One of the standout looks from Shikha Grover and Vinita Adhikari’s label Ilk’s Winter/Festive 2014 line, “Man Holding Hands” — a model wearing a soft denim-wash sari teamed with a denim twill bomber jacket with beaded embroidery — happened quite by accident.
While the designer duo was putting the final looks together for the runway show, somehow the combination of the varsity-style cover-up and the six-yard drape just clicked. “The bomber jacket is a fuss-free silhouette and a completely effortless piece of clothing that you can throw on top of anything,” says Grover. It’s perhaps this versatility of the garment that has not only captured the imagination of designers internationally for a few seasons now, but also induced Indian designers to give it a desi update.
The bomber jacket originates from the bombardier or flight jacket, originally created for pilots. The combat-style appeal of the outerwear has long been combined with activewear ease, and its utilitarian allure has taken on a distinctly deluxe shine. Whether it is Zuhair Murad’s embellished interpretation, Dries Van Noten’s orange duchesse satin number, Ragini Ahuja’s oversized metallic emblazoned pieces or Josh Goraya’s quilted silks, there’s no denying that the bomber has become a trans-seasonal style staple.
It comfortably ticks off the sportswear, androgyny, day luxe and military trend boxes, tackling more than one fashion forward wave. In a variety of shapes, textures and styles — from the functional varsity vibe and the rockstar leather-trimmed look, to hyper-printed, colour-splattered versions and intrinsically Indian avatar — here’s outerwear that begs for innovation and modification.
Take, for example, Tanya Sharma of GaGa’s experiments with the silhouette. From her Spring-Summer 2014 renditions of block-printed organza pieces and sheer net ones with Kashmiri aari embroidery, to her Autumn-Winter derivatives with achkan-inspired quilted shapes and jersey bombers with zardozi embroidery and bandhani hoodies, the Mumbai-based designer has played around quite brazenly with silhouettes, fabrics and treatments. “Fashion is now more inclined to comfort than ever before. And the bomber jacket is a silhouette that fits everyone, no matter what your shape, size or sex,” says Sharma of the garment that has played a starring role in many of her collections. “You can wear it casually, take it to a job interview or even go clubbing in it. Embellish it and it becomes glam, use a sporty fabric and it becomes activewear, embroider it and you can wear it to a wedding,” she adds.
Just as Sharma added a distinct Indian touch with bandhani and zardozi, Hemant & Nandita used lace, mesh, intricate threadwork and dabka embroidery for their reinterpretation. “In our Autumn-Winter ’14 line, which primarily focused on a luxurious sports-inspired concept, we experimented with lengths and surface textures because I believe bomber jackets will be in the limelight only when they have strong detailing,” says Nandita Raipurani.
And while intricate detailing appeals to some designers, others are attracted to the bomber jacket’s everyday multi-functionality and malleability. With the slightest tweak in treatment, it easily slips from lightweight summer cover-up to warm winter comfort and spiffy evening wear. Not to mention that it lends itself to both relaxed and structured looks. Which is why Anita Dongre believes this is not a shortlived trend. And the racks at retail outlets of her high-street brands AND and Global Desi attest to the very fact.
Apart from its easy-to-wear, fuss-free appeal, what also interests Dongre is the cool, hip and youthful vibe the bomber imparts to any ensemble. “It’s perfect for layering and can be paired with dresses, trousers, skirts, even lehengas,” says Dongre, who played around with prints, solids and embroideries for her summer and winter lines last year and is looking forward to reworking the bomber into her 2015 collections as well.
And Hemant & Nandita aren’t done with it either. They’re currently working on a capsule collection comprising neoprene bomber jackets with wearable crystallised elements and other cool embellishments. Ilk and GaGa too look set to give it a summer outing in 2015. Looks like this combat-inspired trend has a lot of fight left in it.