Sure our clothes must allow us the joy of beauty and self-expression, but fashion’s most important role is to chronicle change. Season after season, what is presented by designers holds a mirror up to a social or economic reality. But never before has a fashion watcher been as confused as right now. Stores are mixing seasons, collections are blurring genders, boho-urban slants are booing trends and whoever said you can’t wear a jacket in the summer?
Digitisation of fashion today has made everything au courant. Shows are streamed live and Instagram is the industry’s favourite tool. If it’s on the runway today it must hit the stores next week. Or else Zara will beat you to it. In this fragmented hyperreality, seasons and chronology are done away with. Everything everywhere in the world is happening right now. Possibility is the new queen.
This is also why couture — that beloved baby of the fashion world that we love to uphold and imagine our lives against — is so much more important today than it has been before. Any luxury label’s CEO will tell you haute couture is not where the greenbacks come from. And yet, year after year, European labels indulge in the fantasy and escape it promises. Even as couture changes itself to be more relatable today, modernises its essence to match our quotidian realities and becomes more wearable, it still brings on the joyous sense of occasion and grandeur.
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India’s couture week, called the Shree Raj Mahal Jewellers India Couture Week in its 2014 avatar, is going on in Delhi’s Taj Palace hotel right now. It will soon be followed by its rival, the India Bridal Week (hoping to regain its leg-up with a new sponsor since Sahara’s head honcho has run into troubled waters).
Everyone in India wants a slice of its couture pie. Unlike anywhere else in the world, opulent bridal fashion is India’s money spinner and mainstay. It is what puts the Rs 100 crore into couturiers like Sabyasachi, Manish Malhotra and Tarun Tahiliani. The Indian truth is that we spend big on our weddings. But the history of fashion shows that people pay for value over and above anything else.
There is no compromise on high art and great quality. This is a lesson India’s finest couturiers show the world. Last week, Tahiliani hosted his annual couture exposition over two crowded and business-booming days in Mumbai. Among his puffed lehengas, lattice sarees and filigree-woven gilets stood out a small but very special menswear line.
Teamed with a 400-year-old Savile Row company, Whitcomb & Shaftesbury, the collection saw Indian bandhgalas and sherwanis patterned in London and made with their finest wools and silks, but Indian is style and cut entirely. “Finally, we have contemporary Indian design with the best bespoke tailoring there is,” Tahiliani said as he greeted eager guests. “This had been lacking for so long.”
The new menswear found immediate favour in Google’s Nikesh Arora who wed Delhi socialite Ayesha Thapar in a much celebrated nuptials in Puglia, Italy, earlier this month. In a commercial climate where “sportswear” is the buzzword, where you can barely tell one designer from the other, where a man’s suit can be worn by the woman — the idea for something special is also the need of the hour.