ABOVE: JODHPUR JACKIE AND SALONI LODHA IN JODHPUR JACKIE.
Keep Saloni Lodha off the running list of designers who have capitalized on the Orientalist trend over the last few seasons. "I really live in my own world," she says. Lodha grew up in India before moving on to live in Hong Kong, London and Seoul, and it just so happens that her world is getting a lot of fashionable visitors lately. Everyone from Karl Lagerfeld to Joseph Altuzarra has taken an interest in her home country, turning out collections draped, wrapped and bejeweled in an image of decadent Old-World Delhi.
Lodha has a home-court advantage: Her fall collection, which showed in London this past February, takes more modern inspiration from a set of old photos in the designer's archive that chronicle Jackie Onassis's visit to Rajasthan in the 1960s. The collection plays on just the sort of cross-cultural exchange that's been taking place between the East and the West on the runways as of late. She's very sympathetic to the surge of outside interest: "It's very hard not to be swept away by the madness in India," Lodha laughs. "Every way you turn, it's a journey of colors, textures, smells." She's just more interested in the journey than the destination—visually, that is. "We're always thinking of the woman and the cities she travels in, what she'll bring and what she'll find. It's the journey of someone who excites us."
For fall, that someone was Jodhpur Jackie—the brand's updated take on the former first lady and her time in India. Film might seem like an obvious choice of medium for the kind of narrative that informs Lodha's designs, but the production actually came together quite serendipitously. "I just thought, ‘Can you imagine if we created our own Jackie? But our Jackie will smoke opium and fall in love with an Indian boy.' I thought I was joking," Lodha explains. "But everyone in the studio was like, ‘Ah, this is a great idea!'" It wasn't long before Lodha brought up the concept over dinner with photographer Ellen von Unwerth—a longtime friend of Interview's—who jumped to volunteer herself as director. "Before I knew it, I was working on a short film," Lodha recalls. "Even though it was five minutes, it involved a massive production."
The film sees Lodha's Jackie arrive in India prim and proper, posing politely for pictures and peering curiously through window panes. Things start to loosen up over tea with Lodha herself, clad in a bright blue sari, and soon enough, the gloves come off (literally). Jackie begins dancing, snake charming, elephant riding, and, yes, smoking opium. Face paint supplants her dark, city-slicker eyeliner, and she even falls in love. Throughout, she dons pieces from Saloni London's fall collection, which work on both sides of Jackie's vacation transformation. "That's our woman," Lodha explains. "One minute she's very elegant and the next minute she's swept away by something wild." It's very easy to be swept away watching Jodhpur Jackie do just that.
SALONI LONDON'S FALL COLLECTION IS AVAILABLE AT BARNEYS NEW YORK, THE WEBSTER, FRED SEGAL, AND OTHER SELECT DEPARTMENT STORES.