Started by brothers – Shantanu Mehra and Nikhil Mehra – Shantnu & Nikhil is an Indian couture label that was founded in 2000 with an aim to delineate progressivism and distinctiveness by encapsulating the essence of vintage India and merging it with the glee and excitement that modern India brings to the table.
A contemporary occasionwear brand for luxury shoppers worldwide, the brand takes pride in its ‘anti-trend’ design values that satiate its customers’ sartorial taste in living as well as the way they express themselves via the fashion they wear.
After having completed and dominated two decades in the Indian fashion industry and simultaneously bringing Indian fashion on to the world’s stage, Shantnu & Nikhil has reached a point where fashion and couture are not merely about selling outfits and making sales – the brand strives to make its customers experience the entire tale of the ensemble itself.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Shantanu and Nikhil Mehra spent most of their youth in the United States owing to their education. Shantanu acquired an MBA in Finance from the Ohio State University, Ohio, USA, post which he went on to work at the corporate finance wing at General Motors. It was during his time in the USA that he realised the power and potential that the Indian fashion industry held.
Nikhil, on the other hand, decided to pursue a Master’s degree from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandise (FIDM), Los Angeles, California, USA after graduating. While there, Nikhil’s work caught the eye of the heads of Universal Studios, Hollywood, where he showed one of his early collections. A few months later, St. John Knits, the American luxury house founded in 1962, hired him as an in-house designer.
But India was never far from his mind and heart and come 1999, Shantanu decided to marry his knowledge in business and finance and consumerist skills with his brother Nikhil’s creative ideation and design skills and launched the maison Shantnu & Nikhil in 2000.
PRODUCT CATEGORIES AND BRAND USP
The brand caters to both men and women via its ready-to-wear, couture and the more recently launched Bridge-to-Luxury line S&N by Shantanu & Nikhil, which serves as a natural extension to lead the designers’ contemporary Indian artisanal values to the world.
“The new brand is a juxtaposition of heritage and spunk, traditional and modern, ceremonial and military, exuding modern twists like neo-drapes balanced with new age details,” Shantnu Mehra told Apparel Resources (AR) in an exclusive interview.
Menswear includes shirts, kurtas, co-ord sets, knits, waistcoats, layered ensembles, bandhgalas, trousers, sherwanis, jackets, sweaters and cardigans, whilst the brand’s womenswear offering features an array of shirts and tops, dresses, saree gowns, jumpsuits, layered ensembles, waistcoats, trousers skirts and co-ord sets.
Rounding it off, the label also provides an extensive range of accessories which include gloves, belts, brooches, shoes, bags, pocket squares, wallets and mufflers.
|Following an anti-trend path, Shantnu & Nikhil can best be described as a contemporary disruptor with a strong India-proud sentiment. Representing an amalgamation of Indian decadence and modern grandeur, the brand replaces traditional embroideries and styles with exaggerated neo drapes.|
DETAILS AND TECHNIQUES
A strong advocate of egalitarianism, the brand believes that both men and women have masculine and feminine energies and each of them use their respective energy when required. This created the foundation of the label’s philosophy and its focus on gender fluidity, offering androgynous sartorial choices.
The label is known to marry Indian heritage with modern grandeur while celebrating the masculine and feminine energies of both men and women by presenting gender-fluid fashion.
Techniques such as 3D appliqué, metallic bugel bead embroidery – all amalgamated with technology-led techniques such as laser cut details – form the USP of the label.
“We consciously make an effort to include our storytelling via mediums and techniques we use. For our couture collections, we’ve used baroque lace embroidered in dori work, whilst the menswear range has velvet texturing of pin tucks with metallic details,” Nikhil said, adding, “Our latest collection-Capella has been emboldened by an array of colours merging from Blush-Pink, going into pristine Off-White, Mint-Gold- all an ode to the magnificent interiors of a Baroque palace. For our Bridge-to-Wear collections, incubate around the concept of using innovative stretch fabrics and daring drape techniques that have defined agility in the movement for us.”
PRODUCTION AND MANUFACTURING
What began in 2000 with a small team of 5-6 people, has, over two decades, grown to a family of 400 people.
While the brand’s main unit is located in Delhi-NCR, its strategic partnership with ABFRL, gives it access to the conglomerate’s production facility situated in Bengaluru – Madura Fashion & Lifestyle.
