Voluminous Sculpting

Giant moths on chests, cutwork forests on body huggers and you throw in a little of Henri Rousseau and a children book, The Fox and the Star, you get Rahul Mishra’s inspiration behind his LFW X FDCI 2024 AFEW line.   

By Asmita Aggarwal

Would you ever wear the wing of a moth on your chest? If you believe in the philosophy of Rahul Mishra, you would as he would tell you that wing came from a combination of his two inspirations this season for the LFW X FDCI 2024 grand finale show in Mumbai. The first one is —– an illustrated children’s book The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith, a story about love, loss and learning to accept change and the second French painter Henri Rousseau better known for his jungle fantasy pictures, this largely made up the sense and sensibility of his pret line AFEW launched by RBL.

Maybe you can call sculpting his third passion, guessing by the sculptures placed on the runway in white, just like most of his collection this season! Animals, leaves and even branches, of course the moth that transformed into a rather Surrealist one and placed on blouses, and unless you are an intrepid dresser you would choose something less fantastical, as this is after all a pret line, so it didn’t need so many theatrics. Though one must give Mishra the boy, from humble beginning in Kanpur, A-grade for the way he manipulated aari embroidery, hand sculpting, cutwork, and patchwork in the line titled “The Sculpt”.

Few know that the real reigns of the label are with Divya, his wife, who may not be the public face of the brand, but the entire backend is run smoothly by her in a sprawling NOIDA space. The duo first met at National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, both were studying apparel design, and she is the one who coerced Rahul not to leave the course midway. On another note, Rahul has had amazing good fortune too, he got the seed money to invest in his label which many can’t even dream of by winning the International Woolmark Prize in 2014, with the prize money of $100,000.

But it is Rahul’s not settling personality, and maybe a high degree of fearlessness that in 2020 he was the first Indian brand to showcase at the Paris Haute Couture Week run by the super snobby Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. You could see glimpses of his PFW line in AFEW, watered down yes, subdued for sure, but his love for larger-than-life cut outs trees, flowers, branches were all was there in its glory, sometimes colourful most of the times monochromatic.

The designer who grew up in Malhausi, studied in a school without a roof, is now from a star gazer, has turned into a red carpet favourite, and his love for shimmer this year was evident, sequins a mini avalanche of them were placed below his roomy pants, covered up with net, at other times as tapered pants and turtle necks, a testimony to this obsession. Draped skirts were another favourite, fabric manipulations seemed to be making a strong presence just like his exaggerated shoulders, an ode to the women heading boardrooms in the 80s.

Checkerboard skirts that gave women an hour glass figure, he also serenaded the viral Instagram trend where you can now wear your skirts over your pants, however uncomfortable that might be! He used Hindi iconography on his sheer tees for men, something that current Insta star Orry would certainly pick up from him, or maybe will receive as a “gift”.

The collection from ivories and charcoals moved to a brighter space, with exaggerated flowers, almost 3 D, as he went a little gimmicky too, with a revolving stage and models playing dress up! But the crux of the matter is that the ubiquitous pant-suit bigger and better is not going anywhere soon, it is still loved, and so are pleated midis, though Rahul decided to add some glamour to his denim too! Hems of his pants now shimmered and sparkled, as dirty pinks took centerstage.

To end the spectacle of a mixed line where you could time travel to the Amazon jungle with his cut work pieces, or select a more studied but restraint approach to dressing with his well-crafted white shirts, Bollywood sweet heart Ananya Pandey sure went for a skinny, body con dress to show off her washboard abs. But with the entire forest on your sleeve or hem or chest, Rahul Mishra told us he is really in love with his daughter as he is imagining it come alive on his clothes, like Aarna does in her imagination!

No Gender Coding

There is a ‘fragility in masculinity’ and Arjun Saluja finds this conundrum a collection-worthy theme. After six years he is back at the FDCI showcase at LFW with his gender bender clothing hoping to solve the puzzle of conditioning or at least question it!

By Asmita Aggarwal

Frankly, in fashion there are two types of designers—- one who are intellectual and don’t play to the gallery and then there are the sequin lovers, who thrive to be in the news. Arjun Saluja forms the first half of these quiet warriors, better-known for his gender bender clothing, a knowledge center, he gained after working with the legendary Patricia Fields and graduating from the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Design. Bonus: He also knows how to make dyes out of onions!

After a hiatus of six years, Arjun is back with his A game, and 17 years in the business of making menswear interesting, but calling it that would be unfair as women like his menswear more! Though the reclusive Arjun, will tell you making a mark in India is an uphill task as translating the language of global diversity requires time and patience.

