Sometimes Pretty, Sometimes Badass: Shubhika Davda, Papa Don’t Preach

Shubhika Davda’s edgy fashion label Papa Don’t Preach defines its muse as “a ribbon around a bomb” and is meant for a “perfectly flawed girl”.

By Anupam Dabral

After completing her fashion design studies from London College of Fashion, Shubhika Davda returned to India in 2010 to launch Papa Don’t Preach (PDP) as a high-street label. It’s defined by the deconstruction of traditional Indian silhouettes, use of over-the-top embellishments, and experiments with an unusual colour palette, combining Shubhika’s three loves, music, drama and rebellion.

How would you describe your muse?
My muse is always a ‘perfectly flawed girl’, best defined by our tagline, “She’s like a ribbon around a bomb”. Pretty yet explosive, a mix of intriguing contradictions. Sometimes it’s pretty and sometimes it’s badass. I tell my clients you’ve clearly chosen Papa Don’t Preach because you want to stand out and not blend in, so don’t break a sweat if all you have is the equivalent of a safety pin holding your dress up!

Shubhika Davda

What are your earliest memories of fashion or design?
When I was about four years old, my mom bought our first electric sewing machine to stitch tiny dresses for my sister and me. She would let me practice the different stitches inbuilt in the machine on scraps of fabrics. The machine also came with this little toolbox, which to me was the cherry on the cake!

How did your brand evolve from high-street to bridal?
Inspired by London’s high-street culture, I was clear that PDP would mature into a brand offering street-wear along with accessories such that my client could walk out of the store with a complete look.

papa don't preachBut looking at the business side of work, I quickly realized that the money was actually in Indian bridal-wear. That pushed us into designing a bridal couture and Indian-wear line in 2012. I’m glad that it did. I now come out with four distinct lines a year in the high-street, bridal couture, Western women’s wear couture and accessories categories.

Isn’t that daunting?
Creatively yes, it is mighty daunting and exhausting as I needed a team that was good at producing Indian as well as Western wear. But financially we can now rest our business on Indian-wear and be experimental in other departments.

papa don't preach2How has the industry changed in the past few years?
The fashion industry is unfortunately still quite disorganized. It still requires a great deal of effort for young designers to be recognized and you very often don’t know where to begin. Luckily there are platforms that do launch young talent, and some encouraging buyers and multi-designer store owners.

But most interestingly, what has changed now is that social media can now help build brands and launch designers, and bring business in as well! That’s pretty empowering even as a creative person; you know that if you put quality work out there, you will find appreciation and eventually business.

First published in the March 2018 issue of eShe magazine. Read it for free here.

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