It seemed like the mis-en-scene of a gangster movie, where the red of the carpet was perfect hot, juxtaposing the grunge like feel of a car garage. Staircases added to the mystique of the space in addition to a silver Mini Cooper. No, this was not the set of an upcoming indie film paying homage to Quentin Tarantino, but the venue for designer-duo Lecoanet Hemant’s latest show, ‘Cinema of Genes’, held at the Mini Bird automative in Delhi’s Vasant Kunj.
The show, as the names suggests, invoked the Hollywood of yore. “I find that in India, society has a very traditional appeal to things. The moment you strike a conversation in the past tense, there’s an instant connection. Which is very different from other places of the world. Hence the choice of nostalgia and vintage fashion. But we had to have a contemporary take on the whole thing. And who doesn’t like to go to the movies?” said Gurgaon-based Hemant Sagar of Lecoanet Hemant.
The show, which was held on Saturday, had done away with the idea of a conventional ramp, and had a ‘guerilla modelling’ approach, where models literally emerge from the woodwork. In this case, they came down a staircase and mingled with the audience. “I think society has had it with these ramp shows. People, at best, are having yawning competitions sitting in the front rows, and they are watching the same bridal outpouring, season by season,” said Sagar, who added that we, as a society, have come a long way. “Look at how we function today. Our plans evolve and change by the minute. In that aspect, how do we sit and wait endlessly for a 15-20 minute show? I thought a non-traditional idea was more interactive. People could see the models up close and interact with them,” said Sagar, who started the eponymous label Lecoanet Hemant in 1981 with Didier Lecoanet in Paris.
The show, which featured both menswear and clothes for women, had separates like tunics, dresses, cotton shirts, fitted pants and voluminous jackets, as well as tuxedos and suits. The dominant colour palette was black, white and had shades of grey. One would see a sliver of burnt sienna, a patch of shocking violet and a lining of scarlet red that would add a subtle layer of drama to the highly structured outfits. Oversized sunglasses completed the ensembles. Simply put, the collection had a ‘rich people, dressing down’ kind of vibe. Sagar laughs in agreement. “Yes, simply put, that’s the basic idea. It’s about an inherent sophistication and not the ostentatious. We wanted to present well-tailored clothes in a contemporary global style, with everlasting appeal. It’s about having an intellectual appeal to clothes and not to represent something that does not exist. But it’s cultivated,” adds Sagar, who moved the label to Gurgaon in early 2000.
Sagar’s comments about simple, intelligent clothing with reuse value, stand out in the cacophony of fast fashion, ‘instagrammable clothes’ and clothes renting services which propagate the idea of more the merrier. Does the idea resonate and translate into the business side of things? “I think we have a clientele. The clothing is intelligently priced for intelligent people. I don’t know how economical is it to rent some clothes and buy the others. And as for the amount of clothes being made the world over, a third of the garments that are over produced just end up in landfills. Even Africa, where many charitable clothes are shipped, doesn’t want them anymore. We really need to introspect on this, the need to produce cheaper and more,” adds Sagar, who will turn 62 next month.
When Lecoanet Hemant started out, they were a haute-couture label. But in India, they adapted to a pret, ready-to-wear avatar with the label GENES Lecoanet Hemant. “Because there’s no scope for couture here. Everything is traditional bridal. But the question I ask is, why is it on a ramp? It’s not fashion. It’s a style of traditional clothing, and most people know what they want to wear on their special day. And they all look alike,” he asserts.
Sagar feels that the Indian fashion scene still has a long way ahead, and the bridal obsession doesn’t help in that evolution. “We haven’t really evolved. Our own traditions are a new discovery for us. Earlier, only the maharajas had those rich traditions, everyone else lived a relatively simple life. Even 20 years ago, weddings were not this lavish. The wedding obsession has taken over everything else. Ten days of the same reception, party, cocktail, and similar clothes,” laments Sagar.
Their brand, Sagar maintains, is about the everyday. Their previous campaigns and collections under their pret label Genes include ‘Ambition’, which is business chic clothing; Red Cherry, a cricket-inspired capsule campaign; Ayurganic, a clothing line where the fabric is treated with Ayurvedic herbs before being sown. “And now you have cinema, things that we see around us. Give me the daily scenario. What are we doing the remaining 355 days of the year? I mean we are spending savings worth 20 years on clothing that you will wear only once in your life? And why do we need to dress as if we are getting on a horse carriage?,” he concluded.