Como Tokyo and Dover Street Market (which was taking off at the same time we were starting out). She was one of our first clients. It was great even to have her walk in.
A. It helps to know how to get your production done. A lot of small brands start and then they don't know how to actually do it. Roy Krejberg, who was formerly with Kenzo Men, and I had both been working individually for years in Italy. We knew the people, factories, and fabrics. Whatever handwork there was – destroyed bead pieces, raw-edged work – that was done in India. We did everything else in Italy. My embroiderers are in Delhi; I use the same ones now.
A. I had a doubt whether it would work. Weddings here are mainly about colour. But I wanted to do the collection my way. In my own personal style, I just naturally always liked black and white, even when I was living in India. And the response to Peachoo has been very good – I’m surprised, actually.
A. Doing saris that were not traditional has always fascinated me. In the ‘20s and ‘30s, the French haute couture markets used to make saris for Indians – in those days, they wouldn't wear ball gowns. These design houses used all these French chiffons, the colours of those times, and beads on print for the saris. I thought, my look isn't really wedding – it's cocktail. And people here go out a lot. So I thought I would try my hand at cocktail saris.
A. I've never strayed from it. It’s not that I don't like colour. You add the colour you feel like at the moment – but the whole thing has to work together. And one has done nudes (which is not really a colour!). But the base is always neutrals and indigos and blacks and whites. I think people here seem to prefer when there's some embellishment on it, though I don't know why.
A. Month. It's very quick. I know exactly what I want, and everything is done in Delhi. I start first with the patterns and shapes, and then the concept of the embroideries. That has to be very clear at the beginning. I sketch the embroideries, on tracing paper, to the actual size. This is done for every piece – every size is graded separately.
A. That was my conscious decision. I didn’t want people to have to think twice – if they like it, they can buy it. This is something I feel is an issue – there are many things that are overpriced here, and you wonder why. It's why I've done a lot of unembellished clothes for everyday, because that's what doesn't exist here, really.