MUMBAI, India — Lakmé Fashion Week ended on Sunday, exhibiting a greater international mix as well as stronger Western influence on silhouettes, on a rousing note of celebration after five days of feting fabric, embroidery, weddingwear in both couture and ready-to-wear, as well as some notable exchanges of international design on the ramp. These included the launch of Australian designer duo Pamela Easton and Lydia Pearson, as well as a stronger Western influence on silhouettes by young and emerging designers.
The winter-festive edition of the fashion week had another enduring trend — the palazzo pant, a common theme for designers both young and established. Although the style has been a favorite on the runway for more than 18 months — Bollywood actress Kareena Kapoor sported the style at Namrata Joshipura’s show in the summer of 2013 — this time, the palazzo made its entry in different styes, fabrics and combinations.
At least half of the collections on show stemmed from or were inspired by the bridal market as designers abandoned earlier claims that the sector was not a major focus. As a result there was no holding back on heavy embroidery, gold-edged sequins and varieties of full-length lehengas (traditional skirts), long coats, palazzos and the dhoti saris for the more experimental.
As always, Bollywood seized the fashion moment: Sunday saw a Bollywood fashion influx with actresses walking the runway: Priyanka Chopra for designer Varun Bahl; Bipasha Basu and Dia Mirza for Vikram Phadnis; Malaika Arora Khan for Sonaakshi Raaj, and Kareena Kapoor, the face of Lakmé the beauty brand, for the grand finale by Manish Malhotra.
Although the week started out on a note of trepidation — and confusion — with the new location at the Palladium hotel, there was a note of adrenalin infused by this change amongst the complaints that the venue needed better signage and information booths. Spread over two floors of the hotel, the designer booths at the exhibition were accessible via an elevator ride rather than the long walk in the previous location of the Grand Hyatt.
This time, the booths were broken down by category — established designers had their own area — making it easier for buyers to sort through which ones they planned to visit. But as younger designers said gloomily, it ensured that they had only half the traffic.
Buyers, largely from the Middle East and Indian markets, observed that they found several collections noteworthy, including those from designers Neha Agarwal and Urvashi Joneja. A definitive change over the last few years, according to several buyers, was in pricing, which has gone up substantially, prompting them to be more selective in their purchases.
The debut of the 25-year-old Australian label Easton Pearson at the shows was watched keenly by many retailers and brand heads since it was its first foray into the Indian market. Easton and Pearson, who have stores in Sydney and Brisbane and retail across the world, showcased their collection made up of light, natural fabrics and a lot of embroidery and sequins.
Asked if it was odd showing their designs at Lakmé Fashion Week since their fabrics are created in India and a lot of embroidery is done here as well, Pearson replied honestly, “We’ve asked ourselves that many times. But our perspective is a little bit different. When you bring something from outside and you haven’t grown up with it, you see things differently. Also the history of our brand is Western, European clothing. It’s not that we think that we’re better than Indian designers, we think they are fantastic. And we’re not trying to compete on the same platform. There is such a rich history of surface decoration here. The difference is that we have a Western cut, and our surface decoration is Western-influenced, using Indian techniques. So we are accessing the resources here but the ideas are definitely European. Although it’s new and different, its something that people understand already because they’re used to looking at decorative clothing. But time will tell.”
Easton added that the market in India had been changing dramatically. “We’ve watched the Indian retail market change and over six years ago we thought that India had started to embrace Western clothing, and mix much more of Western garments into their wardrobe, and back then we thought that there was perhaps an opportunity for us to sell here. But now, we believe there is really an opening for a Western-style brand. And because our garments are colorful, made of natural fibers, it seems quite realistic that there could be a market here for us,” she said.
On Thursday, the focus of the event was on Indian fabrics in a theme adopted and sponsored by the Ministry of Textiles. “This is a step forward,” said Saket Dhankar, head of IMG Reliance, organizers of the show along with beauty brand Lakmé. More than a dozen designers showcased their creativity while letting the fabric take center stage. These included designs by Soumitra Mondal and Vaishali S., while Sanjay Garg, known for his label Raw Mango, made his debut with his signature line.
The Jabong stage featured younger designers, which is the focus of Lakmé Fashion Week. Interesting designers to watch out for included Sreejith Jeevan and Armaan Aiman.
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