We embarked on a guided tour of JJ Valaya’s new store in JW Mariott, Aerocity, and the exploring the multi-disciplinary aspects of fashion, jewellery, interiors, and photography there.
On my way to the World of Valaya in JW Mariott, Aerocity, my mind was boggled as to why the veteran designer would pick a destination distanced from the rest of the city. After all, he could have easily picked a sprawling space in the bourgeoning Mehrauli like much of his contemporaries or simply stuck to luxury malls like The Chankaya or DLF Emporio. These thoughts were immediately wiped upon entering the 12,000- square feet, two-storey concept store featuring the designer’s three primary loves under one roof — fashion, home, and photography.
Far from the maddening crowds, the flagship store packs in multiple schools of design. Everything in the store has been designed, developed, or curated by the master couturier and takes a maximalist but never garish approach to design. “It’s multiculturalism at its highest thing, but taking it to the Nth level. It’s always difficult to actually put different schools of design together into one cohesive space but it’s something I’ve done for 30 years. We have three key elements in our philosophy – royal, nomadic, and art deco. I’m very greedy when it comes to design. I’m like, okay, I have this place, and I want to make it warm and welcoming. I’m a maximalist, but it shouldn’t be gaudy. Ostentatious can be misconstrued as a very negative word, so how do I make it sophisticated, elegant, warm, welcoming, and yet very true to my core philosophy. It just comes naturally, I’ve never really stressed about it,” shares the designer.
Located adjacent to the hotel, the store has a small reception, the jewellery section adorned with pieces from Aulerth, and the new bridge-to-luxury brand, JJV. A winding staircase leads you to the real gem his couture and home collections have given equal space. JJ Valaya store is resplendent with photographic works of the designer and the home space is an extension of his love for photography, travel and all things luxury. “Our entire home initiative is conceptualised for projects,” says the designer. “In fact, retail sales are incidental. So if somebody wants a few pieces, yes, we can do them, but essentially this is for residential or corporate projects.”
Across the hallway is the JJ Valaya’s powerhouse pieces – Indianwear, couture, and menswear (the pillars of his brand essentially). With over three decades in the industry, the designer is an institution in himself and his pieces have a decadent, vintage quality to them. There is a chamber dedicated to some of his most expensive and intricate bridal lehenga with a museum-style display and paired with ornate dupattas and shawls. “Fabrics with glitters is never going to develop a fashion identity for India because if we call it couture, we lose what we already have, which is our history and our craftsmen,” says the designer. At the same time, he acknowledges a need to create bridge or pret brands that cater to other smaller occasions and even curate travel wardrobes. The beauty of JJ Valaya is that it’s maximalist yet the embroidery is timeless. Despite years having passed, there are brides who’ve gotten their mother’s wedding outfits and asked for them to be modernised and revamped. “It’s quite heartwarming because there are these cool young girls, now its a different generation and they come and say they’re my mom’s clothes, but I want them fixed, but of course can we change the length a little and can we do some other stuff and all minor changes but the quality is the same so that fabric for 27 years and the embroidery when it’s unpacked it looks like I made it yesterday so I think that’s very important for me too.”
So if you’re looking to own a piece of history or make your own, a visit to JJ Valaya’s store in JW Mariott Aerocity is a worthy detour.
All Images: Courtesy JJ Valaya.