NEW DELHI — The silhouette is slowly changing at the fashion weeks in India, notably so at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week here.
The five-day event, which ran from Oct. 9 to 13, finished with a finale by Ashish N Soni, the red tinged multilevel stage with steps, raised platforms, vantage points and a live band stationed above, adding drama to the fit-and-flare silhouettes reminiscent of the Fifties. Soni’s passion for polka dots complemented the knee-length dresses, wavy hair, red lipstick and dapper tuxedo styles. There were black-and-white outfits for eveningwear and black tie-events in silk, satin and lace. Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor added a last bit of sizzle to the show.
The focus on Western styles wasn’t limited to the final show. They were an integral part of fashion week, from the first show by Masaba Gupta through the subsequent days. The earlier emphasis on heavily embellished designs with the festive and wedding season in India in mind appears to have turned a corner; now the focus seems to be on prints and more resplendent Western wear with embroidery and bling more restrained.
As Priyanka Modi of the design duo Ankur and Priyanka Modi observed: “That’s what most people are wearing now; it will and must” be reflected on the runway. Their show, inspired by tribal design, used a variety of materials including silk nets and simple silhouettes complemented by geometrical tribal jewelry.
“I think everybody has worked with bling and embellishments, including ourselves,” Priyanka Modi said, “but it’s time to move on. If you’re doing pret, then you have to do it fuss free, at more affordable price points.” The earlier collection from the duo took inspiration from pottery — and it’s true that prints can add drama to simple silhouettes, as in Anupamaa Dayal’s strong floral themes on the opening day of the week.
Other designers using prints to make strong statements included Nida Mahmood’s 100 years of Bollywood-inspired collection. Rahul Mishra, who won the Woolmark prize for the region, including India and the Middle East, continued to work on his inspiration from hand-woven materials, especially jamdani and bandhani.
“I feel that fashion is at its best when design disappears behind the product,” he said. “I love the opaque fabrics, the layering where things are not that clear.”
He observed that “fashion is all about being in the present — the now — but I wanted to combine it with craft that is age-old and see how we could collaborate with it to create something very simple for modern women.”
His desire to be “more sporty” was reflected in several collections, all veering toward less fuss, more print and cleaner silhouettes.
Niket and Jainee, another design duo, took this play of contemporary themes to work with denim. “I think the modern era is about denim. It’s a big initiative for us, with a focus on fusionwear, frills and short skirts,” said Niket. “We wanted to experiment with denim, and to show that it could work for festive occasions, and even to style a gown.”
Their final piece on the runway was denim combined with a sheer top layer and embroidery to give it a 3-D effect and a lot of detailing.
While prints took center stage during the week, there was also a play on more sporty silhouettes, including some that worked toward combining a sporty look with couture, like Amit Agarwal. The designer has participated extensively in global trade fairs and sells in stores across India, as well as in Europe and the Middle East.
There was a strong showing of business interest, especially from buyers from the Middle East.
“Our partnership extends beyond the runway,” said Atul Chand, divisional chief executive of ITC’s Lifestyle Retailing Business Division. ITC’s Wills Lifestyle is a title sponsor of the fashion week and has retail outlets in cities across the country. “We have tied up with Ashish [Ashish N Soni, who did the finale] to cocreate an exclusive collection for Wills Lifestyle stores, which will be retailed under the Wills Signature brand,” he said.