Couture show with surprise ending: A wedding

Updated: 27 September, 2020 08:15 IST | Shweta Shiware | Mumbai

India's first high fashion runway show streamed entirely virtually just wrapped up, complete with models and designers. Full marks for grit and tech finesse. But, it's the clothes that left a lot to be desired

Ruhaaniyat by Manish Malhotra
Ruhaaniyat by Manish Malhotra

"Couture must be clever!" There is something complete about these four words shared by Shahab Durazi on Instagram. That the post coincided with India Couture Week [ICW] streamed digitally for the first time due to the pandemic is not accidental. "The presentations were so incestuous; eight to 10 models drawing into space, slow motion cinematography against the palace backdrop," the couturier told mid-day in a phone interview.

It's been a hellish seven months for high fashion where special events fell like dominoes, clothes were deemed "non-essential" and physical shows were postponed indefinitely. Timing the 2020 edition of ICW between September 18 and 23, psychologically made sense then, maybe more than ever.

Shahab Durazi
Shahab Durazi

The six-day event brought the fashion family back together. "Couture is a fantasy. Everyone's narrative is different but as a designer, you have to incorporate some ingenuity. Show 15 garments instead of 50-plus, but let it be genius work. What I saw instead were rehashed versions of lehenga-cholis and sarees with beautiful embellishments produced, not by designers, but karigars. If you're pandering to the wedding market then call it a bridal week," Durazi suggests.

Understandably, it's not possible to replicate the IRL show experience onto a URL, but most designers responded by splashing wedding music videos that swelled with chandeliers and domes, rather than present a punchy backstory. Ultimately, failing to use the film's superpower—to strike an emotional chord and tell a story. Pity, because there are a lot more stories to tell now.

One such story is about the impending decision to legally allow same-sex marriage rights in India. The petition was filed by Tamil Nadu intersex activist Gopi Shankar M, journalist and defence analyst Abhijit Iyer Mitra, transgender activist G Oorvasi, and Giti Thadani, founder member of lesbian archive Sakhi. The Delhi High Court has asked to hear the petitioners on October 21.

Name is love by Gaurav Gupta
Name is love by Gaurav Gupta

Gaurav Gupta questioned the codified pageantry of Indian weddings—and for that dash of irony, his show titled, Name is Love was less band-bajaa gimmickry. In fact, it went beyond just another conflation of sculpturesque pieces and into something that would stay with us for a while. By dividing the collection into different human orientations, he could suggest different pursuits. It was an ambitious, magical show that unfolded to the verse of poet, friend and muse Navkirat Sodhi, and featured trans-female model Anjali Lama; Tarun, a non-binary model; Nitya, a body positive woman; Vee, a trans-male model, and same-sex couples Rudra and Anurag, and Manauti and Anjali. In a way, the collection was overwhelming—so many individuals and styles to contemplate, so many contrarian views of a world we think we know.

Manish Malhotra, too, approached the same love with Ruhaaniyat. But, the half-a-minute pairing of two boys and two girls—each resting their head gently on other's shoulder—appeared not so obliging. In other words, Malhotra is not ready yet to give up on his choir of Bollywood stars; he chose Janhvi Kapoor this time.

Bursa by JJ Valaya
Bursa by JJ Valaya

"JJ [Valaya] gave us the best show. It was beautifully styled with a play on pattern and print. His clothes reflected what he stands for, and he was not apologetic about it. The world raves about Sabyasachi, but in my opinion, JJ is far more versatile a designer," says Durazi. "JJ left me wanting more… that's the feeling that couture evokes."

Lotus Pond By Rahul Mishra
Lotus Pond By Rahul Mishra

It was difficult to say that a particular outfit in Rahul Mishra's Lotus Pond collection looked out of place, because the thought behind the show stopped you in your tracks: To whom did it not look good? More than art direction and clothes, it revealed the extraordinary talent of Indian karigars and tailors in extraordinary times.

Model Sony Kaur in a still from Amit Aggarwal’s fashion film
Model Sony Kaur in a still from Amit Aggarwal's fashion film

Now that anything is possible with technology—why not invite human emotions to the fold? Amit Aggarwal's collection shot underwater by Artfolo Studios felt like a superfluous reckoning of when design meets technology—intimate and articulate, carefully choreographed and perfectly executed.

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First Published: 27 September, 2020 08:01 IST

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