Around 20 years ago,when model Mehar Bhasin walked the ramp at Raghavendra Rathores debut show in India,held in Jodhpur,wearing a beige bandhgala jacket with breeches and lace-up shoes,the look was a departure from the norm. While the audience was surprised to see a menswear look being donned by a female model,Rathore knew it was an idea ahead of its times.
Two decades later,at the Aamby Valley India Bridal Fashion Week (IBFW) 2013s Delhi and Mumbai editions,the designer officially launched The Womans Bandhgala a first from the House of Rathore. That it has taken 20 years to walk off the runway and into womens wardrobes becomes immaterial when Rathore discusses his favoured garment a hybrid descendant of the vintage angarkha,sherwani and achkan. The elementary pattern is necessarily a tailored look. It has a quintessentially Indian fit,accentuates the form and works beautifully on the Indian male as well as female bodies, says Rathore,who experimented with fabric,length and embroidery to draw the garment away from its basic black progenitor and gave it a universal stylised look for his women buyers.
With the Jodhpuri bandhgala having caught the fancy of designers in India and abroad,and androgyny being this seasons hottest trend,it wasnt surprising to see the high-collar jacket make an appearance on bedecked bridal ramps,albeit in an ornate avatar. At the IBFWs Mumbai edition alone,we spotted the jacket in different interpretations from Rohit Bals Victorian collared creations and JJ Valayas Spain-inspired numbers to Meera and Muzaffar Alis Awadh influence and Ashima Leenas Taj Mahal-inspired depiction. Paired variously with embroidered lehengas,tulle and silk skirts,opulent saris and tapered pants,the bandhgala was the singular most versatile
garment on display.
It is an intrinsically Indian silhouette and Ive been working with it for a while. It is also a very versatile piece of clothing. One can dress it up with an elaborate lehenga or keep it simple and wear it with pants, says Valaya,who presented some gilded metallic appliqué reinterpretations as part of his The Maharaja of Madrid collection.
Much like Valaya,Ashima-Leena,too,chose to look at it as a reinterpretation. The Indianwear portfolio is relegated to a few signature silhouettes,among which the bandhgala is an iconic statement,what I believe the Little Black Dress is to western wear. We like to stick to traditional cuts and believe in re-imagining them for the season, says Rhea Singh,Director of strategy,Ashima-Leena. This season the designer duo used handwoven brocades and combined the bandhgala with a longer kurti-like silhouette to add feminine flair.
While the bandhgala may bear the burden of tradition,its new feminine interpretation is light,non-fussy,functional and more structured,essentially like power dressing for brides. Our bandhgalas were designed with destination weddings in mind very structured and western in silhouette,ethnic in fabric,with embroideries that look heavy but are cleverly executed to keep them lightweight, says Rathore.
And while functionality is key,its growing popularity is also a reflection of the evolving woman buyer,says Valaya. Women are feeling more powerful and in control. Theres a pronounced self-awareness and dignity in sensuality. There is a sense of mystery creeping in,which is always welcome, he says.
With global trends leaning towards more conservative silhouettes,Singh believes that the renewed interest in the bandhgala is just a reflection of our times. Internationally,too,fashion is reflecting whats happening in society. With the global anti-incumbency mood,a certain degree of restraint has crept into fashion, says Singh.
That said,Rathore believes this trend wont be relegated to this season alone. He says,With a change in fabric,length and treatment,the bandhgala can be taken to international audiences. It is a product that has the potential to be accepted universally. I personally believe that the next big thing to come out of India and make a splash internationally wont be a designer brand,but a product like the bandhgala. Amen