When Ang Lee’s Life of Pi releases on November 23 in India, swimwear designers Shivan Bhatiya and Narresh Kukreja will be among the first to catch a show. While the Delhi-based duo are fans of Lee, that isn’t the only reason for their enthusiasm. Bhatiya and Kukreja are eager to check out how a 10-15-minute-long scene in the film — one that shows locals lounging at the Piscine Molitor swimming pool in Paris — has turned out.
“Around 100 people, both men and women, have worn swimwear designed by us in that scene. Given that the protagonist is named after this swimming pool, the scene is quite an important one and we can’t wait to see it,” says Kukreja.
This film also marks their first film project. Kukreja recalls how stylist and costume designer Arjun Bhasin contacted them in November 2010 and asked them to create swimwear for the film. “Back then, we were working on our Spring-Summer 2011 collection. We were also sceptical because we had to make 1950s’ style costumes,” he says. Since swimsuits in the ’50s were made from cotton, Bhatiya and Kukreja — who are known for their cutting-edge lycra swimsuits — now had to make cotton swimwear.
“We have done silk swimsuits earlier but this was totally new because cotton is not used today for swimsuits. Moreover, this was not modern cotton, so to speak. Rather, it was the furnishing fabric variety that we had to source to make the swimsuits look authentic,” says Bhatiya.
After three months of research and consultation with Bhasin, they sourced the cotton from stores that sold old upholstery fabrics. “Our first three batches of swimsuits were sent back but the fourth and fifth sets fit the bill,” Kukreja says.
The resulting set then, is a series of swimsuits that boast techniques such as smocking and ruching. In terms of prints, the duo have played with stripes, checks and mainly floral prints for the women. “Also, since these were ’50s swimsuits, we couldn’t use zips and had to rely on buttons, hooks and elastic,” says Kukreja, adding that the colour palette varies from blue and mint green to peach and dull gold.
Bhatiya reveals that they have been signed on to provide swimwear designs for a few YRF films as well. “It’s too early to say more but it is also very challenging because you have to stick to someone else’s brief,” he says.