“What’s not to like?” asked designer Gaurav Gupta as the five days of shows opened with a flurry of activity, with golf carts ferrying visitors in from the main gate to the show area. “It’s fantastic — the location. It is very central and Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium is iconic as a landmark.”
Other designers agreed.
“It’s much less walking, and there are open areas to meet people as well,” said Samant Chauhan.
This year, 45 designers are participating at 30 shows. Including the exhibition areas, 101 designers are participating at the event.
There is also much that is familiar as the fall collections get under way, including the two main show areas, a long association with the restaurant Olives, a large area housing exhibition booths for designers to meet buyers, and a space marked out by Maybelline New York, now in its second season.
“We have long been associated with New York Fashion Week, which is part of the brand development,” Jean-Christophe Letellier, managing director and director of L’Oréal India Pvt Ltd., said. “This goes beyond simply make-up — to associate makeup and fashion together. It gives more flesh to the brand. Most consumers know the product, they know Colossal Kajal, for example, and Baby Lips. But it helps for us to build awareness about what the brand stands for — which is innovation, fashion, accessibility.
“It also shows the change of the Indian woman, using makeup every day, to feel confident, to be able to step out,” he said, explaining that it was about creating a complete look.
The event, which run through Sunday and is organized twice a year by the Fashion Design Council of India, has additional shows this season dedicated to men’s wear. It is also giving accessories designers a platform.
The men’s collections feature some top designers, including JJ Valaya, Ashish N Soni, Abhishek Gupta, JJ Valaya, Rajesh Pratap Singh, Rohit Bal, Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna, Troy Costa and Varun Bahl. Each designer will show five outfits.
The multidesigner show is becoming a staple at AIFW, designers said, although the jury is still out on whether the concept works.
“I don’t mind showing with other people,” said designer Gupta. “On the one hand, I can’t really go wrong — I only have to create five pieces instead of a whole collection and I can really focus on each piece and work on the excellence of each of these. But on the other, can I get lost in the entire presentation and collection? Yes, most certainly, and it is up to me to find ways to stand out of the crowd with a very small selection of outfits.”
Speaking about his upcoming show, he said Indian men are willing to experiment with their clothing, and designers like him were more than ready to help this process of discovery. “We’ve done pieces with thread work to resemble woven texture,” he explained. “For someone who values fine work and cares to see up close the fine possibilities of clothing, we’ve got it all going now.”
Wednesday opened with a meet-and-greet among designers and a celebration for Suket Dhir, this year’s Woolmark Prize winner for men, who was honored at the FDCI lounge.
A surprise was the layout in the open rectangular courtyard space between buildings for the last show of the day on Wednesday, with the flamboyant Gaurav Gupta. “I like drama, theater, cinema. I like the entire process of pushing myself to the limit — it’s a way of experiencing the design more intensely as well,” he said, speaking about his collection called Melt. “There is India, and there is the rest of the world. These two mix and melt in my head…and new things come out. My Western wear certainly has an Indian sensibility. It is for an Indian global person. Even though it is very Westernized, it always has an Indian feel to it.”
The collection had his customary sari-gown look, and a studied focus on the cocktail dress. The designs had stronger, clearer silhouettes than Gupta’s earlier efforts, appearing to reflect the designer’s growing confidence.
“The fashion market is evolving every season in India,” he said. “It has always been growing in two directions — becoming more experimental with avant-garde world fashion and experimenting more with the Indian-ness. But the styles are becoming easier to create in a sense because you can sense and see the growing confidence in wearing the designs of an Indian designer. A designer like me.”
Gaurav Jai Gupta’s Akaaro label focused on sheer silk and merino wool and silk and zari jackets. He observed that the commitment by designers has grown along with the market. “There is a lot of sincerity, and growth going on here,” he said. “We are working harder on sourcing, textures and fine detailing.”
Samant Chauhan’s collection had silk and embroidery with fabric treatments and unique weaving techniques. Chauhan worked with a wider palette of colors this time, although his trademark embroidery was not lacking.
Design duo Abraham & Thakore held a more private viewing of their 20-piece collection at the store Moonriver in Defence Colony, not far from the main event. With models lounging around in their designs, visitors were invited to try on their dresses and enjoy the sensuous video showcasing their recent styles. “Our outfits are very elegant, but relaxed,” David Abraham explained, pointing out that simplicity and comfort were another possible key to glamour.
Rakesh Thakore spoke about the combination of shimmer and texture — muslin and gold, incorporating bonded metallic for shimmer. While the concept of more instant fashion has been gaining traction at fashion weeks around the world, it has long been a trend in India, where designs are translated much more quickly for the market. David Abraham said this collection would be on the market for immediate consumption.
The finale on Sunday will feature a compendium of designers. The nine designers include Rahul Mishra, Samant Chauhan, Rajesh Pratap Singh, Anju Modi, Abraham & Thakore, Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna, Amit Aggarwal, Pankaj & Nidhi and Aneeth Arora. They will present five to six outfits each.
Susan Saideman, vice president, global vendor management at Amazon, said the theme would be “India Modern.” “We believe India has two distinct stories to tell today. One which is about its past, its culture, its rich heritage, and the other is about its transformation and adaptation to the current times.”