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People: Rohit Bal, designer - Star of India sparkles ever brighter

Rohit Bal is one of India's most celebrated fashion exports. By dressing actress Liz Hurley and her fiance Arun Nayar for the Indian finale of their cross-continent wedding, Bal shot to new prominence - his designs featured in news coverage worldwide, from Hello to CNN. Recognised for his meticulously detailed fashion rooted in the traditional Eastern aesthetic, Bal creates a couture range alongside Balance by Rohit Bal, his ready-to-wear line. Today, Bal's business is set to be acquired by an as-yet-unnamed luxury brand house - sources say LVMH is the most likely suitor.

Is Indian fashion sophisticated enough to appeal to Western consumers?

Far from it. Most designers here only cater for the Indian market. It's not a case of whether they can or cannot design for the West - it's just that many designers have yet to work out what their unique handwriting is. Our USP is India and international buyers want to buy collections that have a distinctly Indian appeal. People buy my £800 dresses because they want something special that can't be found anywhere else.

How did the commission for Liz Hurley come about?

Arun Nayar has been a friend for some time and when they came to India to initially look for designers, he knew he wanted his outfit to be created by me. When he came to the studio he brought Liz along, who was stunned by our women's designs.

What was the most stressful part of designing for the wedding?

The lack of time. I had four weeks to create outfits for Liz, Arun and Damian, Liz's five-year-old son. Unfortunately, there was no time for a single fitting. Creating a wedding dress for a woman accustomed to wearing couture dresses created by the best international designers was tough, but creating something in only a month was the real challenge.

Describe your design philosophy.

Timeless and classic. I'm an eternal classicist and I love the fact that customers who bought my creations 10 years ago are still wearing them today. Everything I create must embrace the highest taste and stand the test of time.

From where do you find your inspiration?

I'm inspired by architecture and music. I avoid distractions and don't read fashion magazines. My team gets almost every fashion magazine under the sun, and I appreciate they have to look at what's going on around them, but I insist that they never follow trends. We have to follow our own instructions.

Where is your biggest export market?

The Middle East. Customers there appreciate fine details and love embroidery.

What has been your proudest achievement to date?

The fact that I've lived life on my own terms - I still own the business and have been completely self-funding. We are now at a point where we need extra investment to propel the brand forward to become a serious global player. To that end we are now in negotiations over an acquisition with a luxury brand house.

What will Rohit Bal mean in five years?

If everything goes to plan it will be an internationally recognised global fashion brand.

Which one other Indian designer do you respect and why?

I rate Rajesh Pratap Singh, who has stood by his own ethic and never swayed from his design philosophy, come what may.


What is your biggest fashion weakness?

Shoes. I have more than 100 pairs and love Berluti and Tods. My most extravagant Berlutis are a pair of custom-made round-toe cherry slip-ons.

What was your best fashion moment?

When a luxury brand house approached me to join them.

And your worst?

When a respected Indian journalist criticised one of my shows.

Who is your industry icon and why?

Bernard Arnault, president of LVMH, who has always had the courage to follow his instincts.

What would you be doing if not fashion?

Nothing. There's nothing else I love.

Where do you shop?

Everywhere, but I love the flea markets in India.

Who is the best-dressed person of all time?

While nobody knows for sure, I believe it was Cleopatra.

What books are you reading?

I've been too busy.

Who is on your iPod?

A mix of 1970s disco.

Who is on your mobile speed dial?

I don't use speed dial, but the person I love to call the most is my boyfriend.

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