As she releases her SS14 Prêt-à-Porter collection – while simultaneously working on her well-known couture line and offering brides-to-be the world over their fantasy gowns – we met with Indian-born Ayesha Depala to find out where the Middle East’s sweetheart draws her inspiration from.
How would you describe your brand?
It is feminine and soft, sensual and timeless, but with an underlying element of forward-thinking. I’m inspired by ancient Indian crafts and textile, which is heavily reflected in my Ayesha Depala Couture line, whereas Prêt-à-Porter remains soft with a strong street-savvy style. It’s the marriage of feminine sensibility with a sensual feel. I like to use soft feminine fabrics such as lace and chiffon but then work them into a strong, sexier silhouette.
In your opinion, what do women in this region want from designers?
Women here are very switched on to trends and love to dress up. They’re also extremely spoilt for choice and so really enjoy bespoke services such as ours as it enables them to wear something unique and special.
What do you most appreciate about this clientele?
They have an insatiable appetite for fashion and a very unique DNA of their own – they’re never afraid to experiment and have fun with fabrics and colour. In general, the Middle East shows a fine balance between a traditional and modern society. The younger generation is very much in touch with their roots while subtly adopting a broader approach to their lifestyles. I am drawn to this delicate balance and having lived away from my home country for over 13 years now, I try to instil the same values in my two children.
You’re considered as one of the most influential Asian women in this region, how does it feel?
The GCC has a varied mix of nationalities, and Indians have made their own mark in many different industries, from fashion and textiles to finance. I feel very proud and privileged to have received the recognition, love and support of the region for over a decade.
How does Indian culture present itself in your designs?
Although I haven’t lived in India for over 10 years now, it’s a culture that will remain deeply imbedded in my DNA. Indian art, architecture, textile and craft are very much a part of my design process while creating for the modern woman. The process of creating a product for her that is traditional at heart comes very naturally to me.
You’ve created many incredible wedding gowns and are celebrated for truly appreciating what a bride needs. Where does the process start?
When I first meet with a bride-to-be, I gauge both her shape and personal style and I’m then very quick to decide the silhouette that will work best for her. This is crucial, as we’ll build the dress from there. The most important thing is that she feels very special on the day, so we take into account all her likes and dislikes before presenting her with ideas.
When it came to designing your own wedding dress, what did you want?
I had very specific ideas on colour and embroidery and so created my own outfit. It was a soft pink traditional Indian lehenga, with antique gold, bronze gilt wire and thread work. I wanted it to have a vintage appeal as I am very drawn to anything muted and rustic – I had the silk threads naturally dyed so I could get an old world, traditional feel.
Tell us what’s of key importance in a bride’s gown?
It must reflect her personality and individual style – she needs to stay true to her identity, this is not the day to experiment with something new. Sometimes we’ll personalise gowns by discreetly weaving in their husband-to-be’s name – these small touches can help her feel more at home in her dress. I always advise my clients to create a mood board of images first, this way we can understand what her vision is.
What gap in the market were you looking to fill when you started your Prêt-à-Porter line?
The market has a plethora of high-street brands and luxury fashion houses – my line aims to bridge the gap between the two. I wanted my usual clients to buy into the line, which still stands for luxury and detailing, but at Prêt-à-Porter prices.
Who do you have in mind when creating it season to season?
A girl that is fun, flirty and has a progressive attitude when it comes to fashion. She is young, bold and less conservative with her style. Wearing pieces from the Prêt-à-Porter collection offers her a sense of confidence without compromising on the luxe aspect of the brand.
You began your career as an interior designer. What synergies are there between interior design and fashion design?
I formally trained in interiors and then went on to further study in fashion and textile – I believe all creative fields have a unifying thread in one way or another. While creating my SS14 line, I came up with ideas for some textile pieces that I’m now putting into production. I consider myself to be a ‘dresser’ who enjoys dressing both women and rooms equally.
There is a lot of talent in the region, both established like yourself, and emerging. Where do you think we’re heading?
The UAE is now very recognised in the international arena for both consumers and buyers alike. It has found its place on the international fashion map and has become a hub for nurturing retailers and the creatively minded. Platforms like Fashion Forward assist in showcasing regional talent while paving the way for them to structure their companies. It also enables them to communicate their work to regional and international buyers.
What are your thoughts on the Dubai Design District (D3)?
The D3 initiative is a giant step towards the cumulative growth and expansion plan for the regional art and fashion industry. It offers artists and designers solutions for both manufacturing and retail. Emerging talent need the guidance and subsidised solutions for retail, and the Design District aims to provide it. I’m very excited to see how it pans out.
In your home country, how do you ensure young talent is nurtured?
It’s so motivating to see young Indian talent in the field of art, fashion and design carving out a niche for themselves. Today’s India is connected to its roots while recognising modern sensibilities – the marriage of these two schools of thought is very interesting to watch. We support this young talent in our stores and workshops in the Middle East through internships and placements.
Do you work with any craftsmen there?
I am inspired by Indian heritage and craft and seek the help of local Indian artisans to develop specific embroidery and print techniques. I have worked with craftspeople in Lucknow and Kashmir for thread work and I’m currently working with weavers in Benares for my SS15 collection.
What element of your job keeps you smiling the most day after day?
The process of creation excites me – when something that was just a thought or idea turns into a three-dimensional reality.