Punit Balana on sustainability in the fashion industry: ‘It is a long journey’

Fashion designer Punit Balana is a name to reckon with, especially when it comes to acing contemporary designs with oodles of glamour. In over two decades, he has not only dressed the who’s who of Bollywood and the fashion industry, but has also showcased at many shows include the FDCI x Lakmé Fashion Week 2022.

“Every time I see someone in a Punit Balana outfit – be it a celebrity or a customer — I consider it to be the best compliment even if it’s unsaid,” he says.

In an email interaction with indianexpress.com, he talks about the charm of physical shows vis-à-vis digital shows, key takeaways from the pandemic, his new collection, and more. Edited excerpts below:

Your designs have a lot of cultural elements…what inspires you?

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I am inspired by the rich legacy of artisanal crafts of the land I grew up in: Rajasthan, and the colours of nature and all things natural. At the same time, the love of our customers keeps me motivated to keep creating, to keep thinking about what’s next.

Tell us about your latest collection. 

My latest collection, Lakshmi, is a canvas painted with bold lotus, birds, enchanted gardens, Mughal era horses, hand-block printed on the surface of the garment, like an artist’s fantasy come true! Explorative layered metallic embroidery on prints and solid tones, creative use of antique coins, threads an,d mirrors breathe magic into the rich palates of neutrals, tones of henna and earthy hues. The collection is replete with our signature skirts with pockets, well-fitted corsets and capes; deep shoulder cucutsand short crop blouses paired, printed saris, metallic bralettes, printed shararas and peplum jackets to sheer slip dresses.

This was my first time working with bold motifs in natural vegetable dyes with kalamkari and ajrak on luscious chanderi silks rendering a vision that brought to life Rajasthani heritage like never seen before. Each ensemble has a signature Punit Balana element yet a completely new structure and style. This also was our first runway showcase for our menswear line after we launched Balana Men in 2020.

How would you describe your pandemic experience?

The pandemic impacted a lot of homegrown businesses, and we would be lying if I said it did not affect us. But it also gave us a lot of time to go back to the drawing board and brainstorm. We researched and studied the consumers and what they love about our brand, and I would proudly say the pandemic was when we launched our Balana Man label which is a continuation of our handwriting of contemporising Rajasthani arts and crafts.

A day in the life of Punit Balana includes…

My day starts with a visit to my Jaipur workshop where I brainstorm on new ideas, work on new prints and meet my karigars followed by a visit to the store for personal appointments. This usually takes up half my day and then visit the gym in the evening or go for my aerobic class. Late evening and nights are reserved for family dinners with my wife and son or outings with friends.

How did it feel to be back on a physical ramp after over two years? 

Showcasing at FDCI x Lakmé Fashion Week was very integral to the Punit Balana label and very special to my journey in fashion. To be back is a sign of relief and exciting as always. Digital shows lack the touch-feel element and the experience of a physical show which continues to remain unmatched.

What has been the biggest compliment you have received till now?

Every time I see someone in Punit Balana outfit – be it a celebrity or a customer, I consider it to be the best compliment even if its unsaid.

Is sustainability in fashion possible?

Sustainable fashion has just become a buzz word. A label can be sustainable in many many ways and it’s a long journey for a brand to call itself completely sustainable. We, at this label, are taking tiny steps and some day will achieve the goal as we are all a work in progress. We are gradually moving towards adopting sustainable processes in everything we do to reduce waste, to integrate more crafts and give back to our artisans and to integrate more hand-crafted processes into our work into to keep them relevant for today’s audience.

Your thoughts on comfort dressing?

I think the term largely transformed during the pandemic when everything came to a halt and work moved to hybrid formats. Comfort dressing is important in any setting today because your clothes define your mood and a lot of who you are today, so if you’re not comfortable it will show one way of the other. I would say the rules of fashion when it comes to formal settings have already been redefined with elevated athleisure, co-ord sets, printed pantsuits etc.

Whom do you want to design for?

I design for everyone, who appreciates our craftsmanship and techniques which help keep our heritage intact. Because if we don’t have our roots, what do we have?

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