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NEW DELHI — It opened with a splendor of fabric and color, as designer Tarun Tahiliani’s show set out the mood for the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week shows that started Wednesday in a blur of fabric and color.
Tahiliani’s styling in his runway show evoked a combination of royalty and the celestial with delicate draping, and an understated opulence of colors that ranged from black to rich and deep reds. A background of glowing, circular forms and two male performers set the stage; the final outfit worn by actress Shilpa Shetty was layered in kanjeevaram silk.
Tahiliani also set the tone of poised control for the fashion week, and it continued through the evening as organizers took up the mantle of efficiency.
“I was so ready for the show last evening that I set to thinking about my next collection,” Tahiliani told WWD. He admitted that it’s been a heavily committed season of fashion. “I’ve never worked so hard. We’ve been very focused, and this time the show is all prêt-à-porter. In India, we either have over-the-top bridalwear or ill-fitting casual clothes copied from the West. I believe ready-to-wear is going to be in great demand in the future,” he said.
Although it’s customary for celebrity designers to take the late evening slots, Tahiliani said that he wanted the opening show to have the panache of a finale. “I feel there’s lot of pressure for the opening show; it can lift the week.”
As Sunil Sethi, president of the Fashion Design Council of India, which organizes the event, said, “The stage was set for the biggest fashion trade event of the country to unfold.”
There are 118 designers participating this season, and more than 100 exhibition stands, which were attracting buyers from Indian multibrand stores, Dubai and other Middle Eastern countries, as well as Singapore and other parts of Asia.
“We’re looking at that aspect, too,” said Nachiket Barve, who will show on Thursday. “It is about both creativity and talent, but also about growing the business.”
Atul Chand, divisional chief executive of ITC’s Lifestyle Retailing Business, which owns the Wills Lifestyle retail chain that has been sponsoring the event since 2006, said that the scope was wider this season, with several booths handing out radio frequency identification tags to help consumers participate and instantly share their views about the fashion week. “Fashion itself is something that keeps changing. The leveraging opportunities are more abundant with younger people getting tuned into fashion, there’s a better appreciation of design and motifs that they can connect with,” he said.
Brands exhibiting during the week were showing fall-winter but also designs for the festive and wedding season in the second half of the year.
Trends both on the runway and at the exhibition included transparency, asymmetric cuts and layering.
“In India we love the idea of ‘conceal and reveal,’” said Nachiket Barve. “And layering has become a new way of dressing. The sari can be both layered and transparent.”
Vaishali S, who has worked with this concept for years, spoke about the difficulty of showing in two fashion weeks in one month but also the rewarding nature of the whole exercise (Lakmé Fashion Week was held earlier this month in Mumbai). “There are certainly international buyers who come by at this show, and we’re counting on these to make it all worthwhile,” she said.
Other designers, such as Raj Shroff, who is based in Bangalore and has been coming to the event each year for the last seven years but this season is only exhibiting, observed, “It’s a sort of déjà vu moment for us on the first day when you feel, ‘Oh my God, didn’t I just do this a little while back?’ But by the second day you reach on the flip side of the whole thing — it’s a meeting hot spot not only with buyers but also with other designers, and you get a lot of perspectives that make your designing richer.”
Nachiket Barve agreed that the game was changing. “People are buying more curated stuff — they’ve become more evolved, and that is true in many different cities — Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Ahmedabad. The online market is changing that as well.”
Anupama Dayal, who showed on Wednesday, brought cheer to the runway with her customary choice of vivid colors, but with more of a bridal focus this time.
The rest of fashion week promises a mix of bridal as well as a strong emphasis on Western wear, embroidery, appliqué and shimmer.
Among the remaining highlights on the schedule are Rina Dhaka and Shantanu & Nikhil, who showed later Wednesday; Abraham & Thakore; Rahul Mishra, who won the Woolmark prize this year, and a finale by Namrata Joshipura on Sunday.