Light and com­fort­able, yet tra­di­tional. The mod­ern bride wants cou­ture that doesn’t weigh her down with ki­los of fab­ric

India Today - - CONTENTS - By Chinki Sinha

Mod­ern-day brides pre­fer cou­ture that is tra­di­tional yet com­fort­able

BBri­dal cou­ture has come a long way from the tra­di­tional lehenga-choli en­crusted with zardozi or Swarovski crys­tals. The mod­ern bride has well-cut gowns, sher­wa­nis and kimono jack­ets to choose from—things she can move freely and, pos­si­bly, shake a leg in. And designers are ex­per­i­ment­ing with drapes, fab­rics and de­tail­ing. Nowhere was this more ap­par­ent than at the 12th edi­tion of the In­dia Cou­ture Week (ICW), held in the cap­i­tal in July.

De­signer cou­ple Pankaj and Nidhi Ahuja of the la­bel Pankaj & Nidhi had faux leather ap­pliqué and cus­tom-made

crys­tals in yel­low, rose gold and sil­ver white on pants, tu­nics and jack­ets in their de­but cou­ture col­lec­tion, ‘Mo­saiq’, in­spired by the art of mo­saic-mak­ing. There were also em­pire waist­line dresses and a skirt paired with a one-sleeve blouse with frills and feath­ers.

“If you go back a few years,” says Pankaj, “a beau­ti­ful Kan­jee­varam sari com­mis­sioned for some­one in a par­tic­u­lar colour, or getting Kash­miri or Phulkari shawls, would be con­sid­ered cou­ture.” Today, the em­pha­sis is as much on al­ter­na­tive oc­ca­sion wear. And not just for wed­dings, but also for, say, a book launch, a movie pre­miere or even birth­days and grad­u­a­tions. “I think there’s a trend to­wards light­ness,” says Pankaj, “I’m not sure if women want to be drowned un­der ki­los of fab­ric and be weighed down men­tally and phys­i­cally.”

It’s a spirit de­signer Suneet Varma recog­nises only too well. His 2019 col­lec­tion, ‘Amara’, had off-shoul­der blouses and short jack­ets paired with lehen­gas, and ruf­fled or­ganza shirts with high­waisted palazzo pants. A three-inch

ban­deau blouse was paired with a vo­lu­mi­nous skirt with a trail. Sil­ver and gold metal­lic foil re­placed heavy em­broi­dery.

Cou­ture in In­dia remains mostly about bridal wear. “It is the big­gest mar­ket in our coun­try for made-to­order, made-to-mea­sure clothes,” says Pankaj. Ac­cord­ing to re­ports, In­dia wit­nesses about 10 mil­lion wed­dings ev­ery year and the wed­ding in­dus­try here is es­ti­mated to be worth more than $50 bil­lion (Rs 3.6 lakh crore).

In­dian designers have learnt to seam­lessly mix the tra­di­tional with the mod­ern. As Tarun Tahil­iani—whose latest col­lec­tion, ‘Bloom’, fea­tures light­weight fab­rics like sheer silk—puts it, “The western world is a bit ahead of us in terms of con­tem­po­rary fit, cut­ting, tai­lor­ing... But we have mar­ried [tai­lor­ing] with our tex­tiles and em­broi­deries and created some­thing unique.”

Ac­cord­ing to Su­nil Sethi, chair­man of the Fashion De­sign Coun­cil of In­dia (FDCI), the ultimate aim is to “mod­ernise the blue­print for In­dian iconog­ra­phy, re­viv­ing for­got­ten mo­tifs and crafts with in­sight­ful tech­niques”. He be­lieves that the cou­turi­ers of today jux­ta­pose the old with the new in tex­tiles, tech­niques and set. “They in­no­va­tively marry age-old crafts­man­ship with new-age fab­rics and the West with the East,” he says. “The consumers, too, have changed. They love gowns with western sil­hou­ettes and on-trend menswear as much as tra­di­tional cloth­ing.”

