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The Avant-Garde & The Conservatives

Lakme Fashion Week W/F 2016
By Meher Castelino

lakme-fashion-week-wf-aug-2Sitting through another season of a fashion fest, I felt the need to address the oft asked query, ‘What is a Fashion Week?”, more as a reminder to designers, rather than to inform the lay person unmindful of trends.

A fashion week is where new trends are set in constructions and pattern cutting that will create a shift in the looks for the coming season. Fashion followers look for innovations that can be turned into ready-to-wear options. At Lakmé Fashion Week Winter/Festive 2016 there was a lot of colour and fabrics that were ideal for the bridal and festive season but; while a few designers dared to go off the beaten path; I felt particularly sad to see that some of the established designers played safe and stayed in their comfort zone, away from experiments. I have listed a few Avant-garde designers who have been innovative, and those that played safe and showed their out-dated designs.

THE AVANT-GARDE

Here are designers who moved away from convention and brought fashion with an interesting angle.

Schulen Fernandes for Wendell Rodricks

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This was a dual ‘hit’ for a first time at a fashion week. The ‘Trapezoid’ by Schulen Fernandes for Wendell Rodricks’ was a perfect tribute by a protégé to her mentor as she started designing under the Wendell Rodricks label. The other high point was that Wendell Rodricks trusted his former student, intern and now creator to display collections that will gel with his sensibilities. The ‘Trapezoid’ line was a great geometrically constructed look to suit women of all shapes, sizes and ages so the show featured bouncing, energetic, octogenarians, ex-models and grandmothers who looked their glam best on the ramp in the soft, fluid, pastel, layered creations that complimented their style.

The linen, cotton, light crêpe, georgette, paper silk, jacquard and damask moved in unison for the garments. The Trapezoid with 12 weaves and the custom made fabrics further enhanced the beauty of the ensembles. The fabric list extended to natural Bemberg that resembled natural viscose but felt like silk, striped Chanderi, silk cotton, Kerala custom weave cotton, natural dyed Bengal cotton, Malkha cotton and eco-fabric dyed with flowers brought from the Siddivinayak temple in Mumbai.

Tarun Tahiliani

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Inspired by the life size hemp and cast bronze sculpture by noted sculptor Mrinalini Mukherjee, the creations by Tarun Tahiliani were in a rich palette of jewel tones with amazing drapes and construction. At times it was intriguing to observe how a dart stopped mid-way near the neckline and flowed into a draped cowled hemline. The use of handlooms for the colourful stripes and the overall look of the ready-to-wear collection was a feast for the eyes. Draped skirts were fringed tantalisingly at the hem; but sleek minis were matched with crochet gilets. Jersey, Italian tulle, georgette, micro pleated tulle, heavy crépe georgette, Chanderi, Chenille yarns, fringing and crochet came together in perfect harmony as the base for some impressive 3D treatment and flat digital printing. What completed the collection were the shoes, accessories and jewellery that matched the mood of the show.

Kallol Datta

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Here is a designer who does not hanker for celeb endorsements but enjoys doing what makes him happy. His ‘Low Res 2017’ collection was a cerebral viewer’s delight. The intricate silhouettes, constructions, the foil panels, bias swing of the ensembles, panelled 3D folds with garments worn back to front gave the show its surprise twists and the audience the thrill of figuring out how the mind of Kallol Datta works when he is at the design board. Moving away from excessive seams, Kallol had a profusion of drop shoulder garments. In the past Kallol put a strong emphasis on the backs of the ensembles, but it was the sleeves this season that got all his attention. His inspiration was not the mundane Mughal, Rajput, French, Turkish, Japanese, styles. It was loss of data, Meta data and redacting information. For Kallol designing means being inspired by life round him and then turning the inspirations of the surroundings and happenings into garments.

Hemang Agrawal

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When a design graduate from NIFT turns into a textile weaving innovator then the result has to be awesome. Hemang Agrawal’s ‘Varak’ collection was a study in experimental weaving with the warp, weft and the extra warp/weft only in metallic yarns that gave the garments not only a glowing shimmer but made them water proof and easy to pack with the crushed effect being its high point. The suits, saris with waist coats, skirts and blouses in gold, silver and bronze hues were ideal formal wear. The beauty of the total collection lay in its crimped and crushed treatment that gave it an haute image.