Arjun wanted to search for a new way of dressing, find a rhythm where you can express more fluidity, and he believes even though there is talk about androgyny, one should weigh in on how much has really changed on retail floors. “India still lacks concept stores, there are of course, several multi-designer stores,” says Arjun.

After almost two decades, the designer considers his biggest achievement to be unwavering in his focus and the direction he wants to take his brand—- pushing novel ideas. “Design doesn’t have any end, it is all about improving your craft,” he admits. Versatility is important in a price sensitive market, especially as Indians only like to spend on bridal ensembles, almost a cultural phenomenon. “I wanted to break that mold, deconstruct existing patterns,” says Arjun. Occasion wear is a winning game, but structural clothing is still finding its feet, for that many consumers shop internationally, they are apprehensive about cuts and shapes in India. “They believe we do not understand tailoring, but look at how beautifully we construct bandhgalas, sherwanis and Aligarhi pyjamas. If you look closely at Yohji Yamamoto the Japanese maverick in every silhouette he has a fleeting touch of the kimono and his clothes are universally worn all over the world—local can be global it is finally about starting a conversation,” he exclaims.

His quest has been, how do you manipulate body types, cut ingeniously and drape effortlessly? “How can bigger women wear your clothes and feel liberated, in conceptual clothing,” he adds. His textiles of choice are chosen to support his vision, you need a fabric that can take two extremes –structure and drape, making an interesting contradiction.

Arjun has always attempted to push his customer, he cuts on a bias, cuts asymmetrically, circular, squares, serenades interesting shapes; silks, cottons, gaberdine to blends help achieve this vision in natural fabrics. Thus, 2024, his line finds “fragility in masculinity”, as he feels men are in a very confused state in our country today—there is overwhelming patriarchy, cultural dilemmas, egos, and above all conditioning that they have been trying to break for generations, feeling stuck in that space. “Fashion can be political, it doesn’t have to be like the BBC, it can deconstruct what we see and observe in an artisanal way,” he explains.

Arjun chose black to express himself this year, most of what we wear is ego based, and no one has answers to what we are trying to create in society through fashion. His admiration for Comme Des Garcons, Sacai, Issey Miyake is palpable, as he admits these gurus put emotions and feelings in their clothes, technically they made the body look different. “Their kinks, beliefs, fetishes to suppression, is woven into a narrative that excites me,” says Arjun adding that Balenciaga to Margiela were all architects of modern fashion. “Designers who question the existing stereotypes have an angst about it, almost not settling for status quo, and that makes their oeuvre exciting,” he says.

His problem with fashion today is that it is all about marketing, it has less soul, somewhere you lose your identity, where is your unique language, it’s drowning in the sea of Instagram. “I do embroidery only if it works for the narrative, I am deeply rooted in texture and surfacing,” he admits. Women, unlike men, are clear about what they want, and even as he dresses strong women occupations have changed in the last 20 years. “Women today have grown into their own, they are courageous and resilient, a great facet of a woman I admire. She is not looking for approval and she owns herself and is a ‘whole’ individual,” he concludes saying this is his target customer.

Revisiting roots

Whether it is Gaza, Kashmir, Syria or Ukraine, human exodus is captured poignantly through embroideries and embellishments as well as abstract outlines by the maverick Sushant Abrol of the menswear label Countrymade.

By Asmita Aggarwal

He had a child-like excitement every time he begins work on a new collection and that’s what makes his ensembles a work of emotion. This time it is a song an ode to 1950s rock that he wrote and recorded with the help of a Mexican artist which will give his LFW x FDCI 2024 line a third dimension.

But this year he has scored a first, his chipped paint walls have made it to WGSN forecasting site as a trend to look out for, so Countrymade by Sushant Abrol is now setting the benchmark internationally too!

This is his fifth year of inception, for a newcomer the hustle can be overwhelming, as it is a high-octane industry, but Sushant has learnt to be a sponge, and approach things with the right attitude.

The slow and steady approach had paid off dividends, and he believes consistency and showing every six months helps him stay on track, as routine gives seasonality and structure. His LFW X FDCI 2024 line “Road Back” as the word in itself says, is a journey backwards. Whether it is Kashmiri Pandits going back to their hometown, or people like his grandfather wanting to visit their ancestral homes in Pakistan, or Syrians going to Europe, or even Palestinians leaving the Gaza strip and hoping to return home soon, human exodus has been a cultural phenomenon part of human strife.

The line is an ode to returning to your roots, and he says, “it is not depressing at all”, rather it is a bitter sweet symphony. “The challenge has always been to think differently, thus these ‘modern ruins’ are a testament to the undying human spirit,” says Sushant.

