Indian Label Balav Embraces Non-Compliance & Rejects Gender Binaries

Indian Label Balav Embraces Non-Compliance & Rejects Gender Binaries
Image Courtesy: Balav

We all know how the visual language of each era is a result of the trends and clothing adorned by the people. Fashion acts as a lens through which young designers contribute to the zeitgeist and transform the entire cultural landscape. Presently creatives in the industry are helping us visualise a new era of fashion that is driven by genderless clothing and non-conformity.

Leading this revolution, Balav a luxury streetwear fashion house born in 2021 is experimenting with the concept of noncompliance in the space of clothing. They wish to eradicate the very idea that limits particular silhouettes or colour palettes to a specific gender. Instead, the label views fashion as a means of breaking society’s obsession with binaries.

To get further insight into the creative process of Balav and understand their visual language we interacted with their young founder –– Vaishnavi Bala who sheds light on the multi-faceted origins of the streetwear label.

Balav draws inspiration from daily life and the wild spirit of Mumbai streets. How do these help in constructing the visual/design language of the brand?

The visual language of the brand builds over my own life’s experiences, personality, and the people around me and also from constant interactions with the hustle and bustle of the streets. These attributes are incorporated into the process of storytelling through design details and fabric manipulation techniques. The pieces are derived from my chaotic and disorganised mind, fused with trends that play around with silhouettes crafted to provide the wearer with an experience of luxury all while keeping in mind their utilitarian needs.

The brand is rooted in intimate memories of inter-generational bonds. What role did they play in the creation of Balav?

Since a very young age, I have always found garments and the process behind their creation intriguing. There was a time when my grandma made me this velvet maroon dress, which I starkly remember because it was so unique considering the fact that the whole dress was held together with a metal ring at the back. This made me curious to experiment with fashion & create magic with whats around.

Image Courtesy: Balav

In 2022, when most brands claim to create genderless clothing, how can Balav make actually create space for people to experience fashion outside the bounds of societal norms?

Every time I tell people that I am a streetwear designer, the first question that pops up is ‘Whom do you design for?’ I make clothes for PEOPLE and I don’t believe in gender divisions when it comes to clothing. The funny thing is that I shop from the menswear section more often than womenswear and similarly my mother picks up kurtas from the men’s section as well. Ultimately what matters is how you use these pieces to express yourself. I design for people who are confident in their own skin, are willing to stand out and are bold enough to take a chance. A piece of clothing doesn’t define who can wear it and that’s what Balav stands for.

You also studied fashion in Milan, how do you integrate that knowledge in the process?

I’m so grateful to be provided with a chance to experience the culture of fashion in Milan. The minute one steps into the city, you realise exactly why it owns the title of being the world’s fashion capital. ‘Over dressing’ as a term is borne from Milanese culture and that’s exactly what shaped my style. The city taught me that there are no boundaries when it comes to self-expression through clothing. Lastly, the whole idea of streetwear as a means of talking to the crowd & putting forward my own personality is what was shaped in Milan.

Image Courtesy: Balav

Balav tends to drop a few limited pieces and capsule collections within the year, is that a conscious choice?

Balav is a conscious brand that aims to normalise experimenting with fashion, I am somebody who always wants to stand out of a crowd & that’s also an experience that I wish to offer my customers.
We drop limited pieces to maintain exclusivity and avoid excess inventory & wastage at the same time.

How would you describe your experience in creating a ‘homegrown’ label?

Creating a homegrown label has been a roller coaster ride with a mix of fun experiences and a bunch of hardships in the process. Although, the fact that I learn from my own mistakes helps me make sure that I never mess up twice but rather take back the lessons that happen to stay with me for a lifetime. It has been my aim to dress people up in my ideas and seeing that happen today is a crazy feeling.

How would you define Balav’s visual identity and what is the voice of the brand?

Balav aims at normalising experimentation & hopes to make people comfortable in their own skin.
Our goal is to sell a mood, vibe, and lifestyle rather than just pieces of clothing. We hope to remain conscious of our environmental impact while creating clothing that makes our customers feel comfortable but also helps them stand out at the same time.

Find them here.

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