The warp and weft of woven fabric has formed the cornerstone of artist and designer Payal Khandwalas design philosophy. At the Lakme Fashion Week (LFW) Winter/Festive 2013 edition,she furthered her fascination for textiles with an eight-piece sari interlude in her collection titled,A Fine Balance. Khandwala presented a line of colour-blocked saris in rich jewel-toned silks,handwoven in Phulia,West Bengal. I love traditional saris and the intention was to keep it simple and dispel the idea that textile saris are old-school, says Khandwala. She teamed her drapes with button-down shirts,ganjis,waistcoats and leather obi belts and,in places,even used them as Samurai-like,architectural drapes,belted around wide-legged trousers. I wanted to retain the purity of the sari. Rather than making the sari young,the idea was to style it in a youthful way and team it with existing pieces from ones wardrobe, she says.
While Khandwalas tryst with the sari may have been intentionally rooted in tradition,designers such as Amit Aggarwal and Swapnil Shinde attempted to introduce an Indian aesthetic into their hitherto western design sensibilities with their unique takes on the sari and lehenga. Pria Kataaria Puri,on the other hand,attempted to infuse some resortwear glamour into mens wardrobes.
With reinvention fast becoming a much-abused term,it comes as no surprise that designers are either looking for new avenues to explore their creativity in or scrambling to meet fresh market demands. While,for Khandwala,the saris are a logical extension of her aesthetic and brand,others like Kataaria Puri have been lured into these pastures by the draw of business opportunities. Her male models walked the ramp wearing printed kaftans,churidar pants with thigh-high kurtas,knee-length shorts,shirts and trousers,in her trademark bright colours and vibrant prints,with an odd fur-lined vest thrown in. While the line-up bordered on the flashy and flamboyant,Kataaria Puri admits its not a collection aimed at the faint-hearted. With her European and American buyers requesting for more adventurous resortwear for male clients,she has decided to venture into this segment with bold hues and striking designs. There is a huge gap in the market for luxury resortwear. With people travelling all year-round to resort destinations such as Thailand and Bali,the demand keeps growing. Currently,all men have access to are linen shirts and bermuda shorts. My line is something a well-travelled and confident customer can wear for a poolside party or on a yacht holiday, she says.
Also veering towards the unconventional was Amit Aggarwals superbly sculpted collection especially his newly-introduced conceptual saris which defied imagination. Fluid and luxurious fabrics such as velvet,satin and tulle met minutely pleated and skilfully draped saris and were teamed with beaded and metallic detailed blouses and vests. His lehenga skirts too were a study in contrast as moulded metallic strips met sheer fabrics.
Another designer who attempted to merge all things metallic with the sari drape was Swapnil Shinde,whose capsule bridal collection was titled Bride of Terminator. While his work lacked the finesse of Aggarwals collection,it was clear that Shinde was angling to try something new without stepping out of the commercial realm. Armour-like moulded metallic blouses met sari drapes and lehenga skirts,but the colours were trend dictated: pop pinks,bright blues and tangerines.
So,even as they attempted to cast their nets wider,each designer stuck to their aesthetic strong points,be it prints,textiles or technique. Now,whether these winter/festive 2013 ventures remain one-off experiments or become a permanent part of the designers fashion lexicons,only critical and commercial success will tell.