The small aspects of those who left their home and return to it, years later maybe even decades, is captured aesthetically through the storytelling with help from embroideries and embellishments that Sushant has used to translate these thoughts.

Shattered glass on shirts prints when he sees his home has lost its windows, or the two broken chairs he used to sit on with his brother is now an abstract outline on a jacket. The old ceramics or “modern fossils” have been converted into buttons to resemble plates Sushant made at a pottery studio, with stoneware clay.

The miniature perfume bottles of the mother who lived in this house once upon a time, are the motifs on his easy trousers. Walls paints are now chipped; thus, the colours are a strong amalgamation of rust orange and concrete.

The denim that was wax coated in the last collection, this time around has been given a cement and concrete coating, which shows the “cracks of time”. “We used rust granules in a powder form and coated the denim with it to make our trench coats,” he explains. The line has denim over jackets as well as double-breasted blazers, relaxed but not like streetwear they have a definitive stricture, without using tapering.

The problem with every menswear designer is the inability to sell daily wear as most men shop big for occasions, but undoubtedly Sushant is a storyteller and he understands the medium of fit and drape quite effortlessly. “My dream is to save enough and open an experiential store soon,” he concludes.

“In India sex, humour, and politics sells”

Jay Jajal founder of Jaywalking will tell you he is returning to simplicity, is excited about his ‘test fit’ garment, calls his drawings ugly and reveals his USP is that he is a fabulous marketeer!

By Asmita Aggarwal

Jay Jajal aspired to be a rapper, and he thanks his good fortune that he did not pursue it relentlessly, maybe it was the Guijju roots that told him, being lucrative and creative is a deadly combination, worth pursuing or maybe it is was just good old common sense—though the ball is up in the air on this one. “I am happy I didn’t become a musician; I can now support someone else’s dream of becoming one as fashion gives me the freedom to do what I want,” says Jay.

Whatever the case may be, the Mumbai based, heavily tattooed Jay is an interviewer’s delight as his irreverence makes it both entertaining and amusing. His father came from a small town of Mahuva, Bhavnagar, and sent his son to Singapore to study business administration, as soon as he returned, from a chawl in Borivali he began his streetwear label Jaywalking.

Not wanting any funds from his parents, Jay put in the money he got from gigs and started with patchwork denims and paint splattered jackets. Though his USP is his original prints, and artworks, reflective materials, he uses along with neoprene, and utility pockets that add functionality to his clothing. “The biggest challenge is to have some fun with basics that we all need in our wardrobes,” says Jay, who is part of the menswear edit for FDCI at the LFW 2024 in Mumbai, and he adds India is not yet ready for extremely experimental clothing.

The meaning of building a career is lost in GenZ, they get bored easily and what Jay says he has learnt is that you can hire intelligence, but the CV must read “rebellious, having guts and being unorthodox”.  And he does admit that in the pursuit of brand expansion, he somewhere lost the personal touch he once had with Jaywalking and the masterjee who taught him the intricacies of pattern cutting and moulding fabrics.

The market seems to be less focused on offering works of art, but is looking at price points only which somewhere take away the spirit of clothing. “Whenever the artist in you takes a backseat, making collections is like doing the Maths,” he admits adding, “I never claim to be the architect of modern Indian streetwear it always existed, I just came and redecorated it.”

Streetwear is more of a culture, a lifestyle, and he laughs and says, “I used to draw and what I did draw was ugly. But I liked them so much that I decided to use them on my clothes. I never begin with a preconceived notion; I try to surprise myself with the result.” But he did everything in his own language, and began with no expectations. “Nature has been a huge support system and I often use it as a metaphor in my clothing with its transient colour contrasts it charms me to see how despite the disparity there is a beautiful blending,” he says, adding that being a Gujarati, he understands business, like his dad who runs his successful, occasion wear retail from Borivali.

His biggest achievement is, he designs what everyone can wear, it is not costume-y, it is “aesthetically consumable” as utility is extremely crucial, “otherwise it is useless” he confesses. This year, he has stepped away from his usual hoodies, trousers, and constricted garments. “Also I don’t understand what sustainable means, in fact no one understands this word, but for me it’s about running an ethical business,” he says. Using cotton, he likes twill and ecru or what he calls kachcha (raw) denim, non-processed.

The piece that most will love is his ‘test fit’, ensemble, with masterjee’s pen markings that he retained, looks interesting. “We live in a world of Instagram and I have got a lot of love from that part of the world, but the industry must support new designers,” he says.

