When a debutant designer walks out onto the ramp,head held high,signalling the victory sign to applauding guests in the front row,you know things have changed a lot. Gone are the bashful half-bows,the reluctant walk down the runway at the end of the show and the blushing smiles that used to be the trademark of young designers. When the Gen Next designers take their changed fortunes in stride and acknowledge the applause their work receives,it is clear that confidence is the new hallmark of these young greenhorns.
The designers who debuted on the Gen Next platform at the Lakme Fashion Week Summer/ Resort 2011 on Friday,March 11,were remarkable for the confidence they displayed. Each of the collections had a good concept behind it whether it was Shivaji Duttas collection Blank Spot,which turned waste cloth into wearable dresses,or Deepti Pruthis Complicated Simplicity collection that drew inspiration from Chicagos Aqua Tower or Manas Dashs Modern Tribe collection,which used Orissas traditional Pattachitra paintings on dresses with modern,edgy silhouettes. It was obvious that each designer had a clear picture of what they wanted and once it was executed,they were pleased with the results.
Yet,the collections,while on the whole were pretty and occasionally edgy,did not really push the envelope in any way. Nothing heralded a new tune in Indian fashion. Some central concepts had a lot of potential that went untapped. For instance,Dashs use of the Pattachitra art is commendable,but in an effort to make the paintings more relevant to contemporary fashion,he bordered on the gimmicky,giving his clothes extremely rigid silhouettes. Such modern silhouettes have almost become a cliché in fashion today,and it was not just Dash who fell for it. Deux A,designer duo Anna-Liza Ganguly and Anita Walia,ended up using exaggerated power shoulders to depict their mix of the 80s street fashion and Hollywood glamour. Nothing clicked. Even Timsy and Siddharths deconstructed menswear line,I Know,with cutout shirts,fake lapels and pocket pouches seemed to be going for an extreme look simply because they felt that is whats considered edgy. Its time someone had the courage to do something original without feeling the need to be entirely crazy.
On the whole,the Gen Next show was a disappointment. Could it be that the Gen Next platform which gave us Kallol Dutta,Nachiket Barve,Anuj Sharma,Rimzim Dadu among others is cracking under expectations? Are young designers having got a dream launch too comfortable when it comes to actually executing the designs? Fern Mallis,whos on the advisory board of the LFW,admitted to being disappointed with some of the collections on the runway. But she remains optimistic. Its not possible to have an outstanding designer debuting every season,but Gen Next has consistently got some interesting talent. Providing this platform to new designers is a great thing that the LFW is doing and itll continue. When I look at the talent weve produced,it makes me proud, says she.
Perhaps the only designer who managed to work out an individual vision and good execution was Miriam Strehlau,who presented a bohemian look with her line of dresses,maxis,jackets and shorts,which used traditional Indian techniques like bandhani,leheriya and batik on materials like mul,cotton and khadi. The result was quirky creations like a lungi skirt,khadi boleros,and a dress with Rajasthani mirror work. This Goa-based French designer will be a talent to watch out for.