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How fashion weeks took on the pandemic

Seasons don’t matter any more, as the fashion weeks held amidst the pandemic show, with designers aware of conscious consumption, affordability and their Indian roots

Gaurang Shah’s royal take at LFW2020

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Not too long ago, fashion weeks embodied the spirit of limited access—entry to shows were invite-only, clothes were pegged to a short-lived season and colours defined trends. Then the pandemic hit, forcing change. “One can’t talk about trends in terms of cut, colour and prints now, when conscious consumption and material literacy are in the limelight. Even the Lakmé Fashion Week has gone season-fluid,” says Ekta Rajani, creative consultant and stylist.

Rajani styled the runway looks for Rimzim Dadu and Hemang Agrawal; both designers were praised for re-imagining Indian wear with innovative fibres made with regenerated cellulose and metal at the Lakmé Fashion Week 2020, which ended last weekend.

Typically, October is fashion week season in India—and Delhi’s Lotus Makeup India Fashion Week Spring Summer 2021 (LMIFW SS’21) and Mumbai’s Lakmé Fashion Week 2020 Digital First Season Fluid Edition (LFW2020) were held on the third and fourth weekends of the month. Both were streamed live on Instagram at @fdciofficial and @lakmefashionwk, as well as on Facebook. The show videos are still available for viewing. This, and discounts on sales, went a long way in creating an accessible fashion week experience.

We focus on the highlights—and what made the clothes relevant.

Tarun Tahiliani’s wedding couture at LMIFWSS21
Tarun Tahiliani’s wedding couture at LMIFWSS21

Alternative textiles

The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of all carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping, and produces 20% of the wastewater globally, with textile dyeing the second largest polluter of water globally, reports an article headlined Putting The Brakes On Fast Fashion, published on UNEnvironment.org in 2018.

This month, a handful of designers at both fashion weeks chose to use regenerated fibres and alternative fabrics in the interest of conscious fashion.

At the LMIFW, designer Akshat Bansal’s gender-fluid collection used materials developed from marine plastic waste. He even created 3D animated versions of his garments to reduce fabric wastage.

At the LFW2020, Hemang Agrawal presented an Indianwear collection woven in Varanasi. But he replaced Banarasi silks with a fabric made from regenerated cellulose fibres extracted from cotton linter by the brand Bemberg. It’s the kind of design intervention that makes a little-known greener fabric relevant to Indian wardrobes.

Amit Aggrawal’s ‘leheriya’ sari at LFW2020
Amit Aggrawal’s ‘leheriya’ sari at LFW2020

The sari knows no borders

The sari got a global flavour. At Mumbai’s LFW2020, Rajesh Pratap Singh showcased white saris with black borders and ikat details on the pallu, while Amit Aggarwal used leheriya for sculpted saris that fit like a gown. At the LMIFW, Shivan and Narresh presented stitched saris with prints inspired by Gustav Klimt’s paintings.

The innovative Rimzin Dadu used steel fibre to create saris that fit like a second skin, with a pallu lit up by metallic detailing. “Dadu glocalised the Indian identity of the sari with an ingenious material that she discovered. Styling for her show was sheer joy,” says Rajani.

Amaare Couture’s menswear at LMIFWSS21
Amaare Couture’s menswear at LMIFWSS21

Affordable fashion

Buying designer wear at hard-to-resist discounted rates is a sure-shot way to make fashion more accessible. While multi-designer stores such as Aza, OGAAN and Ensemble have a sales section, it is a novel concept for fashion weeks. The Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI), the governing body of the LMIFW, announced an up to 70% discount for limited hours on its website immediately after the shows.

This initiative was first tried at the digital showcase of the India Couture Week in July. FDCI president Sunil Sethi was taken by surprise—clothes flew off the shelves in minutes. “Garments priced between 5,000-20,000 were hot-sellers in the first edition of these sales. This time, we have prêt or ready-to-wear garments which usually fall under 20,000. But couture collections had to be consciously marked down to ensure sales.”

péro’s doll-house inspiration at LFW2020
péro’s doll-house inspiration at LFW2020

Memories and cultural roots

At the LFW2020, Raw Mango’s show was an ode to Sanjay Garg’s home state Rajasthan. The designer’s digital video with folk music, the sights and sounds of a traditional wedding, captured the mood with saris, coordinated sets of kurtas with slim trousers, and lehngas with gota work. Pops of rani pink, ink blue and leaf green were reminiscent of small-town life in Rajasthan. It was a case study in translating seemingly traditional aesthetics for a contemporary wardrobe.

While Garg had a personal spin on nostalgia, another Rajasthani designer, Aneeth Arora of péro, had a completely different take, with a doll-house inspired video evocative of childhood tales, from Alice In Wonderland to Secret Garden. Fabrics like cotton, mashru and taffeta were used for easy-fit dresses, blouses, shorts, blouses and shirts that had playful detailing with French knots and embroidery.

Gaurang Shah’s LFW2020 show was reminiscent of a royal wardrobe. The saris were draped modestly, the borders were extra broad and the blouses, full-sleeved. It was a feast for handloom lovers, with uppada silks, patan patola, kantha and Parsi gara work and Kutchi embroidery. At the LMIFW, Tarun Tahiliani cast his eye on histories of the past for a couture wedding collection with lehnga sets embellished with minakari jewellery work and men’s sherwanis crafted from jamevar weaves. Each garment holds a story on Indian weaves and crafts.

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