Buying a home for his parents, giving them a feeling, their son is “settled” makes Jay happy, “I don’t know pattern cutting but what I do know is how to sell, and how to make you spend your money,” he smiles adding that in India, “only sex, humour and politics sells.”

This year you can pick up his camouflage print that comes armed with embroidery and applique, then his hand drawn pin stripes are equally robust, that are deliberately uneven, with a human element to them, they are not straight but crooked. “I am returning to simplicity and I feel I need to oil my mind,” he laughs adding, “I want to live and do, invest myself in things that daily make me joyous, and slow down the pace to avoid a burnout again,” he concludes. Just like his father who runs a 33-year-old brand of wedding wear, but he is not on Instagram, which saves him from daily toil of how to serenade a fickle GenZ customer.

Unmasking AI

Almost 36 Pearl students showcase the benefits and pitfalls of AI in “AI is contagious”, at LFW X FDCI 2024 with an interesting display of ideas through pixelation, distortions and translucency.

By Asmita Aggarwal

London, Milan, New York, and Paris, and India Fashion Week, almost over, fashion houses are ready to retail, but fashion pundits predict in the next three to five years, AI is predicted to add $150 billion, and up to $275 billion to the apparel, fashion, and luxury sector in profit, globally, according to McKinsey analysis 2023. AI will assist in designing, and generative AI can process raw text, images, and video—it can also help in written scripts to 3-D designs, and craft realistic virtual models for video campaigns, adds the report.

There is no doubt AI creates a smoother fashion ecosystem, whether it is the fit, trends forecasting and maybe that is what the 36 students from Pearl Academy, have named their LFW X FDCI line, “AI is contagious” or intelligent simplicity. The various looks tell us how AI can be a boon and bane, the key is using it effectively and the show is thus, divided into three sections.

The World Economic Forum report states 75% of Generation Z shoppers prefer sustainability, and brands like Stella McCartney tied up with Google Cloud, to add machine learning and cloud-based data processing. Burberry has introduced an augmented reality (AR)-based shopping tool that allows customers to virtually experience Burberry products. Google Shopping aspires to reduce sizing issues by increasing inclusive models for virtual try-ons.

Tommy Hilfiger’s ‘Reimagine Retail’ project shows how AI can be used in fashion to spot trends and FIT students used AI-based tools to create a range of designs generated by AI. Trendalytics, a New York-based company, uses AI to get insights from social media and Google and help sellers to know the popularity of fashion trends so that they know what will increase sales.

Pearl Academy showcase thus, is relevant and in the “Maximal” section shows its use can cause distortions, showcased through the human anatomy specifically the face, with the lips and eyes not their usual positions on the face somewhat exaggerated, to explain the disruption in our lives. And if you go in the exact opposite direction, with minimal usage, you can surely be out of the game.

“Balance” their last segment is when you know how much is too much and the Fashion Styling and Image Design students of the fashion college, along with fashion design, played with translucency, muted hues, neutral skin tones, minimal make up with clean shapes, shift dresses, explains Nandita Shah, styling and image design professor at Pearl Academy, Mumbai campus. “The shapes are body hugging but the focus is not on the frame,” she adds.

As the show progresses, some bizarre additions do come up, the accessories for example, the shoes turn transparent with balloons showcasing glitches in AI, ending on a bandaged look, when you have an over botoxed face. The pops of colour emerge and play peek-a-boo, the doll has been dismantled and her various body parts misplaced and added as accessories on the garments. Her legs are placed on the head to show how AI can sometimes distort images. Asymmetry helps drive home the point too—shapes show exaggeration on one side of the body.

Balance displays “suddenness and texture”, the dress made with resin with different artifacts placed on it, is interesting and experimental. The institute known to have churned out some of the biggest names in Indian fashion from Rimzim Dadu to Shantanu and Nikhil among others believes that AI is inevitable and so is its use, it will in the future change the face of design and fashion. This showcase is the initiation of a dialogue and the faculty is equipping students to use AI intelligently.

Shubhi Jindal, a third year student of Pearl Academy, from Fashion Styling and Image design , Mumbai campus, believes as a young student who is entering the fashion space, “AI has made us lazy”. She doesn’t like the excessive use of digital printing and admits traditional formats add character and personality to clothing. “We should return to femininity and delicateness, I feel that is what is missing in fashion today, it is getting too dark and edgy.”

Manya Narang, her classmate, adds that fashion college teaches us timelines and deadlines, and with the social media frenzy now one can change the entire narrative. “AI is contagious but it can also add sustainability if you know how much and for whom to produce,” she explains.

