/ Designer Profile: Saran Kohli

Designer Profile: Saran Kohli

May 16, 2013

An infusion of creativity is key for this menswear designer

The young London, England, menswear designer, Saran Kohli displayed his avant-garde collection at the International Asian Fashion Awards (IAFA) show last November. Celebrating the success of original work and creative talent within the Asian fashion industry, Kohli was presented with the “Best Newcomer” award at the show held at the London Hilton Park Lane. Kohli’s collection demonstrated the passion and creative flair for which he was being recognized.

In his modest acceptance speech, Kohli acknowledged his mother’s influence on his involvement in the fascinating world of fashion. Mani Kohli, of the “Khubsoorat Collection,” is well known for her glamorous ethnic brand and VIP clients, from British royalty to Bollywood celebrities. “Coming from a single [parent] family I am fortunate to have a mother like Mani, who watches over me and has instilled confidence and the great value of self reliance and integrity. Family is very important to me,” he says. Claiming that his biggest satisfaction as best newcomer is his acceptance in the industry, Kohli acknowledges that this has indeed opened doors for him and enquiries about his work have since filtered in from London and cities in the US.

Since the age of 15, Kohli has been exposed to the family business. At 26, and a graduate of the London College of Fashion in fashion management, Kohli has a wide range of experience that includes working for Japanese designer Michiko Koshino as a public relations and marketing assistant, then with Hugo Boss and Banana Republic. “I was put in the deep end, sort of like in The Devil Wears Prada. I did everything from fetching coffee to endless photocopying. I started at the bottom.”

Fashion is not only where the designer’s creativity lies. He is known for his dance choreography and for being a performer. His dance group, Snach, which he started at 17, is gaining in popularity and has been commissioned to perform all over the UK, US and India. His involvement with youth helps him promote not only urban dance, but it allows him to focus on other creative directions. “Dance and music are my first loves and my ideas for apparel come from there. Dance and fashion are a good marriage.” Street style, hip-hop and jazz combined with eastern music relate well to the theatrical flair of his fashions. As his way of contributing to the world, Kohli has been teaching dance to homeless kids in India. Two years later, three of those kids are on their way to earning scholarships to help them become professional dancers. Kohli candidly says, “it is not about helping them with money, [it’s] far more important to teach a skill that will have more value.”

He believes he can change the life of these kids and plans to stay involved.

Kohli admits that Michael Jackson and Frank Sinatra, among other iconic figures, are responsible for a large part of his innovation. Concrete images that get his creative juices going are “photos of ordinary street-wear from different cultures and sub-cultures.” The inspiration for his unique collection comes from key aspects of his life: music, dance and global travels. Travelling and understanding “global style” has had a strong influence on his collection, which he has proven is ideal for the stage and the big screen.

His signature streamlined jackets are a sensation with musicians, and other creative artists alike, who form an impressive fan base. Jay Sean, Mumzy Stranger, DJ Ironik, Ameet Chana (Bend it Like Beckham) and Bikram Singh have all been exposed to Kohli’s luxurious and elegant inspirations. His brand is best known for its unique style of jacket: a fusion of rich, opulent, luxurious fabrics such as silk, wool and jacquard embellished with embroidery.

Kohli has created one-off performance pieces for singer Mumzy Stranger that have been featured in Stranger’s music videos, album covers and live performances. “The collaboration started in 2006 and I still continue to bring Mumzy Stranger’s personality to life on stage and off stage. Alternative jackets, custom-cut denims are key features and Hand-Made Hoods with personalized embellishments.”

Proud of his collaborative work, Kohli is currently working with Karan Pangali, known for his dance and choreography, in the field of East & West dance fusion on a film that synthesizes both dance and fashion together. A further addition to the growing client base of famous celebrities is JLS, an English boy band. Kohli has created silhouettes that are a blend of jacquards, velvet, silk and embroidery with an ethnic influence. The collection is a good balance of mixing Indian-Italian fabrics with his distinctive slim cuts. He believes what characterizes people is their clothing.

His passion for his work is evident as he describes his creativity as coming “from the heart.”

Outfitting famous musicians and creating costumes for the new movie London Times, directed by Michael De’Sioye, speak of exciting times ahead for the young designer. In the future, Kohli is looking at developing lines that target a different market and his summer collection will be geared to a slightly more mainstream clientele, both in price and style, “a more affordable line for the younger men,” which is due out in July.

Among his other music and design ventures, Kohli is busy setting up an online store for both "Khubsoorat" and "Saran Kohli". As our conversation came to an end, Kohli reminded me to direct readers to his blog at www.sarankohli.com. It is his way of keeping in touch with his fans.



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