Manoj Bajpayee steals the thunder at FDCI x LFW with a Samant Chauhan Bhagalpur woven jacket, as Varun Bahl offers millennials denim lehengas. Shruti Sancheti goes back to her roots with danke ka kaam from Rajasthan and Alpana lets in the shine with dopamine dressing
By Asmita Aggarwal
There were two ends of the proverbial pole at the second day of the FDCI X LFW, as the talented art film actor Manoj Bajpayee was seen walking for Samant Chauhan, and the new-age influencer for Varun Bahl. And it is this dichotomy that makes fashion week interesting.
Much like in fashion you have an audience for both, parallel lines that are activist-oriented and commercial ones that find favour with the glitterati. As the world grapples with uncertainty, many are attempting to move from the insanity of darkness to the calmness of hope, and this transition may have been painful, but it also came with a lesson.
Better-known among her friends as an animal rescuer and makeup expert, Alpana along with Neeraj are back at the fashion week after almost five years. It has been a journey to reboot, re-evaluate and maybe take stock of human existence and its innate purpose. “The mood is now looking upwards and onwards, laced with a celebratory feeling and wanting to be grateful,” says Alpana.
The show aimed to capture inner glow and has been represented in her classic style— structured glamour. Alpana explains the journey from moving out of an unpredictable space to sparkles, diamonds, unapologetic glitter. The mood is happy and reflected through embellished bows, play of fluidity and sheer, diaphanous fabrics in soft peaches and creams; dashes of reds and soft pinks. The biggest realisation for designers has been the elimination of “everything unnecessary”, towards reiterating functionality, abandoning excess and producing tighter, well-edited shows minus any fuss.
The ramp saw a maturity of ideas and thought processes, after the churning caused by covid. The key was taking signature styles and making it easy and comfortable. It was capturing a feeling of excitement after a long period of stagnation. One zipper jumpsuits, easy fitting construction, jerseys, organzas, calf-length flared dresses, offering the ability to repeat outfits. As gatherings get intimate, people aspire for simplicity, they once again reconnect with their loved ones.
Ten years and counting:
As one reaches any milestone in life, the inner being craves for a connection, as we learn the ropes of the New Normal. Shruti Sancheti’s label Pinnacle completes its tenth year, this season, and she decided to pay homage to where it all began—her ancestral home in Churu, Rajasthan.
Her recent visit gave impetus to her FDCI X Lakme Fashion week line, her vintage haveli served as a leitmotif, as she amalgamated three indigenous crafts along with Maheshwari textiles. Danke ka kaam or silver embroidery finds its origins in Udaipur, where women from royalty wore saris embellished with silver discs. Shruti, keeping in mind the costs, decided to use German metal with a silvery sheen giving it a contemporary turn, keeping alive the craft. She added a rose gold colour combination too, offering a variety of hues. “I remain fascinated by ek taar, an integral part of the Mughal culture, a laborious procedure, that elevated my constructed pant suits, reverberating with a global language,” explains Shruti.
The third craft highlighted was pitta work that many have done before unlike danke ka kaam, that has been dusted out of the woodworks of Rajasthan’s cultural legacy, with a hope that craftsmen will get a means of regular income through design intervention.
During the lockdown, Shruti dabbled in menswear and in actuality received continuous orders, some customers admired her grandmothers’ saris and the lustrous hand work, which also served as a fervent inspiration. “I offered understated luxury and in my understanding the market is really moving towards a timeless, versatile look. Brand India is what is relevant and it needs to be promoted,” she says.
Smaller labels, unlike what most would believe, have lower overhead costs, and that helped them sail through, as they decided to keep their doors open to experimenting with semi-bridal outfits. “People have suffered emotionally and physically, with increased economic stunting, now they want to break free and just have fun. In this process, clothes have become simpler, festive but versatile, as ghagras are now skirts, that you can wear with interesting tops, not necessarily a choli,” she smiles.
The takeaway from this is that many designers have learnt lessons for life, in the two years that they didn’t for the last 20 or 30 years in the business of fashion.
Masoom Minawala takes a bow:
There is a palpable energy that surrounds the fashion space, with a physical event after two years, many are enjoying the familiar environment, with the perfect timings and balmy spring evenings. Covid forced us to slow down our lives, focus on what matters most to us, businesses shut down, weddings got smaller, and for Varun Bahl, who also runs a décor company, intimate weddings gave a whole new dimension to the business.
This effect petered down to wedding dressing too, giving rise to what he calls, “cool couture”—jeans can now be worn with a long, embroidered tunic you paired last night with your woven sari, creating a multiplicity of use. “I noticed my niece wearing a heavily embroidered lehenga with her sneakers to go to her best friend’s wedding, and it was a learning experience for me,” says Varun. “It was how young people think—they want to be comfortable and glamorous,” he adds.
Thus came Varun’s denim lehengas, which make up six pieces of his line for the FDCI X LFW, as he is dipping his toes in the water to check, if this will find favour among those who now pair up a ganji with a sequinned jacket for a night out. “I have been working with denim for the last few seasons, and I find it extremely versatile. Plus, we need to innovate as wedding designers, that’s the only way forward,” he exclaims.
Upcycled clothing, placement embroideries, fabric manipulation, patchwork, have been a mainstay for Varun even though his love for shine is everlasting. The only difference is, it is lighter thread work and sequins, even though “the lehengas look heavy, they don’t take a toll on your back while wearing them”, he reiterates. Printed organzas, crepes, silks and chiffons have all been merged with his beautiful florals as veils and trails add a touch of royalty to the whole look.
Samant Chauhan is known for his floor sweeping tunics and his love for Bhagalpur silk, a fabric that he adopted passionately and never let go of. Going down memory lane, he recalls the time he lived in Bihar, for 22 years and his house during the winter rains used to get flooded. “When I travelled to Paris, I saw how people there enjoyed the snow and rainfall in winter. This made me rethink about paying homage to the cold and rains— thus the name ‘Winter Rain’,” says Samant.
For Manoj, known for his endearing choice of roles, Samant created a cotton-linen jacket woven in Bhagalpur, a place that remains close to his heart.
“I was at fashion week, ten years ago, but when Samant called me and asked me to walk for him, I couldn’t refuse as Bihar has been an integral part of my psyche. I love handlooms and work with activists, who are providing both employment to handloom weavers,” says Manoj.
He urged designers to make handlooms mainstream fabric. “Manoj likes simple things and he didn’t question and agreed to wear the embroidered jacket I created for him. He told me, ‘As long as it is grey or black, I’m fine’,” laughed Samant.