MUMBAI — The Lakme Fashion Week summer-resort shows appear to be seeking differentiation this year, which is evident from the schedule and from events taking place.

“We’re curating the thought a lot more,” Saket Dhankar, head of fashion at IMG-Reliance. The fashion week, which started on Wednesday and will run for five days, is organized by beauty brand Lakme Lever in collaboration with IMG-Reliance Pvt. Ltd., a venture between Reliance Industries Ltd. and IMG Worldwide. “We’re trying to have a lot of meaningful content, so that it’s different from any other fashion week. Not relying on fashion shows as the main thing, but rather on fashion itself as the main focus.”

This has meant several new twists, with more off-site shows being one. In Mumbai the off-site shows over the past two seasons have resulted in incredible glamour, scale and size, with Bollywood stars sighing and cheering from the front rows. There have been six off-site shows this time.

A total of 90 designers were due to display their collections on the runway this season.

There have also been a lot more conversations, discussions and time being spent on understanding the market and the way forward.

“We’re also trying to put in more global influences into the fashion week,” said Dhankar. To that end, there have been shows in previous seasons by Naeem Khan and Bibhu Mohapatra, who are based in New York.
This time, Diesel founder Renzo Rosso attended and there was a showing by ElektroCouture, a Berlin-based company inspired by wearable technology.

Lakme Fashion Week’s decision a few years ago to switch to showing in-season collections was initially criticized by many observers. But with designers from New York to Milan now catching onto the idea, Dhankar is pleased the Indian event made the move. “We have revisited this thought many times about whether we are right about focusing on the present season when the thing to do is to be looking six months ahead. But we have come to the conclusion that this is much better for us every time. Perhaps more than buyers, LFW it is about fashion awareness, about collections, and marketing and we are making that happen,” he said, addressing designers’ past complaints about the lack of buyers at the shows.

LFW features many of India’s best-known designers, with Indian couturier Rohit Bal being the final show. In the style that LFW has developed, the drama actually began the night before the official start when Bollywood’s favorite designer, Manish Malhotra, showed at Mehboob studios in Bandra in South Mumbai, a film studio that exudes ambience — although not necessarily perfect for fashion. Malhotra focused on summer brides, going more pastel than usual, but with flowers, net, lehngas (the traditional Indian skirt) and an eye-catching bolero jacket teamed with tapered trousers. Bollywood actors Arjun Kapoor and Jacqueline Fernandez walked the runway, creating media attention.

Other veteran designers taking place included Wendell Rodricks, who showed Friday with a collection focused on his usual Goa-inspired style. Prior to the show, Rodricks promised that, “We’re doing something that’s never been done before,” revealing that he would display 20 styles on the runway made of a specially woven fabric. “We’ve played with typical Indian garments to give them a contemporary avatar, with a twist for international palettes,” he said, referring to a dhoti-jumpsuit sari, which incorporates the traditional dress of both Indian men and women with an international spin. “I am proud to say we are one of the only countries in the world that still uses the traditional dress for thousands of years. Even when the models who are 18 to 24 years old try these clothes for fittings, they get excited about it.”

Other well-known designers showing included Neeta Lulla, Monisha Jai Singh, Rahul Mishra, Masaba Gupta, Amit Aggarwal, Payal Singhal, Nishka Lulla and Anita Dongre.

Among newer designers showing, Nikhil Thampi, who launched at LFW five years ago, told WWD that his growth had all happened as a result of the event, with his designs now available at many of the major multibrand retailers in India. He has also fast become a favorite of Bollywood, with a focus on evening glamour.

His Lakme Salon-sponsored show highlighted hair and make up with a “dark room concept.” The collection, which Thampi described as “premium poet,” was based on geometry, which he said he always liked, with hair and make up representing the celestial aspect – the sky, the stars, and his designs representing earthy lines and shades. “I get earthy, and they get celestial, so we bridge the gap between earth and sky,” he said.

Ruchi Tripathi who showed the label Indigene at LFW for the first time, explained that the collection was inspired by the Japanese concept of simplicity, with forms influenced by Gurunsi architecture and the elaborately decorated walls of Burkina Faso. “It’s about being stylish, classic, and wearable,” she said.

Monisha Jaising, who showed a luxe resort collection, said while designing she always keeps the international look in mind. “My buyer is very well traveled,” she said. Conversely, she finds inspiration from her own travels, “from every city, Lucknow, Banaras, Bali, everywhere in the world.” Talking about the variety and possibilities while designing for the Indian market, Jaising said that a lot of her styling is also influenced by the weather. “The weather permits a lot of variety and color here; you have the sunshine,” she said, elaborating, “Basically, fashion and the colors you wear is a lot about the colors in the sky.Weather and climate are a key factor for that.”

ElektroCouture is a pioneer in bespoke electronic wearable technology. “Our main focus is light,” said Lisa Lang, founder, who said that the new collection aimed to show the possibilities of wireless technology.