Measuring Up

S and N, the brothers Shantnu and Nikhil have replaced the mini “It” bag and given it to men, in dhotis and sexiness with abundant leg show for women along with dollops of shimmer. While quite the opposite was post-Soviet modest label Measure, which revealed the former Communist country is now embracing sheer, wraps and cowl skirts.

By Asmita Aggarwal

Tahira Kashyap is a cancer survivor and she is the much better half of the actor Ayushman Khurana, who often croons and gets away by winning a million hearts. This time his wife was in the spotlight to pay homage to Shantnu and Nikhil’s parents Nikki and Rishi whom they lost recently. The boys growing up were always closer to their mom, at home there was a traditional role reversal, Nikki was the provider, Rishi the caregiver, a truly Modern Family.

The LFW XFDCI 2024 line declared, the new dress code for men is dhotis, draped and worn with structured sharp jackets in charcoals. And women too got a bit sexier this time, for the brothers, who got them into corsets, bustiers and shimmer for spring.

The lehengas sobered down and converted into skirts that you can wear with cropped jackets, later both can be worn with your denims or a cool white blouse, so S and N understood women like separates, in their case, a bit of extra glam added. Cinched waist, laser cut belts, animal prints, body huggers, the mood was a red-carpet event where you need shine, but you got to make black work.

Among the two, Shantnu lets Nikhil do the talking and prefers to take the backseat, maybe that’s the reason why this equation works so well and has been for the last 20 years, the older brother allows the younger one to take the spotlight. S and N Men this year, are choosing to wear ankle length pants, while they decided to give women Matrix-style coats, velvet draped saris, silver short dresses with sheer play, but the cool quotient was the “It” bags or minis were carried by men for a change. You can wear S and N skirts everywhere, to a party, cocktail, mehndi and even a night out with friends, they made it versatile.

On another note, the label from Russia, Dagestan, along the stunning Caspian Sea, came designer Zainab Saidulaeva’s cutting-edge collection “TOI” brought to India by the FDCI, Measure was an ode to post-Communalism Russia. This season of spring has seen a love of ivory and ebony, as style gurus have discovered its prowess, it is subtle yet impactful, so Measure the label from post-Soviet Russia, introduced us to faux fur asymmetrical draped cover ups, frayed and tasselled skirts worn under long coats, in pristine whites.

As Russian designers are making waves internationally whether it is Demna Gvasalia who has revolutionised Balenciaga or his brother Guram, with the label Vetements, Russia has now become a potential market for global fashion business. Designer, photographer, and poster boy Gosha Rubchinskiy was also noticed by Comme Des Garcons as the Cold War never allowed the style world to grow in the former Soviet Union.


There is a hunger in Russia which now has been divided into 15 states of the Russian Federation, stretching from the Baltic and Black seas to the Pacific Ocean, as they are now exposed to a new world, Measure is a case in point, the shapes that included tie ups, nattily cut jackets, flowers blooming under sheer layers, ruching and dropped waists, Zainab added fabric manipulation, pillow-esque wraps on shoulders.

The only exception of an otherwise grey sky palette, was a bright sea green cowl hem dress. Layering was her mainstay, as well as, the kimono style dresses that caressed the runway, she also used exaggeration in her favour. With cuffs and tie ups bigger and better, she gave women volume, but with restraint as well as quilted jackets.

Ready for a swim?

Saaksha Bhat and Kinnari Kamat launch a swimwear edition, complete with their signature micro pleating, and elevate it with quilting and ikat. But the Gujarati genes hold strong with their unadulterated love for mirror work!

By Asmita Aggarwal

Saaksha Bhat and her sister-in-law Kinnari Kamat, understand embroideries like no one else, after all they have been creating swatches for some of the best fashion houses from Elie Saab to Balmain to Gucci. And if you go by Bollywood popularity, Karisma Kapoor, Kalki Koechlin and Aditi Rao Hydari have loved their ode to craft. Kinnari Kamat, you could describe as craft lover, and Saaksha Parekh, a lawyer by profession, born and brought up in a family of actors and filmmakers knew the uphill task they would be submitted to in fashion, but that didn’t deter their trajectory, only emboldened it!

They dressed the Without Me hitmaker, Halsey in an infinity blouse and two-toned skirt, as well as Sharon Stone for the Drew Barrymore show; Saaksha exclaims, “I think India’s beautiful prints, colours and most importantly hand craft which has intrigued the West. We have such a rich tapestry of artisans, and their work is so uniquely intricate which has put India firmly on the fashion map,” she says and admits India-inspired prints, and micro-pleating have been the brand’s mainstay over the years.

