Samant Chauhan

NEW DELHI, India While the fashion  silhouette changed this season at the 29th edition of Amazon India Fashion Week Winter 2017, held in association with Maybelline New York, the shows opened with a focus on how to blend traditional craft with contemporary design.

The first show of the week, featuring 13 designers, focused on using handlooms in modern fashion. A collaborative effort between the Fashion Design Council of India and the Handloom School supported by retailer Good Earth showcased work by designers including Rohit Bal, Rajesh Pratap, Singh Suket Dhir, Raw Mango, Akaaro, Antar-Agni, Eka, Pero and Urvashi Kaur.

As Sunil Sethi, president of the Fashion Design Council of India, observed, the event dedicated to India’s handlooms and textiles did indeed make a “giant leap in the legacy to promote the homespun.”

Anita Lal, founder of The Good Earth Co., said, “We’ve never participated in fashion shows. But we realized that in order to popularize the concept of handloom it has to be seen as something desirable, something that has a certain appeal to younger people, which is why we did the fashion show and sponsored.”

Textile minister Smriti Irani, who was at the event, observed that the industry itself was going through an exciting transformation. “There was a time when the designers here were not sure of their legacy and tried to cut, copy and paste what they saw in Paris or New York fashion weeks. Suddenly for the Indian fashion industry to come its own and say that they are comfortable with the legacy and want to leverage handmade crafts of India, it’s exhilarating because you have affordable fashion, sustainable fashion and niche fashion,” she said.

There was a tribute on the first day as well. Madhu Jain marked 30 years of her label by also highlighting textiles. “My dream is to optimize India’s artisanal wealth and change the face of the handlooms sector,” she said.

Overall, Amazon India Fashion Week had more than 140 designers showing and 80 booths in the exhibition and buyer area. The collections themselves focused less on fit and more on comfort, emphasizing the feminine with layers and billowing sleeves. There were higher necklines and longer lengths in dresses and skirts, as well as long jackets and more statement embroidery.

Organized by the FDCI, the shows were held at the Jawaharlal Stadium once again, a venue that designers praised for its central location, accessibility and easy access to the exhibition space. Although the fashion week ran four days instead of the customary five, many designers said that didn’t diminish business. “We just had many more buyers come in with fewer breaks between appointments. It worked out well,” said Poonam Bhagat, who had a booth at the event.

Standout shows during the week included Samant Chauhan, whose show, called “Golden Threads of Assam,” used moga, a special silk from Assam. The show started from a personalized storyline based in Chauhan’s own childhood, inspired by the countryside seen through the prism of a train leaving from his native town of Sambalpur. Set at an off-site location at the Rail Museum in New Delhi, the collection included chic coats, jackets and ivory dresses with embroidered wheat stalks and corn plants. Leather luggage, a book with poems and illustrations describing the journey, and a flurry of postings on his social media sites showed an integrated approach.

“We use the West as a benchmark but that doesn’t apply here,” said designer David Abraham, “because for one, their seasons don’t compare with us. Where is the Western forecast going to work with Indian seasons, Diwali, weddings? So there is an inherent confusion.”

Where handlooms fit in is a part of this bigger picture, he said in speaking of the Abraham & Thakore collection, which focused on using pure Indian cottons that were either handwoven or hand printed.

The FDCI also partnered with the state of Jharkhand, which produces most of the country’s tussar silk, to put the spotlight on that fabric. Designer Shruti Sancheti, who showcased a collection with the textile, said sales of these weren’t restricted to the Indian market. “We have some very beautiful fabrics, and have deconstructed tribal and geometrical motifs, which are also selling well in international markets,” she said.

The finale emphasized the inspiration of the teacher-student relationship, with Tarun Tahiliani showing with his former student, Amit Aggarwal. Keeping his focus on ready-to-wear, Tahiliani drew inspiration from Mughal armour-inspired art. Aggarwal used fabrics like Benarasi brocades and Patola silk through his signature line of saris.

Two launches during the week garnered special attention, including the first global preview of Swedish retailer H&M’s Conscious exclusive collection and the launch of the first pret line by designer label Satya Paul with 100 styles in the collection, including 20 ensembles from designer Nida Mahmood. This immediately became available on Amazon Fashion, a nod to the see-now-buy-now trend.

The connection with Amazon as a ready market appears to be working for both sides.

“We took this on very early in our journey. If you see trends and the designer community that is here, it is awesome, it is a massive connect,” said Arun Sirdeshmukh, head of Amazon Fashion in India, speaking about the fashion week. “When it comes to trends and styles, it helps us with a forward view for trends in fashion. It gives us an opportunity to work with the best in the business when we work with a show like this.”

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