MUMBAI, India — It was quite a showing for the media kickoff of Lakmé Fashion Week resort 2014 as designers and their muses set the tone for the shows, which opened today here.
The appearance of 20 designers with their actress muses also set the tone for a playful acceptance of something the fashion week has long resisted — the Bollywood factor. The influence of Bollywood has raised eyebrows over the years, with some observers believing that serious fashion was interrupted by celebrity endorsements, particularly those from the film industry.
Now Lakmé Fashion Week appears to have come to terms with itself, and Bollywood muses are being flaunted more openly.
Manish Malhotra, who made a single showing at the Grand Hyatt ballroom late Tuesday night, is known for his Bollywood connections, and no one referred to his flowing florals as irrelevant because of that. Actress Sonakshi Sinha walked the runway for him, but the attention generated by his georgettes, sheer organza, embroidery and embellishments wasn’t lessened by her appearance.
LFW will run from today to Sunday, during which 102 designers from throughout India will show, as well as a few from international destinations such as Paris and London. The shows will have, as always, a selection of Bollywood stars lined up, both in the audience and on the runways.
LFW is also embracing what some in the industry refer to as its double-edged sword — the fact that it is sometimes referred to as a mentoring environment for young designers. Instead of bristling at the idea, fashion week this season is emphasizing it even more, increasing the number of new designers to 23, up from less than a dozen in previous seasons.
There will be the well-known designers, of course — Tarun Tahiliani, Anju Modi, Anita Dongre, Narendra Kumar and a grand finale on Sunday by Rajesh Pratap Singh, among others.
Saket Dhankar, who has been brainstorming to get LFW moving, is clearly keeping an open mind and pushing along the ideas with some energy. “We’ve been looking at new ways to add value to the event,” Dhankar, head of fashion, IMG Reliance, told WWD. “Social media is transforming the situation, and there is going to be a lot of emphasis on how the event is covered differently this time. Along with the traditional retailers, e-commerce is making a big change this time.” E-commerce retailer Jabong is in a new partnership with LFW, and a special Jabong stage will showcase creative talent.
“We also will have some first-time launches in the main area — such as Mandira Bedi,” Dhankar added. Bedi is a celebrity who is launching her own line in an afternoon show on Thursday.
Other things have changed as well: there are new faces on the board of LFW, prompting a change of thinking and direction. Among them is a greater international presence. Designers Zhen & Mossi, who showed their collection at Paris Fashion Week, are bringing their collection to LFW, along with a fascination for the Indian market and inspiration from Bollywood.
“I’ve always been very attracted to Bollywood, and it has been a personal objective to dress Bollywood actors and have them among my audience,” said Mossi Traoré.
His dream is about to come true, as Bollywood actress Kalki Koechlin will be a guest at their show, along with French actress Aurelia Khazan.
Although Traoré is of Malian descent and grew up in France, his interest in the Indian aesthetic has been consistent. “It’s also a personal ambition to revisit the sari as a dress and give it our own personal creative vision and make a complete line inspired by the sari,” he said.
Another designer from the international circuit — Mawi Keivom, who is of Indian origin and is celebrating a decade as a successful accessories designer in London — will show her collection with Indian designer Gaurav Gupta.
“It is a great accolade and a homecoming,” she told WWD. “I have never shown in India and never collaborated with an Indian designer before. We had to consider how we were going to show the length and breadth of what we had achieved in the last 10 years, and ultimately, this show will be a sort of retrospective to showcase the brand in the Indian market.”
British brand Dorothy Perkins will be launched for the first time in India with a runway show on Thursday. The show will have a new concept of a “shoppable hangout” so that it will be possible to directly buy the clothes of the runway, the first such experiment for LFW. The brand is launching exclusively through e-tailer Jabong.
Anju Modi, a veteran and a founding member of the FDCI who has shown in New Delhi for many years, will debut at LFW this season. “It’s a very natural progression to Western clothing. The lifestyle, food, language, the entire potpourri of culture is shifting to be more Western. My challenge is how to take traditional design and take that into a new fusion, which is neither Indian nor Western. I think the beauty is in the craft and the aesthetics that we have in our country and how to maintain it and give it a different interpretation as a designer,” Modi said.
Having recently designed the outfits for a film, Modi spoke of Bollywood as well. “I realize the power and importance of the industry and of the markets in Mumbai as well,” she said.
At LFW this year, Dhankar said the designers are more ready for the world than ever. “The strategy is to hold everyone more ready, and this is being driven partly by social media,” he said. “Designers are sharing photos on Instagram, discussing their muse, their mood boards, their look books are ready. They are aware of their inspiration and are ready to share it.”