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Fashion

The pattern partners

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They almost seem interchangeable - on the glossy pages of magazines, on the labels fashionistas are willing to wound for, and on ramps thumping with applause when they approach the spotlight reluctantly clapping and soaking in the flashlights. Up close, however, the two individuals that make up Indian haute couture's famous pairs are distinct personalities. When Abu Jani, a Mumbai boy who grew up in a wealthy Bohra household, met Sandeep Khosla, a Kapurthala boy who worked with his family leather business, in 1986, they instantly "got each other". "We are two minds, distinct and separate.

Both of us have a strong artistic and aesthetic sensibility. We choose not to tread on each other's toes or dilute our differences, " Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla say in an email interview. For them, a successful partnership is like alchemy, where "two elements are combined to create something that is greater than the sum of its parts". "The biggest challenge is to learn to agree to disagree. It's not about bowing to the other but give and take. This is never easy because every artist has a unique and compelling vision that often clashes with the other's, " they say. While their vision is a shared commitment to "eclectic, inventive, original and meticulous attention to detail", ideation and execution in an inherently creative field is an "organic process". It could start with inspiration from travels, street, people, history or music and end up in the form of couture, interiors or furniture. "It is a magical thing. We both play the roles of artist and curator from time to time. Our opinions have mostly always differed and the outcome is everything we have created, " they say. The world of high fashion has always boasted successful partnerships that have mixed love with work, from Art Ortenberg and Liz Claiborne of Liz Claiborne who married in 1957, Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce of Dolce & Gabbana who dated for a few years to Miuccia Prada and Patrizio Bertelli of Prada who married after meeting at a trade fair in 1977. Closer home, there's Falguni and Shane Peacock, Asit and Ashima Dhingra and more recently, Mayank Anand and Shraddha Nigam. Anand and Nigam, who have both worked in television and films, forayed into the world of fashion after they met through common friends.

"We always had a general appreciation for each other's design sensibilities, " says Anand. It started with a "fun conversation" when the duo decided to run some samples of shoes and men's wear. "Initially, we differed on a lot of matters, but we shared a common vision, " says Nigam. The shoes never hit the market but the duo say they have now learnt to strike a balance between the "artisan mentality" and "marketability". The duo recently showcased their collection, 'Ember', inspired from the colours of burning coal with clothes in tones of brown, grey, black, silver and white.

"Our learning curve has developed together, " says Anand. While Nigam's design sense, says Anand, is definitively earthy, his is flamboyant. "That's why our collections decidedly move one way or the other, but we encourage and support each other throughout the process, " he says. The couple is now dating. "Through our business, we were able to understand each other's strengths and weaknesses. That's when love started, " says Nigam.

For Gen Next designers Shashank Raj and Pajwal Badwe, who recently showcased their line at the Mumbai Fashion Week, a partnership was the logical next step. Raj, who grew up in Ranchi, met Badwe, a Nagpur boy, at design school in Mumbai. After graduation, they shared an apartment in Delhi when Raj worked for Raghuvendra Rathore and Badwe worked with J J Valaya. They launched their label in 2010 with Raj devoting himself to understanding the market and developing silhouettes and Badwe leveraging his skills for computer graphics. "We're committed to using contemporary technology of digital printing, laser cutting in sync with the opulence of Indian embroidery and patterns. We're inspired by the Elizabethan era and Indian royalty, " says Raj.

From high-waist detailed trousers, Elizabethan organza blouses and bubble skirt dress to orange plastic cutwork pieces, Raj says the fashion duo's shared sensibility is about innovating. The Indian fashion world's favourite sisters, Gauri and Nainika, whose couture celebrities like Preity Zinta, Aishwarya Rai and Bipasha Basu chase, say they are two people, one mind. With a one-year age gap between them, Gauri says they are closer than twins and agree 99 per cent of the time. "On the rare occasion that we don't, we keep an open mind. If Nainika doesn't like something, I know something could be off about it, " she says. While Nainika, the younger of the two, is more impulsive, Gauri is the measured voice. "While she's great with sketches, I conceptualise and steer the design process. We don't have designated roles as such, we do everything together, " says Gauri, an MBA and economics honours graduate. While being with the same person round the clock "can drive someone crazy", Gauri believes it's a small price to pay for having someone to fall back on. "We love working together so much that I think if one of us has to stop, we both will. "

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