THE ‘grand finale’ construct that Indian fashion weeks have perpetuated over the years, remains a catch-22 situation for every designer. On the one hand, it allows you to mount a larger-than-life production; present your brand story on a vast canvas. But it sometimes limits your creativity too, ensnaring you with sponsor-led agendas and dictated thematic colour stories and concepts. Luckily for Sabyasachi Mukherjee, the latter was not the case on Sunday night as the Kolkata boy put up a grand set in one of the production hangars at Mehboob Studios, Bandra, lit up by several bejewelled chandeliers, literally bringing to life the Lakme Fashion Week (LFW) Winter/Festive 2016 theme “Illuminate”.
That Mukherjee has also been in a shine-and-slay phase of late worked serendipitously well with the cosmetic giant’s seasonal campaign as the designer played with glitter, shimmer and sparkle in his inimitable way. And Mukherjee really does know how to set the scene. Even as a 40-piece orchestra from the Symphony Orchestra of India started off the evening with a moving piece, the first few models stepped on to the large arena-like ramp. For a line that started with dusty rose pinks, muddy greens and soft grey chintzy florals topped with pallu drapes and glittering capes, it soon moved on to heavily embroidered shift dresses and block-printed lehengas topped with diaphanous blouses and oversized faux fur clutch bags. Cross-cultural references were rife as Mukherjee’s muse walked through Parisian salons, genteel Parsi households, flirted with flapper style a la Amrita Sher-Gil and skirted back to his perennial favourite Frida Kahlo. While the velvet printed palazzos with the kediya style ‘jhablas’ and the velvet dhoti pants and capelet combos were our personal favourites, the embroidered velvet kaftan-style kurtis gave out a decidedly “made for the Middle Eastern market” vibe.
Some of the black-and-gold baroque golden minis with architectural embroideries (we spotted the Taj Mahal, in one instance) careened too close to a Dolce & Gabbana vibe, but Mukherjee reigned the impulse in with simple white and black gowns that spelt instant class and sophistication. While some of the heavily embroidered zardozi and Kashmiri tilla work jackets and lehengas were reminiscent of his recently launched couture line, Mukherjee balanced them out with simpler printed pieces that stopped the palette from becoming
And while we’re no big fur fans, his use of faux fur on off-shoulder capes, clutches, footwear uppers and some fun feathered neckpieces lent a playful touch to the proceedings. Except for a few peacock moments when the sherwani went bright pink, green and teal, the menswear served as the perfect foil to the gorgeous womenswear. And showstopper, Lakme brand ambassador and now expectant mom Kareena Kapoor Khan looked lovely in complete Begum of Pataudi mode, dressed in a grey exquisitely embroidered lehenga and blouse.
While there wasn’t much to be faulted in the achingly beautiful ensembles, they really were just that — beautiful. We miss Mukherjee’s storytelling abilities that made collections memorable, whether it be the comparatively gauche yet chic librarian look of the “Frog Princess” (2004) collection, the trapeze shapes of “Snail” (2006) or the florid florals of his Sunderbans-inspired range (2011) or even the disco ball divas of “Big Love” (2015). But maybe, being the astute businessman that he is, Mukherjee is done designing for fashion watchers and enthusiasts, and is channelling all his energies towards buyers instead.