When Aap Jaisa Koi Meri Zindagi Mein Aaye, a hit soundtrack from the 80s started playing on a dimly-lit stage, the audience was filled with anticipation. And then, from the backstage emerged iconic actress Zeenat Aman. Dressed in a look that was a nod to the retro style, she took the ramp in a Shahin Mannan broad-collar, long-sleeved, black embroidered jacket with slits, and plain black trousers. Paired with aviators and diamond studs the actress looked as graceful as she did back in the day. In a season populated with Bollywood stars who turned showstoppers for designers, Aman stood out the most. This also set a tone for the fashion week this season — as trends come, more so with the influence of Instagram and pop culture, timeless craftsmanship, attention to design and good textile makers continue to shine through.
The four-day-long showcase from March 9 to March 12 at Lakmé Fashion Week in partnership with the Fashion Design Council of India lineup saw collections by veterans like Tarun Tahiliani, Manish Malhotra, JJ Valaya, Namrata Joshipura and Monisha Jaisingh — with the latter two returning to the runway after a hiatus— and younger promising labels such as Bodice, Antar Agni, Divyam Mehta, Arpita Mehta and Six5Six. There were initiatives like the Circular Design Challenge, GenNext and design partnerships such as Khadi India that continued to steer the conversation around innovation and mindful fashion practices. Amidst this, we spotlight designers that caught our eye:
A Case for Craft
Designer Anavila Misra showcased a collection inundated with saris while paying homage to dabu, an ancient mud-resist hand-block printing technique from Rajasthan. It also included natural dyes of ivory, ochre, sage green, indigo, madder, kashish black, gold and silver blended with geometric and floral motifs on unstitched fabrics.
What was interesting to observe was Misra’s imaginative presentation and unusual interpretation of the sari. The designer took us back to pre-colonial times when saris were worn without blouses and petticoats. Models walked barefoot on the runway with drapes fastened only by knots and twisting techniques. According to her, traditionally, drapes, knots and folds were carefully constructed around the body in order to carry everyday things like money, coins and herbs.
The designer’s drapes allowed a sense of structure and stillness to the unstitched garment which might appease Gen Z and millennial wearers — contradictory to the fluid quality of the sari itself.
I for Inclusivity
This season, homegrown label Chamar was among three brands that participated in the Circular Design Challenge (CDC) — a platform for design entrepreneurs working in a circular fashion, an initiative by R|Elan (a sustainable fabric company), FDCI x Lakmé Fashion Week and the United Nations and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Titled ‘Blacking Boot Polish’ the label’s collection comprised XXL totes, handbags, belts, fringed overlays, collars and other accessories made from rubber recycled entirely from industrial leftovers, automotive scraps, and other discarded materials. Working with the Dalit community whose hereditary occupation is tanning leather, Sudheer Rajbhar, founder of Chamar, brought modernity to quotidian objects. Rajbhar’s models walked down the runway dressed in all-black with their hands blackened — symbolic of the community’s shoe shiners.
Brisk walking on the runway, models at Antar Agni’s show presented a collection of minimal tone-on-tone separates in ivory, mud green, mint and black. Along with the brand’s signature styles such as asymmetric kurtas, dhoti pants and co-ord sets, designer Ujjwal Dubey experimented with fluid draped silhouettes this season. For instance, flowy sari dupatta-inspired panels on tops and kurtas and skirts or mundu-like silhouettes made a case for gender-agnostic styles. Not just the clothes but the designer also experimented with surface techniques such as ornamentation, pin tucking and micro pleating to accentuate the garments.
Ode to Japan
Two Point Two’s Anvita Sharma turned to Japanese streetwear for inspiration for her collaborative collection with R|Elan. Oriental prints of Samurai warriors and Kabuki dance drama theatre appeared on trench coats, shirts, and trousers. Known for her inclusive design approach, the clothes were gender-agonistic and size-inclusive — baggy and oversized blazers, layered and puffer jackets, knee-length robes and denim populated the line-up. Embroidered totes, duffle cross-body bags and sneakers enhanced with fabric trims amped up these looks.
Couturier Tarun Tahiliani brought his signature drapes back on the runway in his luxe-prêt collection titled ‘Sheer Drama’. While employing his ‘India Modern’ philosophy Tahiliani used traditional Indian draping techniques to construct modern styles. The collection comprised sharara sets, gowns, lehengas, concept saris for women and kurtas, bandhgalas and dhotis for men in hues of ivory and champagne.
Tahiliani’s well-tailored bodice, be it corsets, or form-fitted blouses in different necklines married with effortless and modern drapes in nets, metallics and sheer organza fabrics that were bejewelled in rich embroideries spelt understated glamour. Actor Sobhita Dhulipala who turned showstopper for the show in a red corseted, soft sequinned gown seemed like an organic pairing to the couturier’s aesthetics without trying too hard.