Bare chested men were the last thing fashion watchers were expecting to see. Yet, 18 male models, clad only in black lungis, opened the grand finale of Lakme Fashion Week (LFW) Summer/Resort 2015 on Sunday evening. But then the last thing you can blame designer Anamika Khanna for being is obvious. Not for her the obvious Indo-Western paradigm that the rest of the country embraces, nor an all-too-evident interpretation of Lakme’s seasonal style mantra “Sculpt”.
Which is perhaps why fashion regulars were anticipating anything but the ordinary when it was announced that the Kolkata-based couturier would present her collection at the historic Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Byculla, Mumbai. One couldn’t have thought of a more befitting venue to showcase Khanna’s artistry, capping off LFW’s 15th anniversary celebrations. But that was not to be, thanks to political protests. The Lakme and IMG Reliance team had to take over the lobby of the Palladium Hotel instead.
The scale of the event was severely compromised, the guest-list was in disarray, the seating was hurriedly finalised, but when the spotlights shone on the riser and spiral staircase which formed the makeshift ramp for the show, all the trifling exigencies were forgotten. As 14 muslin and organzaclad models formed a pristine white backdrop, their sculptural jewellery glinting under the arclights, Khanna’s creations made the spectacle come alive.
Model Lakshmi Rana opened the show in an ivory dhoti-cape ensemble edged with delicate embroidery, followed by Carol Gracias in a diaphanous dupatta over a drop-crotch jumpsuit and Noyonika Chatterjee in a structured zardozi laden bandhgala over a sleek pencil skirt. The three looks alone set the tone for a show that oscillated seamlessly between fluidity and rigidity. The colour story flowed from white and gold, to pearly pinks, sand, black and midnight blue even as Khanna took her staples — capes, dhoti pants, skirts and jackets — and used drapes to tell the “Sculpt” story. Fabrics such as satin dupion, silk and canvas were moulded into ultra-flattering shapes, and muslins and organzas simulated fluidity. Gold and silver zardozi, thread and metallic embroidery, with a smatter of sequins, converted deconstructed silhouettes into works of art.
Her favourite garment, the cape, came in many versions — from diaphanous trailing ones that flowed in the wake of the models to shoulder-hugging pieces that were exquisitely embroidered and lace-edged asymmetrical ones that topped trousers, skirts and sari drapes. The models sported “matha-pattis” and clavicle-grazing earrings by Khanna’s talented sister and jewellery designer Suhani Pittie.
We especially loved the ombre fabrics that weren’t over-awed by the embroidery, and voluminous harem-like pants that were more haute than Arabian Nights. Even the ensemble that Lakme brand ambassador Kareena Kapoor Khan donned — a black dhoti skirt, silver zardozi-laden crop stop and a filmy cape – looked effortless despite the heavy embroidery.
Yes, the setting wasn’t most conducive to a serious fashion viewing, the overhead lights weren’t camera-friendly and the spread of the Palladium lobby was nowhere close to the spectacle that is the museum. But hats off to the designer, the Lakme-IMG combine and supporting cast, including fellow designers Rohit Bal and Manish Malhotra, who stepped in to make the show a success. Fascism may have won this face-off, but fashion eventually won the day.