Khadi makes it to the ultra-chic category; Rajesh Pratap keeps it cool with hoodies; Pratima Pandey channels women empowerment, Vaishali gives weaves a twist crossing seven seas and there’s lot more on fashion’s colourful landscape
By Asmita Aggarwal
There could not have been a better spectacle than the khadi showcasing, on the third day of the FDCI x Lakme Fashion week, as the notes of the flute lifted the charm of this organic fabric. And it was only right to have Kangana Ranaut as the showstopper, in a tone-on-tone white khadi sari.
The threads of freedom found a new interpretation with French designer Mossi Traore’s kimono sleeve dresses, burnt orange jackets and dropped waists. Rina pin tucks and corsetry gave her signature style an impetus, while Abhishek Gupta’s menswear came with shimmer and an all-black appeal. Though it was Anju Modi and her haldi coloured tunics paired with crinkled roomy lehengas that set the rhythm.
What Covid has taught mankind is to not take things for granted, whether it is family or your work team. Both have been revelatory this year, as everybody discovered facets that were earlier unknown, as we all learnt to slow down. Many are of the ideology, clothing needs to be functional, but another school of thought believes it also adds an undeniable ‘feel good factor’.
“Clothing has to be meaningful, so I started ‘old is new’, a campaign where you can bring in your vintage pieces and we will revive it for you. Like my mom’s old sari, which I was emotionally attached to, was converted into a structured jacket. What is needed is a maturity in buying choices, where we are thinking about carbon footprints, not dreaming about expanding, rather looking at creating employment opportunities for a sustainable future,” says Pratima Pandey.
Chanderi has been Pratima’s mainstay for the last 13 years now which comes with its delicate, placement embroideries, so this year she celebrated women empowerment. “Paro” her line, aims to rewrite the story where the protagonist is not a diva, but someone who doesn’t follow society’s diktats. She chooses the hues of her life, and doesn’t live with the guilt of being constantly under the scanner of being a good mom, daughter or the various other roles she is bracketed in.
Always an avid believer in easy and fluid, this year Pratima has worked with structure, and introduced Maheshwari too. There is a celebration of life in the vivacity of colours, turquoise, blues, yellows and beige as Parsi gara embroideries and dabka along with florals make for a happy springtime. “I have always done layering and anti-fits, so you don’t need to buy new clothes every season. Anarkalis with cotton kurtas add flow to the line,” explains Pratima.
It has been five years since Karishma Shahani Khan of the label Ka-Sha showcased at the fashion week. But in this time, she knew sustainability wasn’t just an ideology, it was a way of life for her. Covid brought with it increased mindfulness, right sourcing of materials, planning, money management and systemic production leading to streamlining of processes.
This year, she has joined back with the belief, you have to offer something which makes each piece stand on its own. Reversibility is a big aspect along with designing clothes for women, who juggle multiple roles—mom, entrepreneur, home maker, among others. That’s why layered clothing is imperative and each piece is sold separately. “You don’t need to buy a new outfit, if you put on a few kilos our clothes will always adjust with your fluctuating weight without making you feel like you don’t fit in. Women go through so many stages in their lives, clothes must become their soulmates, things they can depend upon,” explains Karishma.
“We work with kala cotton from Kutch as well as source power loom handlooms as technological intervention is important in the sphere of fashion to make it more efficient,” she adds. It is this need for innovation that initiated a collaboration with KBCols, who make natural dyes leaving zero ecological footprints. Textile dyeing harms not only the environment but also causes extreme water pollution, which is why Karishma thought of an alternative hoping to add a drop in the proverbial ocean of saving the planet.
Extracting natural colours from renewable biomass, eliminates the use of toxic dyes made from petroleum products. “We came to know of KBCols, which is also a Pune-based company like us and it seemed like an association for a better future,” she explains.
Her brand supports comfort, craft and each ensemble makes for a larger conversation, like her applique skirts that sold extremely well during the lockdown. Design must simplify life, so waste fabric is converted into beautiful flowers which bloom all over her garments. “We always make it easy so you don’t have to run for alterations, as ‘complicated’ will no longer fit into our lives,” she reiterates. This sentiment reflects in the techniques too— pleating, crushing, plisse, fabric embroidery, frills from leftover fabric, she prefers over traditional thread work. “I like to see my clothes after wearing them, if the button is closing correctly, the drape falls well enough or when you sit you are comfortable. Small details add big happiness in life,” she concludes.
She is the lone female voice in Milan and was always on the mission of taking Indian weaves international. That’s why at the pret-a-porter Milan Fashion Week, Vaishali S made a swift entry into the swish circles with her ode to Indian textiles, this eventful year.
“During the lockdown everything was closed, so I made it my goal to give weavers all year-round work, to ensure no one is jobless and we are able to create rich, lustrous weaves,” says Vaishali. A firm believer, India has much more to offer to the West, in terms of its heritage, she introduced a global language and unconventional silhouettes which can be worn anywhere and by everybody.