There is a touch of the Re­nais­sance in bridal cou­ture this sea­son. In­dian cou­turi­ers are play­ing with embroidere­d mo­tifs drawn from fres­coes, ar­chi­tec­tural fa­cades, flo­rals from 15th cen­tury paint­ings, vin­tage Euro­pean ta­pes­tries, Mughal flo­rals, dec­o­ra­tive pil­lars and in­lay sam­ples in mu­se­ums, all re­cast in silk threads, zari, vel­vet ap­pliqués, crys­tal ac­cents and tulle. “It is the clos­est fashion can get to art,” says Varma, one of the designers in­ducted into the FDCI

Cou­ture Hall of Fame this year, along with Ritu Ku­mar, Abu JaniSan­deep Khosla, Ro­hit Bal, Sha­hab Du­razi and Tahil­iani.

Mak­ing his first foray into bridal cou­ture this year was de­signer Amit Ag­gar­wal, who used his sig­na­ture poly­mer along with jacquard silks and hand­wo­ven geo­met­ric tex­tiles in a col­lec­tion called ‘Lumen’. The idea for his col­lec­tion came to him three months ago in the mid­dle of a vir­tual re­al­ity ex­pe­ri­ence at Lon­don’s Saatchi Gallery. “It made me think about the beau­ti­ful ar­chi­tec­ture of hu­man and plant anatomy. The emer­gence of the col­lec­tion was based on the con­cept of con­nec­tion,” he says. The mo­tifs are an amal­ga­ma­tion of ab­stract fo­liage pat­terns with ar­chi­tec­tural el­e­ments ren­dered in opaque colours blended with metal­lic and iri­des­cent hues. “The en­sem­bles are en­hanced by drap­ing lay­ers, colour block­ing through tex­tiles and high­light­ing it with in­tri­cate crafts­man­ship. The key in­no­va­tion has been ef­fort­lessly mix­ing cul­ture with moder­nity through in­no­va­tive tex­tiles and sharp tai­lor­ing,” he says.

Bright, metal­lic sur­faces is

some­thing de­signer Rahul Mishra too has ex­per­i­mented with in his col­lec­tion, ‘Mal­hausie to Monaco’. There are short dresses with 3D em­broi­dery, trail capes and clas­sic jack­ets, in­ter­spersed with tra­di­tional skirts. The mo­tifs are a dense play on flo­rals, blended with Swarovski crys­tals and silken threads. “Bridal fashion is our her­itage and will re­main a strong el­e­ment of the In­dian fashion in­dus­try,” he says. But he is also ex­plor­ing sim­pler sil­hou­ettes, lighter fab­rics and com­bin­ing these with un­com­pro­mised crafts­man­ship. “The pieces we make are fa­mil­iar to women in Ja­pan, France and In­dia alike, and that is how we are try­ing to blur the bound­aries. With the exposure our brand re­ceives in­ter­na­tion­ally, it is a con­stant ef­fort to shape the In­dian col­lec­tion in a way that brings in re­fresh­ing change with­out re­ject­ing the de­mands posed here.” Mishra is also per­haps among the first to explore an­drog­yny in In­dian cou­ture, with flowy kur­tas for men in sheer fab­ric and struc­tured Nehru jack­ets for women.

It’s ex­cit­ing times ahead for In­dian bridal cou­ture. Call it the in­cred­i­ble light­ness of be­ing. ■


Pankaj & Nidhi Their col­lec­tion ‘Mo­saiq’ fea­tures en­sem­bles decked in coloured crys­tals

Tarun Tahil­iani’s cur­rent col­lec­tion, ‘Bloom’ has clothes in light­weight fab­ric such as sheer silk

Amit Ag­gar­wal’s new-age bridal col­lec­tion, ‘Lumen’, had tra­di­tional sil­hou­ette in poly­mer, silks and hand­wo­ven geo­met­ric tex­tiles

Rahul Mishra’s ‘Mal­hausie to Monaco line fea­tures pas­tel shift dresses in 3D em­broi­dery, trail capes and clas­sic jack­ets

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