FASHION legend Coco Chanel once said: “Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself”. It looked like the Indian fashion fraternity was determined to take this adage to heart in 2016. Fashion was all about embracing diversity this year; no matter what colour, gender, shape or size it came in. With fashion designers such as Shyma Shetty of Huemn, Ragini Ahuja of Ikai and Nitya Arora of Valliyan proudly owning their curves in fierce mainstream magazine editorial shoots, fashion had its most body positive and inclusive year yet. From the folks at Lakme Fashion Week (LFW) widening avenues of exchange with designers and models from the Northeast states, attempting to break gender stereotypes with a textile shoot with transgender classical dance artistes such as Narthaki Nataraj and Lakshya, even putting up a plus-sized (albeit sponsor-driven) ramp show, this was the year fashion opened its arms wide and welcomed diversity. Even as Kerala’s popular women’s magazine Vanitha put transgender model Deepthi on its cover, various social media platforms saw Indian women celebrate muscular frames, dark skin, curly manes and body hair. And while cynics may label these as token gestures, there is no denying that these were indeed giant steps in a world that thrives on Photoshop, perfection and posturing.
Politicians played puppeteers as social media hashtags such as #NationalHandloomDay and #IWearHandloom went viral, garnering support from the fashion fraternity and enthusiasts alike. Overnight everyone became a textile fan and flaunted handloom-decked selfies. Soap-star-turned-politician Smriti Zubin Irani (pictured) not only took over the Ministry of Textiles, but also brought her share of drama to the scene with her social media campaign promoting the hashtag #IWearHandloom. And even as the agenda was flogged endlessly online, the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI), in association with Development Commissioner (Handlooms), Ministry of Textiles, signed a Memorandum of Understanding between designers and weaver service centres across India. Here’s hoping we’ll see concrete positive results of this virtual lobbying in 2017.
There was no pregnant pause where actor Kareena Kapoor Khan was concerned this year. She shattered Bollywood bolstered stereotypes by flaunting her baby bump on magazine covers, walking the ramp as Sabyasachi Mukherjee’s LFW finale showstopper and making some ultra glamorous red-carpet appearances during the course of her pregnancy. Her maternity style statement was chic, non-apologetic, comfortable and relatable, unlike many of her filmi predecessors who’ve preferred to shun the limelight during their pregnancies. Another yummy mummy, ramp scorcher Carol Gracias, walked the ramp for Hyderabad-based designer Gaurang Shah when she was six months pregnant, and was back on the ramp the following season, barely a month after giving birth to her son, taking a bow for Shah and Ashish N Soni. “Motherhood should be celebrated. I hope me walking a ramp with a baby bump and coming back (post-delivery) will bring change in the perception of people,” she told PTI.
Padma Shri awardee designer, writer and chronicler Wendell Rodricks wears many a hat with great flourish and elan. So when it came to handing over the reins of his fashion label to his protégé Schulen Fernandes, the Goa-based designer did it in his inimitable style, taking a curtain call at the end of his LFW show and placing his pink hat on Fernandes’ head, thereby signifying the passing on of the baton. Rodricks announced that he wasn’t retiring from fashion, merely handing over his label in Fernandes’s care while he focussed on writing and completing work on the Moda Goa Museum that he is instituting at his 450-year-old home in Colvale.
This year saw Priyanka Chopra dethrone Freida Pinto as the most watched Indian fashionista on international red carpets. From attending shows at New York Fashion Week to making a splash on some of the world’s most prestigious red carpets, the Quantico star was everywhere. She shone in a beaded Zuhair Murad gown at the Oscars, twirled in a red Jason Wu ensemble at the Emmy Awards, sported a strapless Monique Lhuillier at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, dazzled in a glitzy Vera Wang dress at the People’s Choice Awards and kept it fuss-free in a blue Atelier Versace number at the Billboard Awards. But looks like Chopra may soon have some home-grown competition nipping at her fashionable heels. Deepika Padukone, who will soon make her Hollywood debut in XXX: Return of Xander Cage, showed some leg and a lot of spunk in a custom Monisha Jaising outfit at the MTV Europe Music Awards in November. Let’s see how this fashion face-off unfolds.
MAKING THEIR MARK
The Indian sweep at the prestigious International Woolmark Prize (IWP) competition continued as Delhi-based designer Suket Dhir brought home the honours in January in the menswear category for 2015/16. Carrying forward the tradition of marrying fabric innovation with Indian craftsmanship and ingenuity were Nachiket Barve and Bounipun by Zubair Kirmani (both pictured above), who won the IWP Indian, Pakistan and Middle East Regional finals for 2016/17 in the womenswear and menswear categories, respectively. They will now compete for the main prize in January 2017.
Two of the country’s biggest couturiers turned their gaze to domestic matters with two of this year’s most talked about design collaborations. While Sabyasachi Mukherjee tied up with California-based Pottery Barn for a holiday product line, Rohit Bal (pictured) debuted a home décor line with Good Earth. Mukherjee incorporated boho prints, vintage art and intricate embroidery into a line that spelt global holiday charm. While Bal translated his 2015 couture collection “Husn-e-Taairaat” into a homeware and clothing line. Bringing their trademark aesthetics to the home décor arena were designers JJ Valaya, David Abraham and Rakesh Thakore and Aneeth Arora who collaborated with FCML to launch “The Incidental Collection”, an exclusive line of tiles.