Kamat’s family is in the textile business, she studied fashion design from NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology) while Bhat, studied law at the University of Manchester (UK) and had a buzzing practice but they both confess their love for everything Indian—Ikats and lehriya prints layered with mirror work, tassels, thread work and appliqué, which they execute almost effortlessly.

Bhat, who grew up in a South Indian family in Manchester and Kamat a Gujarati is from Liliya (in Amreli, Gujarat) thus the love for Bandhani, lehriya and aari work is evident. This season for LFW X FDCI 2024, they are introducing swimwear “which is extremely exciting for us. We have done quilting techniques on top of the swimsuits to add richness and drama. We have added a lot of sheer chiffons and silks as layers to the resort wear making it fun and young. A key technique of the brand —– hand micro pleating takes centerstage with many garments utilizing this hand craft,” says Kamat.

Layered dresses, sheer skirts, and oversized blazers is the key to their look for 2024, the idea was to play around with masculinity and combine it with femininity. The play and balance with both you see an inspired form of the ikat in many garments that are unexpected – on swimwear and on skirts. “We have used mirror work again in modern ways – lining the sleeves of capes, scattered on miniskirts and filling bomber jackets,” says Kinni.

For them doing womenswear and menswear is not very different, they are not as opposites as they once were. “The modern man and modern woman have many similar qualities – they want to dress as chic-ly as possible without compromising on comfort. Oversized jackets have spilled into womenswear from menswear, and there is so much overlap when it comes to printed co ord sets, embroidered shirts and the use of silks and chiffons,” says Saaksha.

The outdoors was a big concept in their collection and introducing swimwear into the resort collection and emphasizing the need of getting outside in luxurious comfortable ensembles was their lighthouse. “I would say prints are our forte. It’s a difficult area to constantly innovate, as prints can be very polarising. They are usually loved or hated and seldom are people on the fence about them. It’s important to keep finding sources of inspiration and what better country than India to deep dive into archives and history books,” says Kinni.

The women they design for have become bolder, more experimental in their choices and will not compromise on quality or comfort. Emotionally they are stronger than ever, resilient and know exactly what they want. They appreciate hand craft, locally sourced fabrics and ensembles that can be mixed and matched within their own wardrobes. “It was important for us to make sure we design and sell separates that can be reworked,” says Kinni.

“Staying relevant is an ongoing learning experience. It is important to keep one eye on the ball (your own creativity) but also a pulse on the ever-changing needs and wants of the modern woman. To survive you must be open to change, be humble and want to learn on an everyday basis. We still have not explored AI in the workplace. But of course, it will play a prominent part in years to come. AI will be able to design, conceptualize and execute. The digitalization of fashion is a reality not a question mark,” concludes Saaksha.

Monochrome Contrasts

Ritika Mirchandani offers tone-on-tone, summer pastels with placement bling for occasion wear this season.

By Asmita Aggarwal

“My mother has been the most inspiring figure in my life. As a designer herself, she introduced me to the world of fashion from a very young age. Growing up surrounded by her creativity and passion for design, deeply influenced my own interest in fashion. Her guidance, and support have been invaluable to me, shaping me into the designer I am today. She continues to motivate me with her talent, dedication, and love for fashion,” says Ritika Mirchandani who is showcasing her line at LFW X FDCI 2024, Mumbai.

Known for her eponymous label by her name, has been dressing women in her ubiquitous shimmering shararas and interned with Ralph Lauren after studying at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, Los Angeles, believes her journey in the fashion industry has been both challenging and rewarding. “I’ve had the opportunity to express my creativity through designs that reflect my unique perspective and style. My achievements include creating collections that resonate with women who are looking for stylish and comfortable clothing,” says Ritika.

The landscape of womenswear has evolved significantly since she entered the industry. One notable transformation is its expansive growth, largely driven by enhanced accessibility. Thanks to the proliferation of online shopping and e-commerce, women now enjoy a broader array of fashion choices. Additionally, there has been a notable change in consumer expectations, particularly regarding quality. Modern women prioritize factors like fabric, construction, and durability, fuelling a demand for high-quality, enduring garments.

“The emergence of social media has profoundly impacted the womenswear market. Platforms such as Instagram have revolutionized how fashion is consumed and promoted, offering designers and brands new avenues to showcase their creations and connect with a global audience. This heightened visibility has democratized fashion, making it more inclusive and accessible. These shifts have influenced how women engage with fashion, fostering a greater willingness to experiment with diverse styles, trends, and brands. This has resulted in a more vibrant and diverse market,” she believes.

