Shubhika Davda: Life in Technicolor

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Are you free spirited, edgy and in a psychedelic state of mind? Are you a rebel with principles and a hopeless romantic? Are you a risk taker and cater to unconventional norms? If your answer is YES, then get your swag on with PAPA DON’T PREACH by Shubhika!

Shubhika Davda, the brains behind the sensational label, Papa Don’t Preach, has already won our hearts with her artistic flair. She has totally nailed urban chic with her experimental designs, innovative silhouettes and meticulous attention to detail. Her collections are a beautiful juxtaposition of Indian and Western aesthetics. She has also given a new definition to contemporary Indian bridal dressing. Her avant-garde styles, unprecedented hand embroidery and weaving techniques, and excellent craftsmanship are truly exceptional. Her collections feature a lot of metallic prints, mirror and thread work, acrylic prints, 3-D metal embroidery, modern silhouettes, and stunning colour palettes.

Seeking inspiration from music and the arts, her designs are very individualistic, kitschy and effortlessly stylish. Remaining true to her essence, Shubhika’s Indo-western, high-street culture, exaggerated and dramatic design ideologies are immaculately expressed through the medium of clothes and accessories.

We caught up with the designer to understand more about how she manages to make everyone look so fabulous!

How did you start in fashion? Could you describe your fashion journey?

S.D: There was no real question for me about fashion designing as it came naturally to me. To my mom’s absolute exasperation, I dressed up my Barbie dolls in dresses I hand stitched from fabrics cut out of my own clothes; cut my cargo pant pockets to make sling purses, and manufactured papier-mâché earrings by gluing my art onto board pins, painted and varnished with my nail polishes, all in lieu to be sold to my school friends.

I was an average student in school but had a very clear idea that “creating something to be able to sell it” is something that excited me and came rather naturally to me but ignored that clarity and decided to pursue BMM and graduated in Journalism. But Fashion design kept calling me back, while in my second year, I made my first ‘business acquisition’ and bought over a small boutique and started running that whilst completing my studies. Post graduation and after running the boutique for two years, I realized the importance of get technical training. I convinced my parents and applied to London College of Fashion to pursue design. After finishing the course, I did an internship with Gomez Gracia to gain industry experience. During my time, there were no high street brands like a Zara or River Island in India. So I packed my bags and rushed back to India to start up one. And that’s how it started, as a high street brand that grew into a luxury pret and bridal couture label and my journey still continues.

How did you come up with the name, ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ 

S.D: Everything begins and ends with a song for me. The brand name was inspired by not only my personality, which is part rebellious, and part drama binger but largely from it being a baby of simple magic called ‘music and lyrics’. Even my muse, my idea of a ‘perfectly flawed girl’ who I’d like to dress is best defined by our tag line “She’s like a ribbon around a bomb” pretty yet explosive, a mix of intriguing contradictions. Sometimes it’s pretty and sometimes it’s badass. It’s always a lot of things all happening in conjunction!

What was the major turning point in your career?

S.D: The thing is that everybody waits for those great moments. It may sound like a snooze but the turning point actually comes very slowly and steadily. But when you are patient, and simply do what you do for the love of it, it comes to you surely. It’s when your brand starts getting recognition; it’s own unique barcode in a world of too many. When you are able to invest a lot more in your work, when the commercial aspect starts making sense, when you get your team right and have loyal clients who keep coming back to you, I think that is the turning point in anyone’s career.

Where do you seek inspiration?

S.D: Music and Stories (often dramatically spun in my own head) and also by spending slow paced hours on Sundays in Crosswords bookshop!

What’s your advice to young upcoming designers?

S.D: Designing sounds very fancy and glamorous but it isn’t. It is like any other business. You design only 10 % of the time and the remaining 90% goes in managing karigars/staff/maintenance/rent and electricity bills.. the list is endless!

So figure out what you want right at the outset, if you love design, then work with a designer/firm and become irreplaceable there, aim big, someday even head their design team as the creative director commanding a six figure salary and if you want to own a business and take on all the paraphernalia that comes with it then do that, but get ready to hit rock bottom before you rise and make a mark of your own. Either way it’s only hard work and constant self-motivation to put on blinders and just be at it, unwavering.

A few mistakes of my life are that I didn’t get formal training in design for long enough, even when I did, I didn’t attend all classes, didn’t keep with my colleagues, didn’t get enough out of my faculty, didn’t do an internship long enough (do it for a minimum of one to two years at least), didn’t set a clear business plan and targets for myself. Hopefully these won’t become your mistakes, if you’re smart enough to learn from other’s mistakes that is.

Figure out your strengths and who you are. Sometimes it is important to be on your own because it teaches you a lot – so travel, study abroad to step out of your comfort zone if possible. Take your time to set up your own business even if you think you are talented and have sufficient funds, work under someone for a year or two, learn at their expense not your own. Keep in touch with your faculty and friends and don’t be impatient. You don’t know who’s going to be what tomorrow. One needs to realize that they need to make the maximum of their time in college because that’s where you are laying down the foundation for your future career. Help others grow and allow them to help you grow.

Besides fashion designing, what do you think is the most exciting and lucrative career option in the fashion industry today?

S.D: Blogging/Vlogging (if you are able to create fresh and authentic content consistently)

Could you tell us a little bit about your new bridal collection, ‘The Reign of Gaia” and the idea and inspiration behind it?

S.D: Like I said before, it started with a song, ‘ Mildenhall by the shins’ it lent me the mood. It had to be country, cowgirl, raw; there had to be a slight noise and softness in how we shot it and hence birthed the collection. ‘Gaia’ means goddess of earth. Hence ‘Reign of Gaia’ has a raw yet larger than life kind of a feeling. A girl who has it all, yet is unobtainable not because she is unapproachable but because she is all encompassing and so content in just being herself. We put her in balloon tops with Lehengas, bandhej dhoti pants with layered sleeved shirts and long jacket gowns. This explains the choice of my muse – Shibani Dandekar. If you meet her, you’ll know that there isn’t anyone quite as cool and authentic as her. When you are inspired, it all just comes together almost magically!

Name two of your favourite fashion designers and why do you like them?

S.D: Manish Arora because he is visibly in love with what he does. He constantly keeps you interested with what he’s creating. He told me once, “You think it’s easy doing what I do? It’s not, but I never stopped being me, and neither should you”. That’s all the fuel that a ‘sometimes disillusioned’ creative soul needs, and he gave that to me!So he is my creative inspiration.

Sabyasachi Mukherjee because he is somebody who’s got the formula right. He has understood the correct balance and made it look absolutely effortless and beautiful. He is my business inspiration.

How do you stay on top of trends in the fashion industry?

S.D: My forte is embroidery and my understanding of colours, I don’t subscribe to trends when I’m making my couture collections but yes, when we are making our PR samples and the RTW collections, it becomes imperative to incorporate trends in order to make off the shelf sales and to get worn by celebrities. It is actually not so tough now because of social media to keep up with trends. You can’t escape trends because they’re everywhere.

Any interesting projects that you are currently working on?

S.D: I always get asked why I’ve stopped making accessories; people love Papa Don’t Preach bags, gloves, shoes and harness belts as they were unique conceptually. There are a few collaborations in the pipeline to bring back our accessories before the year-end. I’m also quite keen on bringing Fashion, Music and Dance together in some form, that’s a project I’m working on personally , so that’s exciting me the most currently!

Describe Shubhika Davda in three words.




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