On December 20, 2017, India’s couture cognoscenti gathered for an evening of high luxury at the palatial Bikaner House, New Delhi. The occasion? A quarter-century milestone for the “Czar of Indian Fashion,” JJ Valaya. Here, guests were treated to a crystal-strewn installation of rare beauty and craftsmanship by a fashion pioneer; a showcase to demonstrate how traditional style syntax has become the new chic: “The Alika Project”.

The House of Valaya has been dressing the country’s glitterati with sumptuous, beautifully crafted couture since 1992. During the course of his 15-year partnership with Swarovski, Valaya has gone beyond fashion and bridal wear to bring his unique style to interiors, photography, art installations and, most recently, a jewelry line. It’s an impressive CV. However, it could be said that a true mark of design genius is when, over the course of a designer’s career, they succeed in creating an iconic piece—something that transcends seasonal trends to become an instant classic, a wardrobe staple that is worn year after year. In 2010, Valaya joined the pantheon of designers to achieve this aspiration. It’s a wonderfully versatile item that has become his signature: the “Alika Jacket.”

A cross between a shirt and a jacket, the Alika shares its DNA loosely with the “Sadri,” a traditional Indian garment. Sitting as easily with a pair of jeans as with a colorful silk sari, it was born from an urge to create something permanent in the impermanent world of fashion. Identifying features include the half-inch Bundgala collar, a raglan sleeve with quarter-inch piping, and the Jharoka yoke at the back. However, like all iconic cuts, its simplicity allows for myriad adaptations and embellishments. And that is the inspiration behind “The Alika Project”:

To celebrate 25 years in fashion, Valaya, in partnership with Swarovski, has created a bespokespecial editionAlika Jacket for each year, each painstakingly ornamented with his exquisite signature embroideries and crystal detailing. As a showcase of their versatility, 24 of India’s leading creative influencers were then invited to style one of the jackets, with the 25th reserved for “The Black Bride,” Valaya’s concept look. The spectrum of responses was dazzling, all of them photographed by Valaya using a stylish backdrop provided by New Delhi’s Roseate House. 

The grand launch event at Bikaner House showed his photographs alongside the outfits themselves, inviting guests to admire the world-class beadwork. Embellishments included jewel-like Fancy Stones and beads in Scarlet, Pacific Opal, Gold Patina, Luminous Green and Crystal Golden Shadow, along with lustrous Swarovski Crystal Pearls. “The Black Bride,” however, was the undisputed highlight: while JJ Valaya bedazzled the jacket with his signature “Shifting Leaves” chevron, a stunning peacock-adorned gown with ruffled underskirt raised the look to the very heavens. His aim was to reclaim the darkest color from its negative associations, and to make a silent prayer for peace: “Without the midnight sky, how would we see the stars?” 

This is one star in the fashion firmament that we hope to see sparkling for another 25 years.

JJ VALAYA collaborated with Alpana Neeraj, Amrapali, Antar Agni, Archana Rao, Dhruv Kapoor, Eka, Ekaya, Aakaaro, Gautam Kalra, Ikai, Malini Banerji, Nappa Dori, Nicobar, Payal Pratap Singh, Pernia Qureshi, Péro, Peter D’Ascoli, Punit Jasuja, Rimzim Dadu, Shivan & Narresh, Suket Dhir, Sumant Jayakrishnan, Swati & Sunaina, Tanira Sethi.