What does the Indian woman want in 2020?
Homogeneous lehengas? Perhaps not. Fortunately, at the young age of 20, LFW had some collections that reflected the individuality and opinion of its woke buyer
"Fashion is in the sky, in the street. Fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening," Coco Chanel had famously said. She's right. The most compelling fashion designers have been those who have engaged with the times, and the changes that have characterised the decades that define their work.
Disappointingly, despite the last year, or in fact, two, having been dominated by women willing to stand up for their rights and freedom in the face of impossible pressures, the collections shown at the just-concluded Lakmé Fashion Week were far from anything that the urban Indian woman would take pride in.
Payal Singhal (Pic/Satej Shinde), Shivan & Narresh (Pic/Satej Shinde), Eka by Rina Singh (Pic/Shadab Khan) and Kunal Rawal (Pic/Shadab Khan)
The fashion showcased was easy; in fact, bordering on limp minus the critical backstory. What does one make of a homogenous parade of tunics, lehengas and sarees? It speaks of maintaining the status quo, perhaps.
One thing was clear—most designers seemed interested in whacking out clothes to make women look attractive, pleasing to the onlooker. And that seemed a bit off at a time when the Indian woman is questioning, angry, engaged in a discussion on misogyny. She is looking for fashion that represents her person, individuality, opinion and intellect.
Ashdeen (Pic/Shadab Khan, Jade by Monica and Karishma (Pic/Satej Shinde) and Chola by Sohaya Mishra (Pic/Satej Shinde)
But as the summer season wrapped up, all we were left with was a small pool of familiar trends; ruffles, sheer, waist-high side slits. It was simply not enough.
However, there continue to be a few designers who realise that a truly successful collection is one that defines who their customer is. And that's money in the bank. We think that about Chola by Sohaya Misra, a label that includes anti-fit, buoyant, accessible everyday luxe wear. She argued that identity is a precarious social construct and presented a more authentic representation of women, in the guise of ninja warriors. The co-ed, athleisure vibe was straightforward in the deconstructed shirting, cargo trousers, trench coats, hoodies and hardy overalls, as were the pimped-up Victorian ruffle trims, puff sleeves, voluminous frocks, pussy bow and high-collar blouses.
Anand Kabra (Pic/Satej Shinde), Ritu Kumar (Pic/Satej Shinde) and Amit Aggarwal (Pic/Shadab Khan)
Ritu Kumar recalled tailoring and styling from the 1980s, but sharpened it with origami folds. Crafts-style crochet overlays are the girl's next best pal, suggested Anjali Patel Mehta of Verandah. Payal Singhal's pairing of the bomber jacket with the saree felt like a tender nod to granny cool. Gaurang Shah's army of silk six yards made for an unlikely feminist statement as the models were led by the elegant Tabu in a black Kanjeevaram drape. Ashdeen imagined his sarees, skirts and shawls through the prism of antique Parsi Gara embroidery, his forte and legacy as member of the community. It was clear that the saree was one silhouette that would refuse to leave the runway. Thankfully, Riddhi Jain of Medium presented a youthful update on it by resorting to smart styling and Shibori-resist dying details.
Meanwhile, at the Jade show, designers Monica and Karishma serenaded the familiar code of eveningwear by turning to indigenous surface textures; the placement of tiny circlets humming into larger curls of rose details elevating an evening gown. Anand Kabra said his woman isn't in favour of sporting the orchestrated head-to-toe look. She wants to look sophisticated, and wishes that her wardrobe of Indian separates reflects her disparate, democratic worldview. His standalone sarees can be worn over trousers or jeans, with a T-shirt or a choli. The bandhgala-style, textured jacket works on a similar principle. Kunal Rawal couldn't have found a better dance partner than the layered blazer; its sculpted shoulders highlighting that part of the woman's frame that most of them continue to feel positive about, no matter their age or shape.
Cinched waists, high breasts, long legs—Shivan & Narresh design for the female body with an upbeat attitude that's part celebratory, part nirvana. The beaded saree worn with a leg-of-mutton sleeve blouse gets our vote for bring downright romantic and sexy.
Eka's Rina Singh has long captured the imagination and loyalty of women who crave anti-urban alternatives by turning to pastoral storytelling. This time, she worked with weavers in Telangana as part of the Reweave project, to bring a collection of her signature diaphanous dresses, boxy jackets and oversized pea coats. The florals, plaid and stripes spoke of the spirited independence of of Jo March in Little Women, and had a hint of bosom.
The week ended with a finale showcasing Amit Aggarwal's collection, ticking two important boxes: recycling, and body image confidence. He imagined a curious contradiction of perversity and play, through a fantastical, dark metallic saree—its glossy pallu, designed from hand-moulded polymer, swooped and draped over a blouse with neckline so deep, it sat right above the navel.
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