For this season, she anticipates several trends to be prominent. Monochrome looks are likely to continue being popular, as they offer a sleek and sophisticated aesthetic that is easy to style. The shift towards tone-on-tone and monochrome bridal wear reflects a desire for understated elegance and timeless appeal in wedding attire. “Summer pastels are also expected to be a key trend, as these soft, muted hues evoke a sense of freshness and lightness that is perfect for the warmer months. Pastels are versatile and can be easily incorporated into various styles, making them a popular choice for both casual and formal looks,” she explains. Overall, these trends reflect a preference for simplicity, elegance, and versatility in fashion, which aligns with the current emphasis on comfort and practicality in clothing choices.

Ritika offers mix-and-match so she designs pieces that can be easily mixed and matched with other items in the collection or with existing pieces in a wardrobe. This allows for endless outfit combinations and extends the wearability of each garment. “My designs feature contemporary silhouettes that are on-trend yet timeless. These silhouettes can be styled in various ways to suit different occasions, adding to their versatility,” she adds. The collection for 2024, can be worn as separates, such as pairing a blazer with trousers or a skirt.

As a designer, she believes that incorporating bling into Indian occasion wear dressing should be done thoughtfully to avoid overwhelming the outfit. While a touch of glamour can elevate the look, too much bling can make it appear excessive. “Instead, I recommend using bling strategically as accents to highlight specific areas or features of the outfit, such as the neckline, cuffs, or hemline. This approach adds a tasteful sparkle that enhances the overall aesthetic without overshadowing the outfit’s elegance. Remember, moderation is key when it comes to bling in Indian occasion wear dressing to maintain a sophisticated and refined appearance,” she confides.

Though the lessons she learnt from Ralph Lauren and Cynthia Rowley, like the former taught her, the importance of attention to detail as he is a maverick from the design of his garments to the presentation of his stores. “Brand consistency is what takes you far. Both Ralph Lauren and Cynthia Rowley have maintained a consistent brand image and aesthetic throughout his career. This includes everything from his classic Americana style to his iconic Polo logo,” she adds.

While Ralph Lauren is known for his classic style, he has also shown a willingness to innovate and adapt to changing trends. Overall, the key lesson from Ralph Lauren is to create a brand that is not only stylish and aspirational but also timeless, consistent, and customer-focused.

 “My USP lies in our commitment to sustainable and ethical fashion. We prioritize versatile materials and production methods, ensuring that our garments are not only stylish but also environmentally conscious. In terms of embroidery and embellishment trends for this year, we are seeing a rise in intricate embroidery appliqué. This technique involves attaching pre-made embroidered patches or motifs onto garments, adding a unique and detailed touch. It’s a great way to add texture and visual interest to garments, and we’re incorporating this trend into our designs,” she adds.

Additionally, she is experimenting with new shapes and silhouettes this year, moving away from traditional cuts and exploring more asymmetrical and exaggerated shapes. “This adds a modern and avant-garde twist to our designs, allowing us to offer something fresh and exciting to our customers,” she admits.

As a designer, she advises women who shop seasonally to focus on investing in versatile pieces that can easily transition between seasons. Look for timeless silhouettes and high-quality fabrics that will last beyond the current season. These pieces can be layered or accessorized to suit different weather conditions, allowing you to get more wear out of them.

“Instead of following every seasonal trend, consider incorporating them through accessories or statement pieces. This way, you can stay current without overhauling your entire wardrobe each season. Building a wardrobe with a mix of classic pieces and trendier items will give you more flexibility and ensure that your wardrobe remains stylish and practical year-round,” she concludes.

Princess of style

Niloufer Khanum of Hyderabad was the OG of fashion influencers with her Westernising the sari, adding exquisite pearls and it is this regality that Anushree Reddy recreates in organzas this season for the bride who chooses subtle shine over overt bling.

By Asmita Aggarwal

It has been a ten-year long journey she considers herself lucky that she does occasion wear, which offers both consistency and continuity and according to a CRISIL Research, the Indian wedding and celebration wear apparel market was estimated to be approximately Rs 1100 billion.

 There is no adapting to drastic changes as this sector is robust and it has the unique ability to service itself all year round with the myriad players in the fray. Being in the business you must be aware of all its time taking aspects—marketing, styling, shoots, everything matters to remain relevant to an audience with shifting tastes.

As her forte remains floral prints, Anushree Reddy, felt this USP was soon replicated by competition rather swiftly as the designer landscape has similar products, but today her distinct ethos differentiates her from a sea of also-rans. Her price points and product quality are synonymous, plus having different ventures gets you diverse wedding shoppers.