The entire production of S&N is done by Madura, whilst the production of the Shantnu & Nikhil Couture line is handled in-house at the brand’s own manufacturing unit.
SUSTAINABLE AND ETHICAL PRACTICES AT SHANTNU & NIKHIL
“Lately, fashion hasn’t been just about sporting the new trend, it is about an ethical approach towards a better environment while looking chic. We’ve noticed a shift in how people feel about fashion these days; they’re a lot more emotive in their decisions and responsible in their consumption. Brides are looking for timeless pieces which can be reworn a few years down the line and can be Re-loved, Re-owned and Re-used,” Nikhil said, commenting on the consumer sentiment surrounding ethical and timeless fashion.
“Fashion is being looked at as a fraternity of global impact and community for change. We have integrated this shift in our philosophy and are now envisaging a future focusing on art, creativity, sustainable development and collaborations.”
|“As a brand, we have reinvented our production model to ensure no overproduction on either side of the brand. While couture follows a more seasonless, bespoke model of design now, we ensure limited inventory for S&N where the same inventory is shared between the physical and digital stores, thus controlling production,” Shantnu Mehra|
Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Limited (ABFRL) recently acquired a 51 per cent stake in Shantnu & Nikhil’s company, Finesse International Design Private Limited (which is run by the label), in a Rs. 60 crore deal.
In partnership with the conglomerate, the brand is constantly exploring new opportunities to be more sustainable through its #ReEarth pledge. From reducing carbon emissions to going 100 per cent plastic-free, the designer duo are rethinking their brand models to showcase relevance and resiliency.
“As a brand, we have reinvented our production model to ensure no overproduction on either side of the brand. While couture follows a more seasonless, bespoke model of design now, we ensure limited inventory for S&N where the same inventory is shared between the physical and digital stores, thus controlling production,” Shantnu explained.
AR: Having transitioned from Ready-to-Wear to Couture, and more recently, to Bridge-to-Luxury, what has been the one valuable lesson/ skill you learnt that has been essential to the successful running of fashion business in the Indian landscape?
S&N: S&N by Shantnu & Nikhil was created as a ready-to-wear extension of the mother brand Shantnu & Nikhil. While we are the original drape makers in menswear and have been making bespoke couture for over 20 years, our Bridge-to-Luxury wear gave us the knack to be more experimental with our silhouettes. Shantnu & Nikhil has always been a ceremonialwear brand and whereas S&N by Shantnu & Nikhil is a ready-to-wear brand, a bride-to-luxury for all celebrationwear needs.
With S&N, we have seen there is a need for our designs beyond wedding and ceremonies and we have been trying to evolve with our design aesthetics to cater to the same. In couture, we have the privilege of time to ace every piece to perfection but with BTL, we have to deliver the same without compromising on our silhouettes and cuts. We are experimenting with new design aesthetics and methods to keep the freshness of the brand alive.
|We’ve noticed a shift in how people feel about fashion these days; they’re a lot more emotive in their decisions and responsible in their consumption. Brides are looking for timeless pieces which can be reworn a few years down the line and can be Re-loved, Re-owned and Re-used,” Nikhil Mehra|
AR: What are your future plans for the label?
S&N: Both the brands- Shantnu & Nikhil and S&N by Shantnu & Nikhil are experiencing new shifts and changes this season. While S&N is coming to Tier-2 cities like Ahmedabad, Raipur and democratising fashion further, Shantnu & Nikhil has been disrupting ceremonial couture with new design aesthetics.
Our Bridge-to-Luxury brand was launched during the pandemic in 2020 and since then it has been on a journey that only goes higher. S&N by Shantnu & Nikhil aims to become India’s brand for the world advocating the strong India-proud sentiments that are a portrait in our ensembles. We have opened eight retail stores in a span of two years with a robust e-commerce platform.
We are furthering our vision of integrating both the brands together into a hybrid store like we did in Ahmedabad, for a more nuanced experience for our patrons.
Twenty years into its journey, Shantnu & Nikhil as a brand, has democratised Indian couture through a modern Indian narrative that speaks the language of structure and strength in its most inimitable form of luxury. This progressive philosophy over a period of time, has further disrupted to advocate a decisive India-proud sentiment that is young, sartorial, gender-fluid and patriotic-chic.