By  on October 14, 2009

NEW DELHI — Indian designers displayed their range and versatility at Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai, where simple cotton styles shared the runway with dazzling and opulent silk creations.

Fifty designers unveiled their spring-summer 2010 collections at the event, which is named after the Indian cosmetics company that is its biggest sponsor. Lakme Fashion Week, which is now in its 10th year, was held late last month at the Grand Hyatt hotel in central Mumbai.

Many designers opted for clean silhouettes and simple fabrics, like cotton and muslin, which appeared Gandhian in their simplicity. But Indians’ instinct for opulence spilled out. Perhaps inspired by thoughts of Diwali, India’s festival of lights, this month, the ramp frequently glittered with sequins, metallic embroidery and gold and silver textiles.

Big names included Anamika Khanna, the first Indian designer to show at Paris Fashion Week. Using draping and layering, she mixed cotton and muslin dresses and skirts with harem pants and half-saris to create a fluid, feminine gypsy aesthetic. Her palette of mainly black and white was enlivened by splashes of fuchsia, coral and scarlet, and the show ended on a bright note, with spectacular gold and silver lehengas (long, full, Indian-style skirts) teamed with black shawls.

Tarun Tahiliani, one of India’s biggest fashion stars, wound up the week by transforming the hotel’s ballroom into a Moghul court, with Persian carpets and silk-swathed walls, for a lesson in Indo-Western fusion. Sari-style evening gowns, saris worn with waist-cinching belts and sculpted bustiers and tailored trousers embellished with Indian embroidery in a riot of colors and textures, from satin to jersey, won Tahiliani a standing ovation.

Generally, while India’s better-established designers tend to show at Delhi’s fashion week, the emphasis in Mumbai is on new, emerging talent.

Six new designers showed in the event’s GenNext segment, where the accessories often overshadowed the clothes. Rahul Anand’s models, mostly dressed in carbon-blue asymmetrical dresses and skirts, wore striking headgear: one, a small red plastic puppy; another, what looked like a solar panel.

“We will all remember him for the headgear, but the dresses were very well cut and elegant,” said Alka Nisha, founder and owner of AZA, a designer boutique with stores in Delhi and Mumbai.

She added she would also keep her eye on newcomer Amalraj Sengupta, whose structured, edgy minidresses in white, cream and gray made clever use of overlapping button closures and irregular pockets.

One of last year’s GenNext designers, meanwhile, demonstrated how he had evolved since his first show. Imcha Imchen’s collection had a coherence and unity lacking in many Indian designers’ shows: his fitted silk dresses were both modern and redolent of tribal style from his home state, Nagaland, in India’s remote northeast.

As usual, designers included both traditional Indian clothing and more modern Western styles in their collections. While India’s summer wedding season still constitutes the majority of business for designers here, all have their eyes on the international stage.

Unreconstructed Indian fashion — from lavish saris to body-covering salwar kameezes — was well represented in most of the collections. Among the Western-style designs, hemlines were unusually high for India. Gauri and Nainika, a design duo known for their Western-style evening wear, popular with Bollywood stars, brought the hemlines on their trademark sculpted cocktail dresses from the usual knee length up to the midthigh.

In recent years, Mumbai’s fashion week has drawn increasing numbers of international buyers. This year, however, few attended. Vikram Raizada, head of fashion for IMG India, blamed the recession. “These are cautious times,” he said.

Designers concurred. “It’s true that there were fewer international buyers and the more established designers were complaining about that,” said up-and-coming designer Anand Bhushan. “But for relatively new designers like me, who have constrained production capacity, it is all about reaching the Indian market first and then going overseas. And the Indian buyers have been present, so that’s good news.”

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