The designer duo Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla hail from different family backgrounds. Abu Jani was born and raised Mumbai to an affluent Bohra Muslim family whereas Sandeep Khosla was born to a Punjabi family in Kapurthala. Being raised in Mumbai, Abu Jani was exposed to a high style world of fashion, sophistication and glamor. Abu wasn’t excellent at academics but his textbooks filled with doodles and sketches, early signs of the born artist. On the other hand Sandeep was attending one of India’s most prestigious public schools ‘The Doon School’ and during his academic career he excelled at the extra curricular, including theater, tie and dye, batik, drawing, painting and carpentry.
Sandeep belonged to a family which was in the leather business and this is where he developed interests in in carving on leather and dying techniques. He then started experimenting with fabrics which he bought from his stipend and learned the techniques to tie and dye. Abu Jani, after his high school graduation, he applied to enter Art School but was rejected. But that didn’t stop him. Fortunately, the rejection forced him to move towards the field of Fashion design.
Abu started to work with a designer Xerxes Bhatena, a successful film costume designer. He worked with him for 5 years before launching his own line. On the other hand after learning about the garment manufacturing, he left Kapurthala to move to Delhi for about an year. In Delhi he launched his own label called ‘Limelight’ and also retailed a store named ‘Appearance’.
Abu started to design costumes for the acclaimed musicals Grease Lightning and Alyque Padamsee’s, Evita. Then he got into garment export business where he learned a lot about embroideries and was also freelancing as a ghost designer for several ladies. By then, Sandeep’s decision to move to Mumbai to work with Xerxes Bhatena (the same designer who had given Abu his first break) was a sheer co-incident. Then it was in 1986 that the duo met for the first time at a common friend’s place.
Then the two started working together and launched their first collaborated collection which they named ‘Mata Hari’.