Unleashing Design Magic: Enter the World of Payal Kapoor, the Master of Transformation
Enter a different universe where imagination reigns supreme and fabric becomes an artist’s canvas. Welcome to the mesmerizing realm of fashion design, where creativity knows no bounds. Here, stitches weave stories, and colors dance harmoniously to create wearable poetry. With every swift stroke of a designer’s hand, garments are transformed into masterpieces, reflecting the zeitgeist of our times. From glamorous runways to bustling ateliers, the fashion industry pulsates with life, shaping trends and breathing life into personal style. It is a realm where passion and vision merge, giving birth to iconic looks that capture hearts and make a lasting impression. In this realm, dreams are stitched together with threads of ingenuity, turning imagination into reality, and fashion into art.
Step into the captivating world of Payal Kapoor, a visionary designer extraordinaire whose creativity knows no bounds. With an impressive portfolio of awe-inspiring projects and an indomitable spirit, Kapoor has carved her name as a trailblazer in the realm of interior and hospitality design. From her humble beginnings to her triumphant journey as an entrepreneur, she has navigated through challenges with resilience and unwavering determination. Her momentous accomplishments, including the transformation of the illustrious Palace on Wheels, have earned her well-deserved recognition and placed her at the pinnacle of her field. Inspired by humility and driven by a thirst for constant innovation, Kapoor’s passion for her craft radiates through every project she undertakes. Join us as we delve into the mind of this design maven and discover the essence of her remarkable success.
How would you describe your early years and educational background?xvent School, New Delhi except for one year when I moved to Mumbai due to my father being stationed there, he was a naval officer. After completing my higher education, I chose interior design, studying at the Polytechnic College for Women for a duration of three years and later took up hospitality, hotel and commercial design. After graduating in 1987, and working for two organizations, I launched my own design firm.
- What was your entrepreneurship journey like, in a nutshell?
After working with one of the leading design firms in New Delhi, I gained valuable experiences and nuances of design and later joined another firm which exposed me to sites-civil interiors and furniture making.
Together putting in about three years in both firms, I decided to venture out on my own and launched ‘VISIONS’ in 1990. I admit, it was hard-hitting in the beginning since I neither had connections, nor ideas on how to acquire projects as I did not have a background in business. However, any small assignment that came my way, I worked on it with utmost honesty, meeting every deadline.
- What were some of the challenges you faced breaking into entrepreneurship?
The design industry posed plenty of challenges, since I did not have a godfather or a godmother or even a family member with a background in design. My relatives were working in medicine, engineering, services and the corporate sector. I was the lone entrepreneur.
Also, there were many apprehensions entering a male-dominated profession, having to deal with labor, who always an all-male faction and travelling long distances for work. Sometimes, clients were extremely unprofessional and never made payments on time and some would get the work completed, but never paid, in spite of a formal contract. These were extremely disheartening for me as I was just in my twenties. To work hard, not be paid for it and to undergo severe criticism was discouraging and ever more demoralizing.
However, learning lessons from every bad experience meant that I educated myself to gauge the human mindset and reactions, learning to understand various personalities in my line of work. It also taught me necessary interpersonal skills and the art of dealing with difficult clientele and circumstances. Apart from learning to be patient, I held on to my self-respect and stayed strong, keeping my head held high and focusing on the work at hand. Such experiences meant that I was ready to handle any situation professionally.
- What was your moment of epiphany that set you on this path of what you do today?
There were a few. In 1991, I bagged my first independent hotel consultancy project, The Imperial Hotel, Janpath, New Delhi, which was my first milestone. After which, The GD Goenka School, Vasant Kunj, the USI building for the President of India, The Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur, and The Palace On wheels which were the absolute highlights until today.
Throughout my career, I never wanted to be typecast as doing only a particular sort of work. I always wanted to experiment and take up challenging projects and after successfully conquering all hurdles, those were ‘aha!’ moments for me, as I also got much-deserved recognition.
- What would you consider as being the most momentous accomplishment of your career?
Without a doubt, the Palace on Wheels luxury train project, converting it from a meter gauge to a broad gauge, was a significant turning point for me, despite being associated with previous multi-million projects. Out of the whole country, I won this project and successfully completed it, putting India on a neck and neck position with The Royal Scotsman train, bringing the Palace on Wheels to a number 1 ranking. Previously ranked number 10, this luxury train received much press coverage with its bespoke décor that depicted the rich cultural history of India. Also, with it came a high, since I became a force to be reckoned with in my field.
- Who are the people you draw inspiration from, your role models?
The people I admire the most are the ones who have the character of humility amidst the fame, money and luxuries as well as the people who give back to society and are willing to lend a helping hand to others.
I have a high regard for the Royal Family of Jodhpur, particularly Maharaja Gaj Singhji, Maharani Sahiba and their late Uncle Thakur Raju Singhji, from whom I learned so much, while working at the Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur for about 9 years. Also, I think highly of Mr. Ratan Tata and the way he conducts himself.
- What fuels you to do what you do every day?
I am the type of person who needs constant excitement and challenges in my work to keep me motivated. I take pleasure in working on turnkey projects which are fast-paced; also anything stereotypical and conventional brings boredom. Apart from designing hotels, I have also designed trains, ships and aircraft simulators, working on exhilarating projects both in the US and in Europe.
In spite of all the shortcomings in the industry, I am highly passionate about what I do. There are times when I am not very enthusiastic about some things, but I work on it by discovering small ways to keep the level of excitement high. Despite the challenges, the show must go on!
- What is your definition of success?
Success is subjective. According to me, it means having a name, fame, recognition and added appreciation for the work done. To have made it in the industry without anyone to endorse me has been my mark of success. I also believe that being able to grow and adapt with the trends and to evolve, yet staying afloat despite hitches, is success.
Though the monetary aspect plays an important role, hard work and honesty is something to be treasured.
- Illustrate your ideal “me” time.
For me, it is being alone with my own thoughts, in the lap of nature. I can sit for hours at home, gazing at the hills and the lake. Fresh flowers, beautiful weather, pristine air and my cup of tea are all I need, but this happens only on rare occasions.
My me time in Delhi mostly entails sitting quietly listening to music and doing nothing. Occasionally, I do hit the spa; it is a luxury I love to indulge in.
- What advice would you give to professional women?
Working women need to be respected as they are the embodiment of the art of balancing work, the home, their lives, everything.
I do believe that time management is essential to being an organized person. Delegating and outsourcing must be made use of wherever possible, so please do it.
More importantly, love and trust yourself, also be motivated by setting aside some time for self-care and enjoyment with friends. Learn to laugh and to let go, as there are some situations that are beyond your control and you cannot please everyone. Furthermore, never ever compromise on your self-respect and dignity, because you are worth a lot more than you think.
From her early years filled with determination and a thirst for knowledge to her awe-inspiring accomplishments as a design maverick, Payal Kapoor’s journey is a testament to the power of passion and unwavering perseverance. With each project, she fearlessly challenges conventions and breathes life into spaces, leaving an indelible mark on the world of design. With Kapoor at the helm, creativity knows no bounds, and the possibilities are endless. As we bid adieu to this captivating interview, we can’t help but feel inspired by her unwavering commitment to excellence. Payal Kapoor, a visionary extraordinaire, continues to redefine the very essence of design, one masterpiece at a time.