Lakme Fashion Week has always been at the forefront of encouraging young and aspiring designers to think out of the box and present something that they’ll be noticed for, and in turn, recognized. Lakme Fashion Week Winter/Festive 2019 was no different.
This year, debut designers were given a shot to be a part of The Platform program, in partnership with SmartWater. In this program, up and coming designers were given the chance to display their most innovative and unique designs on day four of the grand event on August 24, 2019, in Mumbai; participants in The Platform get the chance to be mentored by industry professionals for the opportunity to further their career. This year, there were three creative designers who had to adhere to a theme while showcasing how far they can push the fashion envelope. What was the theme, you ask? It was: #MadeDifferently.
While Lakme Fashion Week has always been about highlighting stylish fashion trends, the week-long extravaganza also asks designers to address issues in and around society, to rehabilitate some sort of change, through their pieces.
So, keeping that aspect in mind, the organizers of Lakme Fashion Week Winter Festive 2019 introduced the #MadeDifferently theme for this segment of the show, and here’s what the contenders came up with.
Shweta Gupta: “Verdant Valleys”
With a strong foundation in technique and fabric choices, Gupta’s label, SWGT, brought forward a collection called “Verdant Valleys,” focusing on the many shades of the season and the mesmerizing hills of Kumaon; you could expect a lot of rich and earthy tones from this one.
Keeping her designs completely zero waste, which means repurposing all her resources to turn them into various materials so there is no waste, Gupta managed to create notable and “fuss-free silhouettes” such as tunics and cotton shirts, as well as other relaxed clothing. What stood out the most was the pleating, smocking, thread work, and crochet details which were prevalent throughout the collection. The critics especially liked the smocked, rouched, long-sleeved blouse and black. It seems like “Verdant Valley” was a remarkable addition to this year’s The Platform segment.
Nanda is known to be fearless and experiment with design. Drawing inspiration from Banksy’s protege Mr. Brainwash, this year, “Follow the Heart” pop art imagery on every piece that we saw on the ramp. Nanda used digital prints and hand pleats, like a master, to complete each and every ensemble and her intricate work was obvious on stage.
She kept nothing from the pop art culture unseen as she introduced neon colors, graffiti art, as well as slogans like “Love Is Love” and “You Look Fine” on the garments as an added, quirky touch. Nanda even managed to present the theme of her collection in a broad sense by incorporating each one of her coveted elements into each piece, be it the midi pinafore, cropped mini jacket, the pantsuit, or the sheer dress.
So, how was Nanda’s collection #MadeDifferently? The materials she used were a combination of organza, woven silk, cotton, and recycled polyester.
If you saw Bansal’s designs from “Ambush,” then you know that they were certainly nothing less than eye-catching.
It’s hard not to focus on just a single aspect of the collection because everything was so notable and worth applause. The color choices were one of the first things that popped out for many; fiery reds, black, and hints of mustard were painted all over the ramp and you can tell that this year for Winter Festive, Bansal is hinting that you can tap into your darker side in fashion. He also played up the idea of layering — this was a uniform theme in both the men’s and women’s pieces he showcased.
Now, keeping in tune with the #MadeDifferently and sustainable fashion, Bansal showcased his pieces made out of Marine Plastic waste as well as recycled nylons.
These looks and designers really bring light to the idea that fashion can be fun as well as safe for the environment we live in. So, sustainable fashion, anyone? Take cues from these designers who showcased their brilliant work at Lakme Fashion Week Winter Festive 2019.
From humble beginnings, Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna joined forces to create the worldwide fashion design brand Rohit + Rahul. Based in one of India’s fashion capitals, Delhi, the two take an eccentric approach to designing by utilizing geometry and modern art to build their design lines. This is commonly seen in some of their more recent design lines such as the ‘Fibonacci’ line. Also, the founding members of the brand Fashion Design Council of India, Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna insert new meaning into fashion by telling a story to the younger generation. With their bold pieces, Rohit and Rahul want consumers to feel empowered and individualized.
