Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week caught us a little off guard. We must admit that we were largely ignorant of South Asian fashion prior to seeing these collections, but walked away enlightened and truly impressed. Unlike other Fashion Weeks, celebrities featured prominently in many of these collections, as Bollywood actors and actresses, as well as cricket players, worked the runway for some of the heavyweight designers. Not every collection featured the saturated, vivid color palette we’ve come to expect from Indian designers, and there was a conspicuous absence of traditional saris and shalwaars, as Indian fashion has been evolving towards a style that is informed by an increasingly global perspective. That’s not to say that Indian designers have veered away from the handiwork techniques for which they’ve been revered. From these collections, it’s evident that they’ve chosen to build upon those centuries-old techniques, such as beautifully intricate beadwork and fluid draping, and apply them to contemporary designs that would be at home just about anywhere in the world. The collectons ranged from floor-sweeping Oscar-style evening gowns, party dresses befitting the hotspots of South Beach, and Japanese influenced avant garde numbers. Here's a quick primer on some of the Fall 2008 collections.
Falguni and Shane Peacock recently showed at LA Fashion Week. Their luxury resortwear for the young, spirited jetsetter included bright zebra prints in sheer chiffons, which evoked the feel of glamorous, warm-weather vacation destinations.
Award winning graduates of NIFT Delhi, Alpana and Neeraj joined forces in 2004 and have since been creating contemporary looks that seem as if they’d be perfect for young starlets. Their Fall 2008 collection featured edgy yet feminine dresses with just the right dose of modern sex appeal.
The use of explosive color in Manav Gangwani's collection really tickled the senses. A fashion industry veteran, Gangwani’s lavishly embellished designs are sold in boutiques from London to Hong Kong. In recent years, he has branched out to include a menswear line. A standout from his Fall 2008 collection included a strapless gown concocted out of seemingly endless layers of chiffon that fell like an elegantly draped sari, paired with a bright orange jacket with ballooning sleeves.
It’s easy to see why Rina Dhaka’s modern designs are beloved by international celebrities (she counts Uma Thurman and Naomi Campbell as admirers). She’s been in the game since the late 80’s and has been a recipient of the prestigious Yuva Rattan award. For Fall 2008, she sent a delicate chiffon dress down the runway (or "ramp" as it's called in India) topped with a silver-grey shantung jacket embellished with colorful embroidery.
JJ Valaya's collection was pure haute couture. Highly regarded as one of India’s top talents, his designs have an unmistakably regal air about them. The Valaya umbrella has expanded to include multiple labels, including a diffusion line as well as a home collection. For Fall, he sculpted dramatic, voluminous shapes out of silk and tulle.
Manish Arora is a fashion icon in India. A real showman, his shows are truly an awe-inspiring spectacle reminiscent of Alexander McQueen. He’s the only Indian designer to show regularly at Paris Fashion week. He sent models down his Fall 2008 runway in cage-like masks that called to mind futuristic felines.
Ritu Kumar masterfully fuses ancient Indian techniques, such as block printing, with a contemporary aesthetic, paying sharp attention to silhouette and drape. She has a firm grasp of what it means to honor tradition while remaining relevant and interesting in today's ever-changing fashion scene.
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