By Solvej Schou
The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Indian designers Falguni and Shane Peacock have busted out of Bollywood straight through to Hollywood. Their champion? Britney Spears.
In the video for her newest single, “Hold It Against Me,” the pop queen raises up her fists like Muhammad Ali and fights with her doppelganger, while sheathed in ornate outfits by the married design duo. Britney One is clad in a short black minidress encrusted with intricate fuchsia and red beadwork, feathered shoulders, and a slinky red train. Britney Two wears a similar version in navy blue.
The video has been a high career point for the Peacocks, who have dressed everyone from Katy Perry, Fergie, and Brandy, to Nicki Minaj in their sassy, detailed, futuristic frocks in just the past year. The couple, who married in 2001, debuted their designs outside India about eight seasons ago at Los Angeles Fashion Week, and have shown in London for six years. At first, they mainly dressed Indian actresses. Then, American stars caught on.
“It’s so strange, to have one pop star after the other. Initially, we designed for Fergie, for the World Cup, then lots of requests started coming in, especially in the last six months,” said an exhausted Falguni over the phone from Mumbai, back in their home base after the pair showed their sleek, leather-heavy, biker-chic fall collection during London Fashion Week.
One catwalk look featured fingerless black gloves with spikes jutting from the back. Another had swirling gold beading contrasted against a sheer, black, three-quarter length sleeve top. Western silhouettes meshed with Indian-tinged embellishments.
A few weeks earlier, the pair lay low in a small suite at a luxury West Hollywood hotel on the Sunset Strip. Stylists for singer Perry chatted around them, flipping through racks of colorfully sequined floor-length gowns and sculptural, encrusted catsuits, searching for costumes for a new video.
Falguni, small and quiet in person, and Shane, tall and dark-haired, once again looked zonked. A flight from L.A. to Mumbai lasts about 18 hours. Planning a line of perfumes, bags, and accessories, the two see themselves as a growing global brand.
“On the plane, we sleep. Because of that, it’s hard to meet people. It’s easier to talk on the phone,” said Shane. “We are planning to set up an office in New York and stay in New York for three months, then back in India, then back in New York.”
Falguni envisions stores around the world.
“Having everyone wear our clothes, and not just the pop stars,” she added. “It could be a more commercialized version. We know our strengths, what we can achieve.”
Khanh T.L. Tran, a longtime writer at fashion-industry newspaper Women’s Wear Daily, noted the Peacocks’ appeal to rock ’n’ roll elite, and suggested the couple to broaden their range to appeal to everyday women.
“The pieces, because of the vivid colors, lavish embellishments, do lend well to a theatrical production or a video or red carpet,” said Tran. “But they should be careful because they don’t want to be too Bollywood. They could translate the aesthetics to sportswear pieces. A T-shirt silhouette might be easier to wear.”
Indian designers have just started to reach international acclaim, with the Peacocks in prominent company. Manish Arora, for example, is gaining attention for avant-garde, over-the-top neon creations worn by the likes of Minaj at the American Music Awards. Arora was named the new artistic director of label Paco Rabanne.
The Peacocks remain committed to Indian traditions of handcrafting, and their garments are manufactured there. Certain dresses can take a few days to create, with five or six people doing the beadwork. That extra touch, as well as lowered production costs, could give them an advantage, said Tran.
Still, noted Shane, it took years to get to the point for the fashion community to view India as a creative hub beyond its production capabilities.
“It’s very difficult to be from India or a small country. No. 1, they don’t take you seriously, and No. 2, you have to work very hard,” said Shane. “Half the time, people in the fashion business don’t take you seriously because you’re from a small town. They ask, ‘Do elephants roam on the road?’ ”
The couple’s future will likely include dressing more A-list celebrities who love bright colors and blingy styles, but a more luxe collection is in the works. They design their own prints, and architecture is a strong influence at the moment.
Interestingly, the women at the top of their wish lists to dress are not the sequined catsuit types.
Faguni would love to see Queen Elizabeth II in their clothes, and Shane has his eye on a couple of prominent American women.
“I look up to Michelle Obama. She’s quite a powerful person,” said Shane. “We love to dress real women. In India, it’s more about customizing. Women come in different sizes, different shapes. We would have to adapt to what they wear, their style, with Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey. We can’t go overboard.” ♦