Tell us about your journey and where it all started.
We began our design journey in 1997. We saw a significant gap in the global market between Western and Indian couture segments and [so] amalgamated our personal style statements to merge it with our conviction to cater to this deficit, and launched our brand. The brand stands for contemporary designs and embodies an aesthetic of understated red carpet creations. As designers, we believe in curating garments that are timeless and decorous. Also, we have entered our 25th year of creative partnership as an established designer brand.
Ten years from now we see our company with corporate backing, more evolved with exponential growth.
Which client are you most looking forward to working with?
The client we most look forward to working with is the youth of today. The younger audience is experimental and bold; they don’t shy away from trying new trends. We look forward to dressing clients who are ahead of their time, love to explore the world and understand our structure and silhouettes.
What was one of your favorite showcases? What was different about this showcase compared to the others you have had?
We embroidered our surface textures and did a presentation with masks which was quite unusual. Another interesting project we did was inspired by art which is the ethos of the brand. It’s our sublime passion for art that reflects in the thoughtful craftsmanship of our brand.
What was it like having a partner?
Two is a team and it is great fun working together. We take various aspects from each other’s lives and put those thoughts into our design process. We both are different personalities and critics of each other which helps us understand things better. The journey so far has been exhilarating and challenging too; we were a two-man army. Back then from managing designing to marketing, merchandising, and sales, all of it was managed by the two of us. Now, we have a team working alongside us which makes us feel we have come a long way.
What interests do you have outside of fashion?
Outside of fashion design, our interest lies in art. Our design inspiration is derived from art and architecture. The heritage and the vintage lineage of the city of New Delhi where we are based are what instill our passion for finesse and immaculate grandeur in the minutest of details. We have been successfully running our art gallery, Palette, which houses modern contemporary artworks of young and established minds alike.
Where did the idea for the Fibonacci show come from? What’s one of your favorite looks?
‘Fibonacci’ at its heart, is a nod to craft — both structural and artistic — where every piece is a study in precision. The collection brings together this iconic designer duo’s dedication to the study of structure in art and architecture, transferring these learnings to design. The idea of the Fibonacci show was inspired by the artist named Zaha Hadid, who is known for her liberated architectural geometry. Our favorite look is a mosaic sherwani which was recently worn by Indian megastar Ranveer Singh.
The Astral Gala line is inspired by stars and galaxies. It is a reflection of our love for the cosmic universe which is surreal. The line is inspired by the old-age divas from the retro era fused with new modern techniques of boning and construction.
What is your favorite type of clothing piece to design? Which clothing pieces do you find most challenging to design?
Constructed jackets are our favorite piece of clothing; we pay a lot of attention to our finishing and construction. Constructed pieces are the most challenging to design but it also gives us more room for experimentation. Also, heavy ornamentation/surface textures make the garments difficult to mold and sculpt hence, we face challenges with those garments.
It would be Billy Porter for his unique fashion sense.
What do you hope to take away from this interview with Brown Girl Magazine?
It is inspiring to connect with a global community-building publication like Brown Girl Magazine which reaches out to a huge audience. One of the key takeaways from this conversation would definitely be the power of storytelling and narration as an individual from the creative industry and its influence on the upcoming generation of designers.
How has the power of storytelling influenced your past shows and how do you plan to utilize it in your future shows?
Storytelling is a key aspect and we utilize our runway sets to showcase our brand ethos and the inspiration behind the collection. We showcased the Fibonacci collection at Couture Week last season. The collection was inspired by the movement that marries precision with an architectural penchant for precision, guided by nature’s invisible rule — the Fibonacci wave. The intricate set for the show was built by artist Akon Mitra by combining thousands of origami pieces that arched over a ramp to depict a wave in perfect mathematical proportion. The set design reflected the beauty of patterns defined by Fibonacci’s irrational number, where every pattern is uniform and built with clear lines and divisions.
