NEW DELHI – It’s not that Amazon India Fashion Week gave up on color in the collections for spring, but designers who showed certainly made a major tilt toward elegant creams – some with embroidery, occasionally rooted in handlooms, and even with no embellishments at all.
The five days of shows, which ended Oct. 16, moved location once again and this season were held at the NSIC grounds in Okhla in South Delhi, where they were held a year ago. But even as the shows themselves switched location, the focus remained on India, and specifically the country’s textiles.
The opening show, for example, featured 16 designers, represented by two creations each and with a focus on the traditional ethnic fabric of chanderi. The lightweight fabric for summer is not always easy to work with, and over the last few decades has been disappearing from the Indian fashion scene. Atsu Sekhose, one of the designers featured in the opening show, explained that this call to chanderi, and experimenting with the fabric, gave him a “tremendous sense of new possibilities” and an ability to look at design in a new way.
Opening with a documentary on the fabric, shot in the town of Chanderi, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, the show made a clear point: Design inspired by Indian textiles can be far more relevant and nuanced than either consumers or designers could imagine.
The opening day’s event continued a trend seen at fashion weeks in India over the last few seasons, as they slowly incorporate the idea of a one-day focus on Indian textiles. With 23 designers featuring Indian textiles in the first two days, the dedication to the theme was underlined more heavily than ever.
“This edition is our earnest attempt to merge the past, present and future through meaningful initiatives,” said Sunil Sethi, president of the Fashion Design Council of India.
The result was a series of more relaxed silhouettes, with less forced experimentation than in previous seasons. AIFW is organized twice a year in New Delhi by the FDCI in association with Maybelline New York and with sponsorship from Amazon India. This year, the 28th edition, a total of 110 designers participated in the event, including the runway and the exhibition area. There were 31 runway shows encompassing 63 designers.
Designers such as Samant Chauhan and Gaurav Jai Gupta displayed a growing maturity in the way they each used fabric and silhouette with greater confidence, to make more fluid, but individualistic statements. Gaurav Jai Gupta’s label Akaaro had a sense of relaxed elegance. Explaining the name of the collection – “Pingala” – the designer said, “It’s a yogic term, which means active state.” He described it as a change from negativity towards a happier state – with an emphasis on a “happy collection.”
Part of the collection’s strength was the fabric weave itself – done at his own studio. Keeping both fluidity and a strong sense of form that held through long jackets and saris with shirt style blouses, his fabrics ranged from cotton linen to chanderi to silk.
Chauhan also made a more refined move with cream and beige and gold in layering, golden embroidery and just enough floral motifs to add romance and feminity.
With Italy as a partner country this season, the show on Wednesday was titled simply “Italian fashion show” and brought out the contrast between the perfect Italian cuts and the far more easygoing Indian silhouette. Held in association with Assocalzaturifici (Italian Footwear Manufacturers’ Association) and Aimpes (Italian Leather Manufacturers’ Association), the show focused on leather bags and shoes from 41 Italian brands. The collection of accessories was displayed at the Italian Pavilion at the event, along with outfits by young designers Alberto Zambelli, Bav Tailor, Davide Grillo and Leitmotiv, selected by the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana.
As for the Indian designers, continuing trends from previous seasons included metallics, which showed up repeatedly even in Abraham & Thakore’s collection dedicated to the hand spun fabric of khadi; color and embroidery, exemplified by Krishna Mehta and the striking choices by Rina Dhaka; florals; sheer fabrics; bare shoulders, and long jackets.
Many designers felt that there has been a shift toward more buying from the Indian market while others said their buyers were already on repeat orders from the designers they carried and weren’t interested in what was being shown on the runway and at the exhibition. But there was a general sense that business was growing and that overall, the event continued to play a major role.
Beyond the runway, the exhibition area continued to be a draw.
Hemant Sagar of design duo Lecoanet Hemant, who has been watching the changing fashion scene in India and took a booth for the first time, said, “We’re trying to get closer to the consumer and here it’s all very professional.”
Describing the essence of the collection, Sagar, who has worked in Paris and is now based in New Delhi, explained that the customers themselves were undergoing a rapid change. “They don’t want anything Indian, although we often mix Indian motives with Western ones. The Indian customer is just becoming more global – they are on their mobile phones, eating junk food from McDonalds and ordering Domino’s pizza in the evening. What is Indian is constantly under question.”
“Equally,” he added, “there is a discrepancy on what ‘normal’ is – whether it is Indian/Western/and really, how original is it? Now there are Zaras all over India, so if you want something original, you have to look around for where to get it,” he added.
He indicated that the best possibilities were from designer stores.
The week also included a show of accessories, with designers Abhishek Kankaria and Shrruti Tapuria, Felix Bendish and Ambar Pariddi Sahai. Bendish brought in a range of striking pieces that brought out the potential of Indian designers.
As is the usual case, the final runway show of the week on Oct. 16 was both ornate and dramatic. Veteran designer JJ Valaya took designer duo Alpana-Neeraj under his wing with a vintage Indian concept of guru-shishya – an ancient Indian teacher-young pupil concept of unique learning – to showcase 60 outfits that varied from traditional to experimental. Valaya’s enthusiasm for velvet worked, with opulent embellishments that made no claim on discretion.
“We segregated it into three collections. There was a very royal and antique look, a second one in metallic and mirror work and third, going into a nomadic look,” he said.