Sanjay Garg

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The label ‘Raw Mango’ by Sanjay Garg has created waves amongst fashionistas for a couple of years. Sanjay’s expert weaves have thrilled buyers but this season it was the unconventional motif that was woven into brocades, Chanderis and balanced with Gajji silk, Mashru, engineered panels and different Kadhwa motifs that made the garments eye-catching. It was the monkey motif for the collection ‘Monkey Business’ that displaced the popular lion and peacock motifs in brocades and along with the great designing of the garments the collection was a hit. The saris were superbly displayed in all their traditional glory or appeared as draped gowns, sari-cum-jacket or sari-cum-blouse combos. The line of grey wool coats, jackets and kurtas with beautiful silk lining were stylishly cut to cater to the western dresser’s needs. Here were traditional weaves aimed at the western wear market that will give a major fashionable lift to Indian textiles. It also projected the designer’s confidence in his creativity as he took a humorous swipe and brought a frisky animal as his star motif.

THE CONSERVATIVES

Where these designers faltered was not in the selection of the fabrics or colours, but in the slight lack of experimentation, since monotony in the collections was visible and great things were expected from these great brands that seemed to be lacking this time.

Kunal Rawal

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The designer has reached his comfort zone. He knows his strengths, he knows what his best sellers are, he knows about bread and butter collections but at a fashion week it’s time for Shahi Tukra. Last season his ‘Between the Lines’ collection featured kurtas, sherwanis, Bundis, jackets with a hint of regimental touches. This season his ‘Role Play’ could be a change in title, but collection was nearly similar with traditional silhouettes and tonal embellishments that projected an easy masculine look that will no doubt fly off the shelves in quick rapidity. But while Kunal Rawal can stay true to his hot sellers and make them a permanent fixture of his collections, the fashion world wants to view some edgy creativity that he is known for.

P.E.L.L.A

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The P.E.L.L.A. label by Priyanka Ella Lorena Lama created a stir when it first appeared at the Gen Next Summer/Resort 2015 show. P.E.L.L.A.’s experiments with fabrics and organic weaves are praise worthy and so are the brand’s specialty of construction and pattern making that involves using a single block of fabric with minimum sewing and measurements. The result is toga like drapes with layers and pleats all very well executed. But isn’t the look repetitive and appealing to a very small niche audience? Doesn’t P.E.L.L.A. want to move into a wider and more wearable base? That is something the designer will have to think about seriously for the future.

RAJESH PRATAP SINGH

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Rajesh Pratap Singh is one of the most talented designers with discreet detailing being his trademark. He made the pin tuck and pleat his leitmotif and turned the white shirt into an iconic haute garment; which had men and women running to grab his creations. ‘The Punjabi Suit’ was the title of Rajesh Pratap Singh’s collection, which turned the traditional garment inspiration into some fun clothes for the young with textures and fabrics that were created in- house. It was a straight forward ready-to-wear line that will sell well but what one missed was that characteristic Rajesh Pratap Singh touch, which would be noticeable even if the label was removed from the collection. This time around a test like this would make the collection a part of any designer’s work. And what can one say about the final showstopper’s outfit worn by the vivacious beauty Jacqueline Fernandez?

PAYAL KHANDWALA

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I am a great admirer of Payal Khandwala’s work. It was a neo bridal collection called ‘The New Emperor’ to match the “Lakmé Illuminate Show Stopping Collection”. The fabrics were fabulous Banarsi textiles and especially woven weaves from West Bengal. The colours were perfect jewel tones that shimmered on the ramp. Payal Khandwala winner of the “Most Innovative Garment Construction Award” for her graduating collection in 1994 showed her pattern making skills in the collections when she started showing at fashion weeks from 2012.

But the innovative constructions were completely missing in ‘The New Emperor’ collection, which ended up being a visual presentation of a fabric/colour swatch card. Payal is known for understated elegance but showing a continuous line of long-sleeved shirts with concealed plackets and similar collars, teamed with gathered long skirts took discretion to a boring level. Even small details would have lifted the shirts and skirts to a slightly more creative height. Maybe additions of pintucks, pleats a hint of gathers added discreetly would have brought variety and kept the garments within Payal’s design sensibilities. Inserting side pockets to the lehengas was the only great addition! The colours and fabrics were the high point of the collection but Payal’s innovative designing skills left a lot to be desired.

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