All That Glitters is Not Bling

So let’s not be confused,as dress-up festive wear seems to be more Indian than anything else

Written by Namrata Zakaria | Published:August 9, 2012 12:27 am

So let’s not be confused,as dress-up festive wear seems to be more Indian than anything else

It’s unarguably the only fashion week,among a sea of plenty,that we need to hold on to and hone to the best of our collective abilities. The couture week,now a property owned and managed by the Fashion Design Council of India — in its third year — is something that is uniquely Indian and must be our hottest selling point.

Why,you ask? Why is couture relevant here when it was deemed dead internationally over a decade ago? Why are lehengas priced Rs 3 lakh upwards,being made in a country of growing hunger and increasing farmer suicides? And why should we not promote handloom-made textiles instead,something that would sustain are negligible weaving traditions?

The answer to all of the above questions (some pertinent,others puerile) that are often put forth to me is the same: because our people,Indians all,want it.

Basic economics tells us that supply follows a demand. This is how a market is created and sustained.

India has an insatiable hunger for fine things. It’s clearly seen in how we celebrate the births of our children and our weddings. We gift silver and gold,precious metals,to even friends and social acquaintances during festive occasions. Our love for ornamentation and shimmer comes from aping our many rich kings; we even dress up our poor gods in shameless finery. Durga is laden with jewels as she takes on demons,while Lakshmi is dressed in gold. Krishna may have hung out with village beauties and Sudama as a child,but his Shrinathji image has him wearing layers of necklaces that reach his feet. (Among Gujarati families,it’s still a tradition to bathe Bal Gopal in milk every morning and dress up the ladoo-bearing figurine in rows of beads.)

Just as there are many Indias in one country,there are many fashions in India. A growing love for heritage handloom has made textile-wearers seemingly more intellectual and socially responsible. Which they well may be,since government assistance is limited and snob value reversed. Designers such as Sanjay Garg,Rahul Mishra and Upasana have made some commercially viable clothes,high on aesthetics,using and promoting local weavers,and are finding their voice and the customers too.

There is another equally exciting school of fashion that’s being held up by young irreverent designers bringing together a shape-shifting underground scene. Kallol Datta — who has been rewarded with a grand finale show at the Lakme Fashion Week this season,Gaurav Gupta and Arjun Saluja are developing a taste for dark cult-like fashion and it’s terribly sexy.

The problem with Indian couture,or our lehenga-choli culture as we call it disdainfully,is when we call it bling. Bling resonates with showy,gaudy and even vulgar. Our festive wear is shiny alright but its ‘blingness’ depends on technique and aesthetic.

At Tarun Tahiliani’s Couture Exposition in Mumbai on Monday,some of the finest women in Mumbai were treated to some truly resplendent fashion. The legendary Mehboob Studios was converted into a glass-encased museum filled with magic: Swarovski-sprinkled lehengas in the most inventive motifs,appliqué roses in chiffon,pleats of brocade,gossamer tulle,lace,anarkalis,cowls,and a breathtaking velvet tailcoat over a lehenga.

Starting today,some very special names in Indian fashion — right from JJ Valaya and Anamika Khanna to Varun Bahl,Gaurav Gupta and even Manish Arora — are presenting their interpretations of couture at the Delhi Couture Week. For lovers of fashion at its purest and penultimate potential,it’s reason enough to celebrate.

namratanow@gmail.com

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