What do you want people to feel when they wear your designs?
Brides and grooms should be comfortable and feel true to themselves when they choose to wear us. We want our designs to empower their true personalities and shine through on their big day!
Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna have taken a unique approach to fashion design not only utilizing storytelling to define the identity of their goal consumer, but also modern art to shape their clothing lines. The brand has been featured in GQ, multiple fashion shows such as Amazon India Fashion Week, and dressed famous clients such as Aishwarya Rai, Deepika Padukone, and many more. Rohit and Rahul aren’t just two fashion designers that came together; Rohit + Rahul is a team that gives you an identity with their design work.
While growing up in suburban Pennsylvania, with little to no outlet to connect with her desi culture, Simran Anand always strived to stay true to her Indian roots. Fashion, which is almost the easiest medium to incorporate his or her culture, is something she and her mom enjoyed exploring. “Beauty needs no ornaments,” her mom always says. Beauty is something that is innately within us, and we can only enhance it with desi jewelry or clothing, makeup, compliments or “ornaments.” That is one of her favorite quotes. It serves as a building block for her personal style and the nature of her brand.
As a fashion enthusiast, she often found herself scrolling through Etsy and Amazon to find the perfect desi accessories to match her Western outfits. While there were abundant options displaying intricate jhumkas to chand-balis, none quite matched the vibe she was on the hunt for.
And, what was that vibe?
“Versatile, indo-western, comfortable. I truly wanted pieces that reflect western minimalism and desi maximalism. I am on a mission to create the ‘desi girl aesthetic.'”
Where, oh where could she find those? Sure, the mini jhumkas are a cute addition to a Lucknowi kurta and jeans. But, what about putting a South Asian twist to the perfect white dress for your European vacation? Or, something minimal to pair with maximal Indian outfits?
That’s exactly when her ever-so-supportive fiancé encouraged her to make them! Desi jewelry that is made for both sides of our identities, South Asian and American, “because that’s who we are.” Easier said than done, of course. The quality had to be on par with the daily jewelry we are used to wearing. Since she wanted pieces that were wearable daily, creating jewelry that is nickel-free, tarnish-free, and hypoallergenic was the goal.
After countless hours of designing and kickstarting her brand, she received her first batch. Staying true to her mission of producing wearable desi jewelry, the original clasp on the jhumka was a bit too thick and that was something she was not “300%” proud of. Now, her pieces fit more like a “paper-like stud.” The material was one hurdle. The other ordeal was dealing with her imposter syndrome. Dealing with the fact that she started this venture, which to some, may seem like “just selling jhumkas” was something that she needed to overcome.
The universe has its way of having your back. “When I posted a video on TikTok, I literally woke up from a nap to see it go viral.” As the feedback came in, her confidence skyrocketed. “Every no is a yes you do not know about,” she promises. Sales started pouring in and Simran noticed that many felt the same need for such pieces as she did.
Months after her launch, Simran aims to build ‘BySimran’ stronger each day. Soon enough, she would like for it to be a household name and a lifestyle brand. We can definitely see her “Hailey Bieber Meets Desi Girl” jewelry brand on every girl’s aesthetic Pinterest boards.
If you are a mono-chrome girly like herself, get a white button-down basic shirt with some medium-washed high-waisted jeans, and pair them with some kitty heels and a matching purse. And, do not forget to finish the look with the micro-jhumka if going out for brunch or running some errands. If you’re getting ready for a dinner date, go for the baby jhumkas. Do not miss the Sapna anklets, which come in a pack of 2, the true desi way.
South Asian fashion is nearly always associated with color, glitz, and ornate designs. From embellished bridal wear, weighing as much as the bride herself, to brightly colored sarees, Indian craft and hand embroidery is hard to miss — except when it’s showing up in non-Indian clothing.
