Waris Ahluwalia's Collaboration With The Kooples Draws on Borderless Travels

Waris Ahluwalia
Courtesy of Kevin Ohana

“I don’t know how many countries I visited last year, or how many flights I took,” says Waris Ahluwalia, the always dapper Sikh Indian-American designer and actor who makes New York his home during breaks from his hectic travel schedule. A member of the extended Wes Anderson family (see: The Life Aquatic, The Darjeeling Limited, The Grand Budapest Hotel), Ahluwalia has now drawn on his picaresque voyages for a romantic collaboration with Raphael, Alexandre, and Laurent Elicha, the brothers behind the Kooples, a French fashion house with an unabashedly rock ’n’ roll sensibility. 

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The siblings, who split their roles — Laurent designs womenswear, Alexandre does the menswear, and Raphael oversees branding — had the good fortune of growing up with fashion scions for parents, and they can tell childhood tales of playing with Jean Paul Gaultier and enjoying family dinners in Toulouse with Michael Jackson. Alexandre describes his influence as “the Velvet Underground meets Baudelaire meets My Own Private Idaho,” but for the trio’s new line with Ahluwalia, they abandoned the Kooples’ signature skinny pants for relaxed silhouettes and soft fabrics (think silky Bermuda shorts and tunic shirts) and a fantasia of Asian prints in terra-cotta, burgundy, and indigo blue. “It’s a collection inspired by Asian travel, from India to Japan,” says Alexandre. “We’re known for a slim fit, but we wanted to do something different.”

Related | Gallery: Waris Ahluwalia's (Wander)Lust for Life

For Ahluwalia, who was honored last year by New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, with a day dedicated in his name, the collection’s strength lies in its versatility — its pieces are equally comfortable worn around the house as they are out to dinner. “I didn’t want to change the rock ’n’ roll vibe the brothers have created,” he says. “I just wanted to add a little playfulness. When I think of rock, the first thing that comes to my mind is living by your own rules, creating your own path.” In his life, that path stretches across oceans and continents on journeys that are as much internal as external. “You can open up a lot as you meet other people and learn about other cultures,” Ahluwalia says. “As you’re passing through borders, they change and define you. If you’re sitting on the same corner looking at the same view, you’re only going to discover so much about yourself.”

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