COLOUR trends forecaster Pantone proclaimed “greenery” as the haute hue of 2017, paying a nod to times of rejuvenation and revitalisation. As if on cue, some of India’s earliest fashion labels not only turned 25 this year, they decided to hit refresh and celebrate their landmark anniversaries with renewed vigour. Even as premier fashion store Ensemble celebrated 30 years of talent incubation and subcontinental style, the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) pulled out all the stops for a decadent decade of India Couture Week. But it was the individual celebrations that marked this as the year of memorable milestones.
Designer Suneet Varma celebrated three decades in the industry with a Swarovski-studded couture show in May and presented a celebratory capsule, replete with his trademark crystals, feathers, lace and sequins, at the Amazon India Fashion Week Spring-Summer 2018 Grand Finale in October. In contrast, David Abraham and Rakesh Thakore celebrated 25 years of their label Abraham & Thakore with quintessential understated sophistication. Their SS’18 show saw them revisiting their roots with #blockblackwhite where tailored contemporary separates met drapes in the form of the sari, dupatta, lungi and dhoti. Pomp and circumstance were replaced by powerful fashion, just the way the duo prefer it.
Ashish N Soni presented ‘Welcome to My World’ at The Lodhi in Delhi, a grand retrospective where installations, fashion and technology intertwined to tell the story of his brand’s evolution. But it was JJ Valaya’s 25th anniversary celebration ‘The Alika Project’ that closed the year on a high note. Valaya took his label’s signature Alika jacket, created 25 versatile versions of it (portraying his creative journey), and invited 24 other design influencers to infuse them with their vision. The showcase at Bikaner House on December 20 saw Suket Dir, Gaurav Jai Gupta of Akaaro, Sumant Jayakrishnan, Aneeth Arora of Pero and Ujjawal Dubey of Antar-Agni, among others, collaborate with Valaya on the unique project.
India’s premier fashion events celebrated artisanal crafts through shows that integrated the skills of mainstream designers and master craftsmen. While Lakme Fashion Week (LFW) widened the gambit of their property Sustainable Fashion Day by giving a platform to organic and repurposed fashion, the FDCI-led AIFW also embraced the textile manifesto in a big way. Designers collaborated with master weavers to create some extraordinary fashion, adding heft to the bi-annual circus tent of fashion weeks, giving them an added purpose.
LFW’s #CraftIsCool show saw creative cross-pollination between Ajrakh specialist Sarfraz Khatri of Pracheen and Anjali Patel Mehta of Verandah, with bandhani expert Sohel Khatri teaming up with label The Pot Plant and bagh printer Mohammad Yusuf working with Vineet Rahul. At AIFW, handloom fabrics from the weaving clusters were fashioned into versatile clothes by Rajesh Pratap Singh, Aneeth Arora and Sanjay Garg. While the larger context of how these alliances and events like Textile India (held in Gandhinagar) will benefit the weaving community is yet to play out, 2017 bode well for the integration of craft and design.
India heaved a collective sigh as images from Anushka Sharma and Virat Kohli’s Tuscan nuptials emerged on social media. And there was no mistaking the masterful touch of Kolkata designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee, clearly seen in the couple’s wedding clothes and overall styling. While pastels came into play for the pheras with Sharma donning a blush pink hand-embroidered lehenga, she chose to wear a deep Gulkand burgundy velvet sari for the engagement and a red Banarasi sari, straight from the bylanes of Peeli Kothi in Varanasi, for the Delhi reception. The groom complemented the looks in custom Sabyasachi sherwanis in ivory and black. In fact, 2017 saw Mukherjee debut his signature jewellery line, start retailing with online giant Lane Crawford, and launch another collection of ultra-luxe footwear with Christian Louboutin. The CLxSabyasachi capsule was showcased in major cities of the world this time around. To say Mukherjee had a busy and buzzy year would be an understatement.
Thanks to photo-sharing platform Instagram, 2017 saw a whole new generation of star kids turn into style-savvy influencers. Perfectly put together and well-versed in the ways of social media, these youngsters have perfected the pout and winged eyeliner even before they’ve made their filmi debut. Saif Ali Khan’s daughter Sara not only bagged her first big Bollywood role, but also became a paparazzi pet project. The debutant, who favours Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla ensembles, had stiff competition from Sridevi’s daughter Jhanvi Kapoor, who has a penchant for Manish Malhotra gowns and high-end bags. Other star kids that grabbed insta likes were Shah Rukh Khan’s daughter Suhana, who graduated from football studs to Herve Leger bandage dresses; Bachchan grand-daughter Navya Naveli Nanda, who made it to the cover of Vogue India magazine and Chunky Panday’s daughter Ananya, who made her debut at the 25th annual Bal des Débutantes in Paris.
Gender stereotypes took a tumble on the LFW runways as Nepal’s first transgender model Anjali Lama walked the ramp for some of India’s leading designers. Also joining a diverse pool of models was plus-size transgender model Veronica Campbell and Petr Nitka, a gender neutral Czech model, who walked the ramp for womenswear and menswear shows. Lama has since walked for the best in the business, shot campaigns for Myntra, Ensemble and Rimple and Harpreet Narula, featured in editorial shoots, even bagged the cover of Elle’s digital issue. The Inega model’s breakthrough and assimilation into the industry has widened the narrative surrounding inclusivity and, in a small way, helped the fashion fraternity shed its exclusionary and elitist image.