Rohit Gandhi-Rahul Khanna and Gauri-Nainika on invoking the Hollywood of yore at the Lakme Fashion Weekhttps://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/art-and-culture/once-upon-a-time-in-hollywood-gaurika-nainika-rohit-gandhi-rahul-khanna-5918224/

Rohit Gandhi-Rahul Khanna and Gauri-Nainika on invoking the Hollywood of yore at the Lakme Fashion Week

Rohit Gandhi-Rahul Khanna and Gauri-Nainika on staying relevant with the times.

lakme fashion week, gaurika, nainika, designers gaurika nainika, rohit gandhi, designer rohit gandhi, rahul khanna, designer rahul khanna, fashion week, art and culture, Indian Express
Designer duo Gaurika-Nainika

This is that time of the year when the Indian fashion fraternity goes into overdrive, having just wrapped up the India Couture Week and setting the tone of the wedding season that follows. The Winter-Festive 2019 edition of the Lakme Fashion Week (LFW) begins in Mumbai today. It will open with “Maahrumysha”, a collection by Bollywood’s go-to designer Manish Malhotra.

The six-day lineup includes names such as Amit Aggarwal, Rina Dhaka, Kunal Rawal and Antar Agni. We spoke to two designer duos: Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna, who are coming back to LFW after a hiatus of 15 years; and Gauri and Nainika, who are presenting the Lakme Absolute Grand Finale with the theme “#FreeYourLips”. The two are bringing old-school glamour and vintage Hollywood-inspired designs to the ramp.

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A design from “#Freeyourlips”

Getting Bolder

They have left the muted, sedate pastels behind, and moved onto the bigger, bolder world of scarlet reds, statement pieces and embellishments that are hard to miss. One of the few female designer duos in India, sisters Gauri and Nainika have for long catered to the young, doe-eyed urban girl demography. With the campaign “#Freeyourlips” they are now focussing on bolder designs. “We have brought in big sleeves, voluminous skirts, high-low hemlines, fit and flare dresses and a lot of dramatic colours, trademark of the eighties,” state the duo, adding, “We have pushed ourselves to the hilt for this collection. We have used pure silks, organza, satin and tulle. Additionally, we have gone overboard with the dramatic motifs.”

lakme fashion week, gaurika, nainika, designers gaurika nainika, rohit gandhi, designer rohit gandhi, rahul khanna, designer rahul khanna, fashion week, art and culture, Indian Express
A sketch by Gauri-Nainika

The duo has used creations by two artists — Alpesh Dave and Travis Black — and created motifs and embroideries to be used as embellishments on their designs. “These motifs and symbols reflect the spirit of our times. The feel of our clothes is almost couture-esque. Sequins, velvet flowers, ruffles and layers, all these would not look out of place at a red-carpet event in Hollywood,” they add.

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The two sisters recall how they loved dressing up as kids. When they started their label in 2004, the thrust was on more lady-like, demure designs. “We and our designs have evolved with the times. Look at the women of today, they are more fun-loving and ready to experiment. They are happy to pair a flowy dress with a statement belt to make it edgier and even wear it to a casual do,” share the Delhi-based designers. “We feel that these changes are a direct reflection of the world around us. Now Indian fashion is international and vice versa. We didn’t grow up in the digital age, and it’s been a fun challenge to keep up with technology and social media. It has made us more relatable to the country at large, and not a select few,” they say.

lakme fashion week, gaurika, nainika, designers gaurika nainika, rohit gandhi, designer rohit gandhi, rahul khanna, designer rahul khanna, fashion week, art and culture, Indian Express
Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna

Space Cadet

“It’s not been deliberate, Mumbai just didn’t happen by chance,” says Rahul Khanna of Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna, on their 15-year-hiatus from the LFW, Mumbai. “We would be showing at Paris, and would often have end-to-end collections showcased in Delhi. But we are happy to be back in Mumbai, the energy is so different in this city. People are more open to experimentation and ideas,” he adds. The duo’s latest collection titled “Interstellar” — no connection to the movie — invokes the various hues of our starry galaxies. “It’s like a starry night. You will see lot of greys, gunmetal black, platinum and blue. There are a lot of sharp cuts and flowy silhouettes, and a very edgy feel to the whole thing,” he shares. The influence of the ’80s on the collection is evident. “We grew up in the ’90s on shows like Dynasty. So we have used opulence that was a signature of that era. It includes dresses with big billowy sleeves, power shoulders, wrap-around dresses and simple dresses infused with shoulder pads. We have used satin, silk and light-weight materials. We have tried to get inspiration from the past and take it into the future,” says Khanna.

lakme fashion week, gaurika, nainika, designers gaurika nainika, rohit gandhi, designer rohit gandhi, rahul khanna, designer rahul khanna, fashion week, art and culture, Indian Express
A sketch by Khanna and Gandhi

Monochromes and the colour black has been the cornerstone of the design sensibility of the duo, since their pret days. Even when they ventured into couture, they didn’t fall prey to the seduction of bright Indian bridal hues. “It’s quite difficult to showcase intricate detailing in monochrome. Loud colours can easily detract attention from it. With solid, staple colours, you can mix and match and also repeat clothes,” says Khanna.

The two feel say these are interesting times for the fashion fraternity in India, given how Instagram has altered how fashion reaches people. “We are all on our toes. It’s constant work to be relevant and be in with the now. We are all planning way in advance, we are already on our next show, which we showcase in Paris next month. Instagram has changed everything,” he says, adding that it has also helped give birth to inherent individualism. “Now everyone wants to give a unique take on clothes, no one wants to copy the look completely off the ramp. People now take a western silhouette and pair it with an Indian blouse,” says he.