A BRIDE IDEA
Light and comfortable, yet traditional. The modern bride wants couture that doesn’t weigh her down with kilos of fabric
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. ■
WHILE GIVING THE TRADITIONAL LEHENGA A NEW SPIN, DESIGNERS ARE ALSO MOVING BEYOND IT TO EXPLORE OTHER OCCASION WEAR
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