Simple, understated elegance, style par excellence are a few words to describe their clothes. In the business of design for more than 15 years now, the designer-duo Ankur Modi and Priyanka Modi are whom celebrities reach out to when they want to be dressed stylishly without appearing loud.
With their brand AM:PM, Ankur and Priyanka fashion clothes out of pure and luxurious fabrics like Kanchipuram, chanderi, dupion silk, duchess satin, georgette, and of course, the most popular one, cotton. They use very traditional embellishments. Embroidery has to be hand-stitched using pure thread in age-old embroidery styles like aari and dori, using a lot of mirror works. And if the clothes have to be printed, then the printing has to be done with traditional hand blocks, using traditional motifs and colours. So, in their collections, there is a lot of mustard, blue, red, green, black and ivory. All these colours may be common, but when you look at their clothes, the same colours look glorious because of the quality of the fabric and perfect cut and style.
There is something unique, something special and real different when you look at the clothes of this Delhi-based duo. For example, one of their recent collections was titled 'Zivar'. Now, how many designers would really think of weaving pure silver threads in their clothes as Priyanka did? At that time, she was very fascinated by the traditional craftsmanship of bidri, a craft centred in Bidar, Karnataka. Bidri work uses the alloy of zinc and copper, and the fabric is then inlaid with pure silver to create a stunning pattern.
The Modis used this craft to design some 20-plus garments like jackets, capes, gowns, skirts, draped saris, lehengas, etc, using luxurious fabrics like organza, velvet, and different silk weaves interspersed with weaves of threads of silver and gold. These were embellished with heritage embroidery like mukaish and zardozi. The creations weren't only stunning but have become heirloom pieces for their owners. And, of course, these garments certainly weren't meant for ordinary people as the prices were steep. Laughing, Priyanka admitted, "Yes, the pricing was high as we really wanted to create exclusive garments. But we have had an excellent response to them."
This year too, they have come up with a collection titled 'Elil'. "In Tamil, it means beautiful. I was touring South India, especially Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and was very fascinated by the local weavers and fabric. The silks and kinds of cotton there are so beautiful and unique to those states. So, for this winter, I thought of creating clothes from fabric sourced from there, and of course, my all-time favourite, chanderi."
As exclusive as their clothes are, even the story of Ankur and Priyanka Modi coming together itself is so intriguing and filmy that it is easy to imagine them coming up with a unique style and have a huge fan following from the Hindi film fraternity. You name an actor and she swears by AM:PM brand - Jacqueline Fernandes, Priyanka Chopra, Kangana Ranaut, Nimrat Kaur, Madhuri Dixit Nene, Sonam Kapoor, Kalki Koechlin, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Sridevi, Dia Mirza and Shilpa Shetty are only a few of the names.
Ankur, an engineering graduate from an Australian university, wanted to grow olives and make wine in India. But he then met Priyanka at one of those big fat Indian weddings of a relative and so an engineer who wanted to become a farmer decided to join hands with a fashion designer. "Ankur has a designer's genes. But I am the first generation of designers in my family,'' says Priyanka. So, after the cursory graduation degree in commerce, she joined the London School of Fashion and got into the fashion fraternity, whereas Ankur has grown up surrounded by clothes, sketchbooks and designs around him.
Ankur is the son of the famous senior designer Anju Modi who has a long list of celebrity clients, and was the designer of films like Bajirao Mastani and Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela. Ankur was assisting his mother when he met Priyanka. Initially, the duo worked with the senior Modi, but later decided to form their own team and brand.
For the feel of grandeur
"We joined the fashion world when minimalism wasn't a word in designing. But I didn't want to design the usual opulent clothes. I didn't want unnecessary embellishments and glitter on my clothes,'' recalls Priyanka, the design head of the duo. So, they have tunics, easy palazzos, dhoti pants, chic shirt dresses, skirts, asymmetrically pleated skirts, peplum jackets, wrapped and off-shoulder blouses, etc, in their collections.
From day one of their teaming, they had decided that she would be the creative head and Ankur would be the business head. Now they have a third person, Anirudh Birla, who looks after their business development. So, though she is the creative head, she gets lots of inputs from Ankur, who on his business trips, looks around and imbibes the changing atmosphere. In 2001, when they established their brand, it was only luxury prÃªt. "We started getting a lot of inquiries for couture and that's the reason why we have branched out into couture from the last two years." Today, they have outlets in many major cities of India and also supply to many stores abroad.
Priyanka feels that modern Indian women, who are health- and body-conscious, are ready for any type of clothes. So, designing for modern women has become easy, and almost every dress suits everyone. Her advice to women is, "Decide what suits you and find your 'comfort clothes'. Buy separates and use a different combination. For example, a heavy velvet thread-work jacket can be teamed with a pre-draped light textured ivory sari. A peplum jacket can be worn on a chanderi skirt. So, depending on the occasion, you can change your appearance in the limited budget!''