ANAVILA Misra’s first-ever solo showcase at Amazon India Fashion Week (AIFW) on Day Four was a crowded affair. Every seat in the Main Show Area at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the venue of the fashion event’s autumn-winter 2016 edition, was taken. The people crowding the showcase were not there to catch a glimpse of a matinee star or a beauty queen on showstopper duty. They were there to see Misra’s craft and conscious fashion that have taken her trademark linen and cotton saris, woven in clusters in West Bengal and Gujarat, to a textile savvy fashion audience and onto Bollywood red carpets and Cannes celebrity appearances.
Shorn of any shred of zardozi, free of the shimmer of sequins and gaudy gota patti work, Misra’s collection ‘Folk once upon a time’ included saris, separates and knits in earthy and muted shades. Craftsmanship was key as lotus yarn linen, linen silk, linen cotton and wool blends were fashioned into drapes, combined with hints of ikat, a smattering of sujani embroidery and block prints, to present a rustic and organic line. The drapes were relaxed, the fits were easy and the overall vibe was of soft sunshine on a winter day. That Misra managed to take her finespun sensibilities and present a comprehensive autumn-winter collection — with delicate jumpers and sweaters and wool-blended saris and artful layering techniques — is truly commendable.
But Misra was just one of the young design talents that showcased on Day Four, that shattered stereotypical straitjackets of what has constituted as Indian fashion for years. While there may still be room in autumnal wardrobes for the brocade lehengas and jewelled colours, this new pret order is inviting you to reinvent your classics, invest in timeless neutrals, or try on an inventive anti-fit silhouette. Their winter wardrobe must-haves are boxy tunic dresses, roomy maxi jackets, relaxed trousers and checked stoles. Fancy fashion terminology like ‘normcore’ and ‘non-style’ falls short of defining this new breed of designers, who are speaking to Indian millennials in a global language, yet keeping it distinctly local.
Take, for example, Ikai by Ragini Ahuja and ILK by Shikha and Vinita, who work with embroidery and embellishment, but in inventive styles and sequences. Ahuja may have drawn inspiration from an illustrator’s notebook but her takeaways from the sketching and doodling were anything but random. Static pinstripes and checks were brought alive by her signature applique in autumn leaves and animal forms. Sheep nappa leather applique details, fringe effects on skirts, footwear and bralettes, and leather trims on light chanderi fabrics lent a definition to her boxy silhouettes. ILK’s ‘Dot on a Walk’ took on the artistic technique of ‘pointillism’ and used floral embroideries, bead work and a playful bubble wrap print to drive the point home. The use of beads to create an illusion
of a pixelated world map print was particularly inventive.
While Ruchika Sachdev of Bodice and Rina Singh of Eka eschewed all surface ornamentation, the highlight of the former’s collection were her signature androgynous shapes, accompanied by rather feminine pleated skirts that gave the illusion of stripes. Singh’s collection encompassed “universally adaptable clothing ideas” with an accent on tactile textures and organic fabrics. Again, the silhouettes were easy and clean, with an emphasis on layering. L-B (formerly Lovebirds) by Amrita Khanna and Gursi Singh too kept the urban androgyny story going with oversized shapes, linear lines, statement knit pieces, mega mufflers and lots of layering.
Even as Day Four drew to a close, the final master class was reserved for Aneeth Arora of Pero, who may not qualify to be part of this nascent new wave, but is definitely a precursor and front-runner of this ‘back-to-basics’ movement. Her collection, inspired by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren’s protagonist Pippi Longstocking, was a joy to behold as models traipsed down a school bench lined ramp to the tune of Stefan Kaye and his group of percussionists recreating classroom chaos. Gingham was the star — with cotton checks woven in West Bengal and woolen ones handwoven in Himachal Pradesh — further accentuated by hand-embroidered quotes, red poppies, floral embroideries and block-prints from Gujarat.
Even as we watched these collections take to the ramp in the course of the day, each with a distinct point of view, one couldn’t deny that some verged on being extensions of each other. Shapes merged, colour stories collided and trends overlapped as stripes, polka dot renditions, floral embroideries and checks made appearances in more than one collection. Whether these designers will need to reinvent their design lexicons in future, simply to avoid becoming clones of each other, we will only be able to deduce a few seasons down the line. For now, they seem to be signalling that normal isn’t really boring and anti-fit may not necessarily be anti-fashion.