Staying silent is out. Fashion activism is in

Updated: Jan 05, 2020, 08:16 IST | Shweta Shiware | Mumbai

It's almost always that fashion has mirrored the sentiment of the times. And this year, it's going to be about finding a voice through what you choose to wear

A believable, not pretty, muse gives Rina Singh the soul to convey the handmade sentiment of her clothes
A believable, not pretty, muse gives Rina Singh the soul to convey the handmade sentiment of her clothes

The excitement is palpable when designers speak of Indian fashion in the year 2020, effectively setting the tone for an entire decade. "This is going to be a positive year, one that's emblematic of luxury that's not necessarily new or on-point, but about appreciating something that's well made, intelligent and mindful," feels Gaurav Jai Gupta of Akaaro.

Gupta believes that at a time when the political is personal, only "idiots consume fashion without giving a thought". It's possible then to pick up pointers about the political and economic drift of an era by looking at the clothes its people sported. "We are living in fearful times, and clothing can be a voice, a uniform of solidarity," believes Debarghya Bairagi, aka Dev of Dev r Nil.

And so the most fiercely debated trends of 2020 won't be defined by hemlines, but by the growing exasperation with fast fashion and the need to challenge misogyny where women are visible only if attractive. The new way to choose your muse then is not by judging how she looks but what she thinks. Rina Singh of Eka, says, "Personally, it's about designing clothes for believable characters you can relate to, whether Zeenat, Aabu or Sairat—three sisters I met in the Aru valley of Kashmir, or Amrita Sher-Gil, an artist and bohemian explorer far ahead of her time, or Salma Hayek, a pioneering voice in the #MeToo movement. They provide a reason to be my muse and give my story the character and soul needed to convey the handmade sentiment of my clothes."

Men, on the other hand, are also reclaiming equality. "Men can also be expressive," suggests Gaurav Gupta. Individuals are already challenging the sartorial agenda by choosing to wear clothes that feel right—and comfortable—for them personally. "Indian men are looking beyond the four colours and shapes, and articulating themselves through clothes that aren't picked by their mothers, wives and girlfriends. It might take 20 years to see Indian men in skirts, but aren't they already wearing draped kurtas that are otherwise synonymous with the kameez?"

Feminist defiance won't escape jewellery either, feels Shaheen Abbas, sharing that oversized pieces will be the flavour. "It's no longer an either/or choice between individualism and social morality. Women are recognising that it's far more important to have a strong voice, and jewellery is like an armour that allows them to take ownership of this sense of self," says the jewellery designer.

Here, they predict what trend you should renounce this year, and which ones to embrace.

Rina Singh of Eka: womenswear

FashionRina Singh

Leave a country in turmoil is not interested in the Yash Chopra idea of pretty clothes.

Embrace ideas of femininity. It's our biggest weapon, but we want to add a deliberate quiet and somber social commentary that tells the world who we [Indian women] are. I say, fashion is a creative decision every woman makes daily.

Debarghya Bairagi of dev r nil: Prints

Dev and NilDev and Nil

Leave animal prints. They have run their course. Let's face it, not everyone can carry them off, and it reeks of hypocrisy at a time when we are invested in climate change.

Look forward to bold prints and slogan sareesLook forward to bold prints and slogan sarees

Embrace prints that resonate with a sentiment of unrest that we until now associated with the 1960s and'70s. This year is about unapologetic graphic, bold prints, and slogan motifs. Our label, for instance, has put a series of tongue-in-cheek slogan sarees: Agli Baar Tuna Sarkar and Rule of Claw.

Shaheen Abbas of Flowerchild: Jewellery

Get playful with big and sculptural statement pieces, and standalone earrings that confirm sometimes the single life really is more fun

Leave Minimalist, extra-delicate pieces.

Embrace the new take on hoop earrings to oversized and textured rings, bracelets, chain neckpieces, spectacle chains and lanyards. Supersize them and don't be afraid to stack 'em up. I'm championing the standalone earring trend too. It's edgy, fun and deeply personal, but not in a desperate attention-seeking way. Another go-to trend will be personalised trinkets; our medallion name neckpieces are doing very well. And when it comes to precious gemstones, you can never go wrong with classic pearls.

Gaurav Jai Gupta of Akaaro: Textiles

Gaurav Jai GuptaGaurav Jai Gupta

Leave the over-emphasis on handlooms. I’m tired of the revivalism rhetoric. Why is Indian fashion understood only through its past? I know it’s a rich legacy, but what about the future?

Embrace sustainable fashion.

Our S/S 2020 references the show, BoJack Horseman, that is not only known for amazing fashion, but also its honest portrayal of living with depressionOur S/S 2020 references the show, BoJack Horseman, that is not only known for amazing fashion, but also its honest portrayal of living with depression

This year, Akaaro will initiate a new approach in design by creating a community and leading conversations on what it means to be a sustainable, handmade clothing label. To commit to implementing changes not just externally but internally as well in order to address the environmental impact. Textiles and crafts are found across the length and breadth of our country, but the question is: how do you develop something beyond the familiar?

Gaurav Gupta: menswear

Gaurav GuptaGaurav Gupta

Leave the idea that menswear is categorically utility-driven. Men are daring to explore the larger canvas of styles beyond the essentials—classic bandhgala, sherwani and pin-tucked shirts.


Embrace menswear that's a mix of the East and West. Dial down the rigidity of the classic tux by mixing things up on your lapel, or with sculptured shoulders. Or then they may have the artistry of embroidery or bold colours. Indian men are okay with embroidery, but not bling. Mixing easy athleisure with the familiarity of Indian textiles and crafts in formal or occasion wear works well.

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