It’s such an emotional time for fashion folk in India. The industry is dripping in nostalgia, celebrating its 15 years of organised existence, the beginning of time is marked as the first Lakme India Fashion Week that was put together in New Delhi by stalwarts of fashion. The glorious Fashion Design Council of India was formed and instantly accepted as the governing council of the community.
The pioneers of this — now called ‘seniors’ or ‘veterans’— have much to gloat about. How they conducted fashion shows of yore. How there were only two stores in the whole country where one could sell slightly modern Indian clothes. How models were the original rockstars and Bollywood was a very bad word. But mostly because how they are still essentially a community of people who compete and come together depending on the situation.
This was amplified at the Lakme Fashion Week’s finale show of Anamika Khanna where the bullying of a political party held the city to ransom yet again. The chosen venue of the Bhau Daji Lad Museum, a chronicler of Bombay’s costume history and a sister concern of the V&A in London, had to be abandoned because of threats of violence. ‘Veterans’ Rohit Bal and Tarun Tahiliani came together for another ‘senior’ Anamika Khanna, and didn’t stop short of lifting chairs and arranging seats at the new makeshift venue — the host hotel’s lobby. The show was put together in just six hours. It was splendid, and many cheered with teary eyes, just because they did it together.
But fashion in India is much more than sentiment. The spoils of this labour are best enjoyed by the new crop of designers whose staggering talent is the best payback. Here’s my list of some on whose shoulders sits a very big history.
In just six months of launching his eponymous label, Delhi-based Dhruv Kapoor has quickly become the hottest ticket. He has a degree from Milan’s Instituto Marangoni and has interned at Prada and does both legends due justice. His tailoring is cutting edge and his designs smack of couture elements. This season he was inspired by the motorcycle jacket and used coated materials such as vinyl, foil, and plastic, paired with linens. An absolutely international label.
On the other hand, Ikai’s Ragini Ahuja uses Indian techniques in contemporary clothing. This NIFT Delhi alumnus uses unexpected elements such as handwoven fabric, dyes and leather to a superb aesthetic — think shibori stripes and leather belts in boxy shapes. She was also the first runner-up at Vogue India’s Fashion Fund in 2014.
If you think of Sonam Kapoor in Khoobsurat, you will instantly know what Karishma Shahani Khan (label KaSha) is capable of. This Pune girl’s love for indigenous crafts and sustainable fashion doesn’t compromise on style. Natural and toxic-free dyes are used in block prints, bandhani and tie-dyes are layered to a beautiful boho-luxe end. It’s utterly gorgeous.
Urvashi Joneja has been a student of National Award-winning costume designer Niharika Khan. Her GenNext line last year had us gobsmacked with her use of ropes and tying techniques. This season she paid a homage to gingham checks in oversize patterns. Her beaded cutwork is a sensation for its couture-esque techniques. Ujjwal Dubey’s Antar-Agni is also just one year old. But his dhoti-draped inspired menswear was such a hit with the ladies last year that he decided to try his hand at women’s fashion too. He stands for luxurious monastic silhouettes.
When you see the works of this new blood, you know that Indian fashion is in the right place. And all will be well with the world eventually.