MUMBAI, India — As the festive season launches in India, spurred on by Diwali last week, fashion has taken a front seat. Driven by celebrations, events, weddings and a post-COVID-19 bonhomie, 2022 is coming to a close with a move by designers toward more experimentation, both in fabric and silhouette.
Among the top trends this season, and emerging at both retail and the Lakme Fashion Week in partnership with the Fashion Design Council of India in October, is a universe of digital prints.
Imaginatively created, with add-on embellishments and embroidery to give them a uniquely Indian appeal, the patterns bring intersecting geometries, motifs and splashes of color — a step away from the bling that earlier characterized the festive season.
The Lakmé Fashion Week in partnership with FDCI, held here from Oct. 12 to 16 at the Jio Convention Center, was an indicator of the changing times.
Anamika Khanna, the opening designer for the event, also exhibited the market’s two major trends — the focus on ready-to-wear, as well as the men’s market — launching her first menswear line with the show and bringing in a new focus in her rtw line, called AK OK. “A very strong DNA of AK OK is print,” she told WWD. “I don’t want to generalize, but prints are a way of expressing yourself in a different way. The Indian consumer is ready for new.”
Although this is not the first time she has shown rtw, she explained that “this time was different because of the approach and attitude.”
“It is an all-encompassing line,” she said. “You can take a piece and make it your own — there is no pressure to be in a certain way. We don’t want to be judged or put in a box anymore.”
Others brands, such as Limerick by Abirr N’ Nanki, fit into the trend with its “Artopia” collection, which combined a sense of heritage and fashion and was inspired by paintings from Rajasthan from the 7th to the 9th centuries. The designer described it as a translation of the “past to the present.”
Sunil Sethi, chairman of the FDCI, was upbeat about the fact that this was the first time in 16 years the council was returning to Mumbai for a fully physical fashion week.
“We had a spectacular season in Delhi earlier this year,” he said in a statement, “adding that the expectation was for an enhancement of the business of fashion with a strong response from designers and buyers alike.”
“The FDCI Designer Stockroom bridges the gap between the audiences and the design community by giving brands a platform to reach a diverse consumer base,” he said, referring to the last day retail sale of the fashion week, now its ninth edition by FDCI.
“Business is back as we see it,” said Jaspreet Chandok, head of Rise Fashion and Lifestyle.
Rise Worldwide is India’s largest independent sports, lifestyle and entertainment company. “The mood is significantly positive. From the amplification perspective — the imagery was fabulous — and we reduced the branding so we can be better benchmarking ourselves with international fashion weeks,” Chandok said.
As if designers showing more rtw was an indication of a new Indian consumer, Chandok said, “There were lots of festive wear and couture shows, but consistently lot of emphasis on pret. There are a bunch of really exciting new designers who are understanding the consumer better. A few years back, the channels weren’t really available for pret — there were mostly multibrand stores. Now, a lot of brands are speaking directly to consumers. They have websites, their ability to communicate with consumers is becoming sharper.
“We tried to make a good mix in terms of lifecycle of designers, senior and new, of different styles,” he said.
Not that the bling has gone away entirely — mirror work, sequins and dazzling, studded embroidery patterns still have a hold, with an increasing mix of western styles and Indian lehngas (full skirts).
Among the well-known designers showing during the week were Shantnu & Nikhil, Shyamal & Bhumika, Rina Dhaka, Gaurav Gupta and Amit Aggarwal, while master couturier Shahab Durazi held a retrospective show.
Designer duo Abraham & Thakore this year celebrated 30 years of their label and their signature monochromatic designs, with their menswear this time exploring the softer side of masculinity.
Many of the industry’s stakeholders believe — and hope — that the increasing focus on rtw as well as the increasing cooperation between FDCI, Lakme and others will help to further engage a growing consumer base.
“Our partnership with the FDCI and Rise Worldwide has provided us the opportunity to bring all stake-holders to a common platform of Lakmé Fashion Week as we continue to set new benchmarks in fashion and beauty,” said Sumati Mattu, head of innovations at Lakmé.
Designer Anamika Khanna put it simply: “It is something that is good for India,” she said, maintaining the attitude reflected in her label — that everything is, and will be, AK-OK.