Designer Monisha Jaising and Shweta Bachchan Nanda launched a new label, called MxS, in the first week of September. This was among the most exciting fashion collaborations of the year. The label, whose motto is affordable luxury, offers attires co-designed by the duo for women of all sizes and ages. The brand focuses exclusively on streetwear and follows a peppy, contemporary design idiom. 

The designers spoke to Guardian 20 about how this collaborative project was conceived and executed. Shweta Bachchan Nanda, who is making her designing debut with MxS, said, “It was a common friend’s 50th birthday and the dress code was ‘shimmer and shine’. I was one of the hosts and I knew what exactly I wanted to wear to the party. I wanted someone to translate my vision into the final product. The first designer that came to my mind was Monisha Jaising. I approached her to create the outfit. After a couple of design meetings, we came up with an effortless-looking ensemble that had a pair of relaxed party-ready trousers with a matching oversized shirt… I had an after-thought post this fun experience: that we should come up with a capsule collection together, which then progressed, to building a long-term association through MxS.”

Navya Naveli Nanda in an MxS dress.

Designer Monisha Jaising, for her part, believes that “a woman should not feel restricted by her age”. She talked to us about the brand philosophy of MxS. “Our styles are meant for women of all ages and sizes. The brand believes that to pigeonhole a woman is akin to taking away from her right of expression and we pride ourselves in creating designs that complement any age and size. It is not unusual for teenage girls to go into their mother’s closet and borrow something special for an occasion. With this at the back of our minds, we designed a collection that is fluid. When you own an MxS item you can lend it to your daughter, or borrow it from her. The freedom and choice are entirely yours.”

A lot of thought has gone into conceptualising brand MxS and studying its target customer base. As Shweta said, “When a woman wears an MxS garment she feels comfortable in her own skin. She is someone who has a discerning eye. She is playful with her sartorial choices, effortless in her approach. She is a woman who is happy to let her outfit do the talking. The brand believes that fashion is for all and thus caters to women of all ages and all body types. MxS has clothes that will be a quick fix for any occasion.”

But how is this prêt label different from other affordable luxury brands?

“We have maintained top-notch quality while being affordable and luxurious,” added Shweta. “India has the skill. Our craftsmanship has been used internationally for years. Our rich fabrics and heritage textiles, as well as our hand-crafted embroidery techniques, are used by ateliers everywhere. Yet Indian women are largely reliant on foreign brands for luxury prêt clothes. We wanted to present the Indian woman with an option. Designs with the quality and aesthetics of foreign brands, but made at home.”

On working with Shweta as a team, Monisha said, “I am very happy to be co-designing a collection with her. She is very creative and filled with amazing ideas. We have similar tastes on basic aesthetics and that helps us a lot in working together. I have known Shweta for a very long time. In fact, when she was a young girl, there was a white shirt that I made for her and she looked wonderful in that. Since that time I have been following her style… We together work with a team of talented designers and skilled craftsmen. The vision is given collectively from both of us to the design team.”

When two designers are working on a project, they learn to coordinate and pull together as a team, just as Shweta and Monisha did. On their creative process, Shweta said, “The guidelines are given by me and Monisha. The team thereafter does a thorough research on trends and applies the core design sensibilities of MxS to their research to come up with ideas for the collection under our complete guidance. The sampling process starts with the sourcing of raw materials, sketches, and embroidery swatches after soaking in the inspiration of the collection. The first sample takes birth after a toile is made. Once approved it goes to the factory for production followed by a quality check, and then finally the dispatch for the collection to hit the shop floor.”

MxS derives its vision from street fashion, pop culture, travel and movies. Shweta said, “Our first collection is cheeky, preppy and playful as well as whimsical and glamorous. We wanted to design a fun and happy collection. When you get up in the morning, you want to be excited about getting dressed and taking on the day—part of our job as creators and curators is to give people a bit of a break from reality.”

The debut collection of MxS features, among other thing, sequin rainbow-striped track-pants, statement luxe sweatshirts with the word “Airplane Mode” scrawled across the front in embroidery, and a black leather skirt with slogans all over it in graffiti art. There are also trendy t-shirts, beautifully hand-pleated metallic skirts and dresses with short to floor-skimming hemlines. 

The collection is not limited to a strict colour palette. Overall the collection has a full spectrum of colours—from sorbet pastels to an eclectic range of bright hues.

Monisha, on the exclusivity of the brand, said, “Just like works of art, each piece will be a limited edition. There might be a few hundred shift dresses, for instance, and each will be labeled with an item number and the title of the dress that inspired it.”

While working on this collection, the designers created several fabric mashups and experimented with styles. Shweta said, “We have experimented with a variety of fabrics each of which brings exclusivity to the collection as all the fabrics are specially manufactured for MxS. From an interesting composition of bonded satin organza to metallic lamè, from genuine leather to chainmail, from metallic velvet to satin georgette, the collection has an interesting fabric story. Each fabric is specially curated by us to fit a particular style and then run in all sizes.

The designs created by the duo were then given physical form by expert craftspeople. “Skilled craftsmanship has been used to create an array of beautiful hand embroideries. The collection uses permanent pleating and hand pleating techniques to showcase an interesting play of light concept when the garment is worn. A combination of shine and texture is created with the help of reflective sequin and thread keeping with the now trending iridescent craze. Some of the pieces see a modern spin on traditional menswear tailoring fabrics, like plaid and herringbone. The design sensibilities of MxS are aimed to appeal to everyone who is fashion forward,” said Monisha.