Sheilvi Sanghavi: Chief Designer
Most likely to: attend bachelorette trips during peak collection time
“All of our biggest campaigns and movements started with a small thought that snowballed into what it is today. Everything we’ve done started with us sitting at the cafeteria table and someone saying, “OMG what if we do this?”
After working with Vogue and Veda Raheja amongst many others in the creative field, how did fashion design become the focal point of your career?
"Till date it's not really fashion designing, as much as it is just designing. I realized early on that I am a creative person and I like exploring all avenues of what that entails. Throughout my childhood and well into my adulthood, my sister and I would design and make our own clothes, but it was mainly the design aspect that drew me in. Even at Papa Don’t Preach, we don't restrict ourselves to clothes, we create campaigns, graphics, animations, social media grids, and even the Metaverse project was an entirely new way of designing something. I am still figuring it out but I do feel a pull towards creating in general, whether it’s fashion or furniture design. What draws me to it, is the practice of envisioning a concept in my head and then using my creative resources to make it come to life.”
Elaborate on your journey from junior to Chief Designer?
"After finishing my masters in fashion design, I came back to Papa Don’t Preach and got the job as a junior fashion designer. It started off being very intimidating because I was an outsider in a tight-knit community, and I was the first outside designer to be hired. On the contrary, it turned out to be beneficial for me because, in a small company, you’re expected to take on multiple roles. I was doing cost sheets, sketching, sampling, and sourcing. That can be overwhelming for some, but for me, it was more about ‘growing with the flow,’ because fashion houses are fast paced and unpredictable. I wasn’t thinking about a promotion, because I was happy to be in a space where I get to take on multiple creative projects like campaigns and new collection launches. My role today involves managing and training a team, incorporating feedback from clients and the sales team, apart from designing and ideation. My threshold for managing multiple projects increased through that exercise and that's how I climbed up the ladder.”
Experimentation has always been the cornerstone of the brand ethos, new and innovative projects are always on the horizon. Which project was the most rewarding for you?
“Our Metaverse fashion show this year was a passion project that I immersed myself into completely and whole-heartedly; despite not knowing anything about this mysterious, new digital landscape. The process of sketching, stitching, and embroidering a lehenga is very different from putting it on an avatar on the metaversal runway. That learning curve was brutal to the point that we didn’t know, till the final hour of the event, if we would be able to pull it off. There was profound pressure but also immense excitement because we’re the first brand to have such heavily embroidered lehengas in the Metaverse. It was proof that we’re a young and evolving brand. Our target audience is a generation that’s rapidly moving forward on all fronts, so we pushed our boundaries to meet those standards. Ultimately, we were on the same page about one thing. It's okay to fail, it's okay to make mistakes as long as we’re a brand that keeps the cycle of innovation and growth going.”
Size inclusivity in India, as a movement, hasn’t had the same momentum as its western counterparts. Papa Don’t Preach recently introduced a new language to the conversation around size labels. How was ‘Rainbow Labels’ born?
“In the last few years, we’ve been taking conscious steps towards inclusivity in all aspects of our practices. The conversation around size began with us taking a stand against Fat Tax. All our campaigns, everything we’ve done has always started with a small thought. It all starts with us sitting at the cafeteria table and someone saying, ‘OMG what if we do this?’ And that's how Rainbow labels was born too. I was reading about segregation based on merit and got the idea to do something similar with size labels. We had an impromptu brainstorming session at lunch and it snowballed into what you see today. The ideation was fairly easy, everything after that was months of back and forth, streamlining, and logistics. We tried to call it “Xtremely Sexy” so it becomes XS. With that, we were missing the point that size labels are redundant to made- to-measure luxury brands. Through communication, and brainstorming meetings, we concluded that we had to negate the most basic thing which was the boxing-in of size. We still have a long way to go with website logistics and other communication strategies but at least we started the process. The upcoming bridal collection is my favorite so far because it will be the first one to have labels with only the most pertinent information on them; the name of the karigar that made the garment and an ever-present reminder that size does not matter.”
Where do you see yourself in three years?
“I’m drawn to all aspects of design so I would love to morph the company into a 360 degree design and production house. We can get into product design, cutlery, education, and technology. We can design experiences using the latest technology because we are a young company and we need to expand our practices with newer digital tools. We’ve already started the PDP academy, where we teach and train each other with skills in stitching, designing, etc. We have the talent and the resources to keep pushing the envelope.”
How does the designer in you deal with criticism and mistakes when your work is judged on a global scale?
“There are small stressors when it comes to new collections, but when you have a strong, reliable team it's easy to fall back on them. Even when I personally make a mistake, it's not scary because the team is there to say, "okay you made a mistake, how do we fix it." More often than not, we laugh, we learn and move on. I found this saying online,"if it’s liked by the masses, it’s already done." I find that very helpful when it comes to understanding the market and our own designs. If we’re designing to please one particular person, we’re already doing something wrong. Our pieces are an acquired taste, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea and that's our niche. If you see criticism as a negative thing, you’re going to be stuck in that hole. I have learned from Shubhika that fashion is meant to be fun; we’re here for the people, not the clothes. I think she’s unstoppable when it comes to introducing something new to the market, things that she herself has never tried before. So that's something I keep close to me. This ideology that the designer and the wearer are going on this journey of experimentation and exploration together.”