Lakme Fashion Week: Designers take the tribal route this season

Lakme Fashion Week: Designers take the tribal route this season

From the deserts of Kutch to the hills of Nagaland and the plains of Ethiopia — tribes from far-flung lands are inspiring designers this season.

Purvi Doshi marries Kutchi mirror-work with Aztec patterns; Neha Agarwal honours the Mursis of Ethiopia.
Purvi Doshi marries Kutchi mirror-work with Aztec patterns; Neha Agarwal honours the Mursis of Ethiopia.

Fashion’s fascination with the past has been in the making for quite a few seasons. At Lakme Fashion Week’s (LFW) Winter/Festive 2014 edition too, designers will be delving into the past, deriving inspiration from indigenous cultures and tribal traditions. Tattoos, totems, textiles, weaponry and ornaments will find their way to the LFW ramp, as designers celebrate and embrace native cultures and myriad aspects of nomadic life. Here are a chosen few.

Future Wise

OF no known nationality or cultural origin, Amit Aggarwal’s tribal derivatives examine the process of evolution. The inaugural show of LFW will see Aggarwal explore the idea of what tradition would mean in the future, by looking at the evolution of a tribe. “I’ve taken traditional aspects of tribal life and contemporised them with modern materials and new-age construction,” says Aggarwal. His trademark metal strip weaving and stitching techniques revisit tribal textiles and reconstruct chevron-like patterns; tattoos manifest as wings and stripes, and totems find language in the form of structural, almost three-dimensional embroidery. Aggarwal has paid special attention to make-up, concentrating on an oft-ignored part of the visage — “painting and distorting” the ears.

Warrior Vision

Looking for inspiration closer to home is Asa Kazingmei, who ponders on issues of discrimination, strife and unrest, and turns to the one thing Naga warriors use to protect themselves in times of war — the “changvei”, a shield made of thick wild buffalo hide. Kazingmei uses tough denim, thick leather, rivets, studs and zippers. “The uppers are very structured, almost armour-like, whereas bottoms are layered, draped and flowing,” says Kazingmei, who keeps the all-black (“with a hint of turquoise”) warrior story alive with leather gloves, boots and harnesses.

Nomadic World

The Rabaris, a nomadic tribe that roams parts of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, has inspired Vaishali Shadangule’s festive line. “Apart from their upbeat attitude, I admire the way they blend the brightest of colours and how their womenfolk wear backless cholis with ease,” she says. The designer will translate their sartorial sensibilities into backless cholis, backless gowns, short “kediya” jackets, dhoti pants and lehengas. “The Rabaris wear a lot of wool and I’ve incorporated woollen threads, along with their traditional motifs, into the embroideries and tassels,” says Shadangule, who has worked with jamdani, Banarasi brocade and a unique linen, silk and cotton blend.

Mirror Image


Aztec motifs meet Kutchi mirror-work embroidery in Purvi Doshi’s collection “Chhavi”, which literally means reflection. Inspired by nomadic tribes from around the world, Doshi’s cross-cultural amalgamation sees her employ “aabhla” and “chakra” mirror-work, hand sown in Aztec-shaped patterns on bright hued home-grown khadi. “Square-, diamond- and rectangle- shaped mirrors fit beautifully in tribal patterns,” says Doshi, with “lots of kalis, pleats and gathers”. The Indo-western collection has everything — from flared ghaghras with spaghetti tops and short kurtis to tie-dye skirts and palazzos with box pleats.

African Touch

GenNext debutante Neha Agarwal’s label NEZ channels a Gothic-tribal vibe with “Niola Doa’, an ode to women. “I’ve been inspired by the Mursis of Ethiopia, one of the world’s most primitive tribes. Their originality and individualism inspired me,” says Agarwal. The Mursis’s distinct methods of self-decoration, face-painting and how they use twigs and flowers as accessories have influenced textile textures, patterns and embroideries in the collection. “I’ve stuck to black, rust, wines and other earthy colours for the tribal feel,” says Agarwal.