The zardozi, cut dana, threadwork, pearls, always serenades someone looking for something—whether it is the mother of the bride, the bride, the extended family or cousins. The awareness that a bride brings today on the table is unprecedented. “She may be simpler with fewer elements and bling, but she knows exactly what she wants,” admits Anushree, adding you can’t get away with what you showed last season.

 This year is a year of pastels and soft pinks, plus no one is asking for the once staple ‘red’ with its diminishing popularity, but what she does do is make each piece versatile and personalised. If the lehengas is heavy the second skirt will be much lighter so that she can dance the night away, no one wants to feel restricted. Inspired by Princess Niloufer of Hyderabad, who Anushree terms as the “OG of fashion influencers” she narrates the incredible tale of the Turkish princess, married to a Hyderabadi prince.

The dazzling beauty of Princess Begum Niloufer Khanum Sultana Farhat (1916 –1989) was one of the last princesses of the Ottoman Empire and was married to Prince Moazzam Jaah, the second son of the Nizam of Hyderabad, so it was natural that Anushree dipped into the city’s history she was born in. Many museum runs later and armed with catalogues and photographs she embarked on paying a tribute to this long lost beauty.

Known for her sarees and  jewellery, the princess was photographer Antony Beauchamp’s muse, and was credited for adding Parisian grace to the Indian sarees which were made by Madhav Das in Mumbai. She loved chiffons and crepes, and wore them often with a broad woven Banaras brocade border. “Niloufer was the woman behind the term Indo-Western as her silk saris came with lace frills, and an abundance of sequins — made by even Lanvin in Paris. Custom pieces came from Indian weavers, and till today her wardrobe is still studied by fashion students. Her collection of sarees are now treasured at the New York Institute of Fashion Technology,” explains Anushree, alumnus of the London School of Economics.

The 2024 line by Anushree pays tribute to the grand embroidery that the Princess loved, in silk, net and tissue, with pastels and exquisite embellishments. “Her sari sometimes was designed in France and then when it came to Hyderabad, she had it embroidered by Indian artisans,” adds Anushree who studied vintage photographs almost 100 years old and recreated the magic of her pearls embellished organzas with vintage flowers blooming on diaphanous saris.

Interestingly, that’s not all that Anushree is busy doing, she recently launched get wedding décor company that takes forward in inspiration and style what her occasion wear entails. So, the panthers and bright florals are replicated in her décor company that she believes is an exciting vertical to her already successful business. “The visual language is the same, and it really gives me joy to be a part of the celebration. Not just designing but also taking a leap of faith by deciding the theme and concept of each function,” she concludes.

AK is Ok

The twins Vishesh and Viraj, one an artist, and the other born with a business acumen, embarked on a journey to give their mom Anamika Khanna a respite when they started AK-OK, but now it has a legion of followers owing to its unpredictable prints, placements raw embroideries, tattered denims and bustiers worn with her sheer ubiquitous dhotis.

By Asmita Aggarwal

What is it that serenades an audience as much as the magic of monochromes, of course in Anamika Khanna’s case, a bit of distressed denim added to the heady concoction? Maybe it’s timeless appeal, or that you just can never go wrong with this combination!

AK-Ok was started when Anamika was extremely unwell and her twins would often ask her if she was ok, thus the moniker, which grew into an almost pret line, hoping to appeal to GenZ. But this year for LFW X FDCI 2024, it seemed as if Anamika was dressing women like her, confident, who were not interested in impressing anyone, they prioritised comfort and above all wore separates they could wear something already existing in their burgeoning wardrobe.

Her new found love for Kaftans with pockets, oversized pant-suits in white with placement prints and artworks, shirt dresses cinched at the waist with gold chain belts, fabric manipulated to create textures on high waisted skirts as well as extreme tessellation showed us that Anamika is moving to an era where day to night dressing is mandatory.

Candy wrapper gold with shiny coats, her love for tatters and holes, as well as risqué necklines, without being too overt was her way to add a little sexiness to the mundane. You can never have a show without the various avatars of the dhoti, transparent to translucent, draped to pleated, worn with denim busters to long coin embroidery jackets, AK-Ok has various options to choose from. The balloons pants, denim cut up and broken, with embroideries with threads hanging, zari unfinished, the incompleteness kind of completed the look, as if announcing, “in this I find that I can relate to the state of minds of the current generation—a lack of wholeness, a constant searching.”

Shanaya Kapoor the star daughter decided to tell us that in the sweltering summer heat, which can descend on us anytime now, a white shirt is enough to take you through the day, of course with the addition of chunky bangles, an air-conditioned neckline and layered bracelets!

Fashion Design Council of India