July 26, 2022 FDCI

Seat of the Soul

Spain meets Indian craftsmanship – Valaya completes 30 years with his favourites–chevron, family, fashion fraternity, grandness as Indian tunes merge with Western classical on a cobbled runway resembling a vintage courtyard at his show titled “Alma”.

By Asmita Aggarwal

If there is anything called “excess” both in design and inviting guests accompanied with a sumptuous feast, then J J Valaya seems to have got it right, as he celebrated 30 years in the business of dressing the well-dressed, at the J W Marriott at the FDCI India Couture Week 2022.  When the maestro began envisioning the sets 20 days back, he knew he wanted to create something that encapsulates his journey which is an intermingling of ancient crafts, travel, photography and vintage appeal with his latest muse Spain.

The production took a week to manage a fountain in the middle of the ramp, imposing pillars, cobbled street effect on the runway, as Valaya gave us all a lesson in living life king size.   But what really made a huge impact to weave the rhythm with the ensembles was the 45-minute-long live recital by the talented pianist Sahil Vasudeva. He orchestrated and directed the music and was spotted by choreographer Anisha Bahl two months ago, when he was playing at the Embassy of Spain. She urged him to create an original piece for the Valaya show, which was an homage to Spain and its vibrant culture without forgetting Indian ethos.

Sahil was studying Spanish music and was influenced by the “Mozart of Spain” Isaac Albeniz, who had travelled all over the country to understand the culture specific regions and folk influences — Flamenco to Phrygian. Sahil, mesmerised by the tunes, led all the other musicians in articulating this vision as this was only the second time they played together. The beauty was a classical piece in a fashion show, which was almost 200 years old, which Sahil rearranged and amalgamated with the sitar, sarangi. He took all the Western notes and transcribed them into Hindustani texts creating a jugalbandi by fusing the two —Western and Hindustani classical.

Just like Valaya, the music was a mix of history, tradition, and melting of cultures, no gimmicks, but very complex.  On the sitar was Sohail Khan, Shanawaz Khan on sarangi, both exponents of the Delhi Gharana, while Makrand played the hybrid percussion as he collects instruments from all over the world and placed them together to make a unique kit. The surprise element was Fakruddin on the Iranian Darbuka.

The set too was specially constructed to mimic Spain and its cultural relevance by Prerana Agarwal Saxena of Theme Weavers Designs, and her team.  As the couture was all about Spain some elements were taken from Florence Palazzo Vecchio Museum, which had a courtyard feel to it with some touches seen from the majestic Alhambra with ruin and rustic aesthetics seen in the arches. Frescos on the back wall were inspired by Italian painter and architect Giorgio Vasari, and if you looked closely enough you could see the middle pillars carrying the signature chevron print of Valaya that he has so loved, worn and admired for years.

It was only befitting that veteran choreographer Vidyun Singh, who has been a part of this journey, when he was a young student at NIFT remember the times of Rohit Khosla, JJ’s mentor as he completes three decades.

Spain wasn’t just in the air, music and architecture, but also the beautiful red roses in the hair and the glittering lips of models, who dazzled in Valaya’s full girth lehengas. Along with unabashed love for sequins, juttis, belted lehengas in blushing pinks and shades of onion to dark chocolate it was really his chevron saris worn with sequinned jackets in a clashing design that displayed how opposites attract.

Black has swiftly entered into the trousseau for both genders, as prints created splendour on fringed saris along with big, bold embroidered roses. Lehengas worn with mini tunic style blouses gave you the freedom to dress up or down, and Valaya didn’t forget the scarlets, as they came in laden with zardozi, just like the velvet, asymmetrical tunics matched with printed shararas synchronising oddities.

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