This ideology took Vaishali to showcase at the Paris Fashion Week, becoming the second after Rahul Mishra to achieve this feat. “Indian textiles have a lot more to offer than just making kurta-pyjama sets, whether I work with Banaras, West Bengal, Maheshwar, or explore Pashmina from Ladakh like I did this year, the effort remains to remain sustainable and generate no waste,” she reiterates.
The pashmina produced helped in two ways— the goat loses hair naturally and is then woven into thread, making it an organic process, plus it provided employment to women, who were spinning in their pastime waiting to work as stone breakers. “I used to see these women in Ladakh waiting for contractors to pick them up as they would spin as a pastime. I thought why not help them break-free from the drudgery and work only as weavers,” she explains. With blockchain technology you can in real time track the origin of the garment to its final outcome making it a completely sustainable process, a move that is imperative considering the constant threat of global warming, she explains.
“Never have I opened a show with the colour black, but I did for the first time in Europe as I felt the despondency, we all went through can only be captured by this hue, as we graduated to vine, whites, aubergines and winter warmer shades. Fortunately, the venue was the same that Armani presented his show at, in an old palace, soaked in history. The most admirable aspect of presenting there was the audience which chose to see her showcasing in a venue that boasted of almost 25-30 shows in a day. “Despite the massive competition, I got buyers, the best press and viewers, who wanted a twist in a taste of India,” she smiles.
Her FDCI X Lakme fashion week, saw her signature cording, where not even a single shred is wasted along with an interesting line up of fabrics including khand, Jamdani, Musheerabad silk. However, the magic is in the playful manner in which Vaishali chose to maneuver these fabrics creating distinct versatility even in traditional offerings like a lehenga-top, making sure you don’t wear an outfit only once. Travelling does take its toll and Vaishali, who shuttles between Mumbai and Milan, where she has been doing business for three years now, believes meeting timelines across two continents can be challenging. “My line is an extension of who I am, I take inspiration from nature and the fulcrum is to go with the flow which you will subtly observe in my silhouettes,” she concludes.
Covid has brought with it many personal struggles and even though professionally many took the life boat, the inner narrative remained painful. Some wanted to wind up but found hope when the lockdown was lifted and loyal customers came back. Gaurav Khanijo faced similar situations— his karigars vanished, landlords were unreasonable, and wedding dressing got postponed indefinitely as the virus gained momentum. “In this massive washout, the key for survival was affordability and versatility, I began an online presence and reopened my store,” says Gaurav.
With buyers wanting value-for-money, Gaurav realised prudence in making smaller collections, the need to stop overproducing and offering budget luxury. He moved to making his business ethical, with weaves sourced from Bengal, Nepal, Orissa and mixing them with bamboo, khadi, wool and hemp. The processes became more important with indigo dyes introduced along with red madder, as the inspiration was the 19 th century circus. “I watched a documentary on the circus, and its popularity and final descent, I realized these last two years have been much like a circus where there were highs, lows and our inability to fight the forces of nature. Finally, man took recourse in spirituality,” says the designer, who is a practicing Buddhist.
Balance is the fulcrum of human existence and this element is what holds up design too, so Khanijo adds this in both his colour and pattern story. “The change I see is men not buying to impress, but for personal happiness. They want a jacket they can wear for an office meeting or a night out,” he explains. So loud, in-your-face clothing has been replaced by pieces that will stay in your wardrobe for a long time.
The blues, earthy tones, beiges and full-blown reds bring in a celebratory mood, as Khanijo’s most-loved linen and hand quilted jackets, kantha stitch shirts will always set the rhythm.
Print it on
Payal Pratap’s formative years were spent in Indonesia, where she was exposed to different indigenous dyeing techniques and what remained etched in her memory was Batik. “It is necessary to move to sustainable practices, biodegradable has to become a way of life. I have executed a print heavy line with florals, intermingled with fine detailing in the hues of burgundy, brick and gold,” says Payal. In classic dhoti shapes, the pants came with exposed ankles as belts cinched the waists. The tie up techniques unique to Jakarta offered austere silhouettes.
Payal embraced shine with sequins, but placed them on sleeves and hems of her roomy skirts. Slouchy printed pant suits, dhoti skirts offering maximum comfort and wrap-around asymmetrical dresses were in tune with her sensibility.
Satya Paul has been known as a print-maker, who created a whole new vocabulary of prints. But the real story is his unique take on the hijab. But should saris be worn with denim jackets? Yes, as the younger generation wants to modernise the six yards of magic. Hoodies are the new cool, and the reticent Rajesh Pratap Singh told us that long denim jackets are in too if you team them up with abstract printed backpacks.
Could we have asked for more? Quilted jackets, boots with saris, edgy take on prints with robes and draped saris. The attempt was to make the brand young and approachable, leaving behind the legacy of seriousness. Or was Pratap trying to make a political statement mirroring the recent hijab row? Or was it his way of saying that the hoodie is the only way to say you are part of hip hop street culture?
Whatever may be the case, the venue was right, with Eminem, Kendrick Lamar and Fifty Cent playing to an audience that did cartwheels on the floor and jigged to the sounds of freedom after two years of suppression!