South Asian artisans, also known as ‘karigars,’ are the unnamed force behind a designer’s vision. They often reside in rural parts of the Subcontinent and have gathered skill, creativity, and knowledge over generations. During my travels this year, for the launch of my fashion brand Chaa Latte, I witnessed artisans train from as young as seven years old, mastering embroidery techniques by the time they’re in their teens. Crouched over a table in a dimly-lit room, these artisans work tirelessly to adorn yards of fabric with beautiful beads and sequins, or weave glistening gold yarn into silk and cotton with sometimes nothing more than their memory to guide the motif. Some of them have little to no education and have never stepped outside of their village. Yet, hand them thread and a needle and they are among the best embroiderers in the world.
Is Indian hand embroidery as prolific as French lace? I would argue yes, and maybe even more, but without the fame. Established brands and their collections have stood on the craft of these rural artisans for decades but have rarely given credit. Only few Western designers, such as Dries Van Noten and Isabel Marant, proudly celebrate their relationship with Indian craftspeople. Perhaps because of this nearly silent partnership, a label that says “Made in India” or “Made in Bangladesh” does not equate to beautiful, luxurious work — rather, the complete opposite. Fast fashion may be one output, but the true strength of South Asia lies in centuries of incredibly intricate, slow, and artisanal processes.
In a Times of India article, David Abraham of Abraham & Thakore — a well-regarded Indian label — eloquently says that we must recognize the fact that India is one of the very few countries left that can still produce small lot, labor intensive, highly-skilled craft and textiles.
He adds, “And that is the true luxury in a world of growing mass consumerism and an antidote to the very real threats of environmental pollution, global warming and a growing understanding that we need to buy less, pay more for fashion that is more timeless, classic and responsible.”
South Asia’s fashion identity is at a crossroads, and it’s up to designers, especially the younger generation, to build brands that showcase the luxury and painstaking craft of South Asian embroidery, weaving, and the various other hand techniques mastered over centuries. I launched my fashion brand, Chaa Latte, late last year because I believe the true beauty of South Asian fashion is in the subtle, intricate craft and this simply isn’t accessible to North Americans in a way that fits their lifestyle seamlessly. I was set on designing modern pieces for people of all backgrounds, who have a love for art in the form of fashion and have an eye for unique detail.
My first collection encompasses some of my favorite techniques and textiles from India and Bangladesh, including mirror work and silk handloom sarees. The detailing is balanced with simple silhouettes and a neutral color palette. I am now working on my second collection, which will be released in Spring/Summer of 2023.
Like me, many young designers are tapping into their unique heritage to draw inspiration and bring attention to the Western world. I had the pleasure of speaking to two fellow South Asian designers who are making a mark on the US fashion industry, while highlighting their love for South Asian craft. When asked about the role of traditional textiles and techniques in their work, Niharika of Tega Collective responds:
With each collection our designs are co-created with a specific indigenous community highlighting their traditional colors, patterns and natural symbols. Every region in the world has incredible biodiversity so we focus on championing native fibers in South Asia like Khadi (indigenous cotton) and Eri (peace) silk originating from Assam, India.
In a separate conversation with designer Sana Khan Patel, from Aara by Sana, she tells us how she was inspired to start her line:
When a family wedding took me back to my hometown of Lahore, Pakistan, after a long 18 years, I was blown away by the level of skill I saw in the gullys (streets) of Lahore. From fabric dyeing to intricate beading to the quality of tailoring, they did it all so effortlessly and with so much pride. I quickly realized that the artisans simply want to create art but unfortunately, in most cases they are overworked, underpaid and treated extremely poorly. I immediately knew that I wanted to work with and learn from these OG’s as much as I wanted to put them in a position of providing for their families.
It’s the hope that this recognition from up-and-coming brands, like Chaa Latte, will shed light into how much South Asia is truly lending to global luxury fashion and the rich history that makes these art forms unique to our countries.