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Lotus Make-up India Fashion Week: Ace designers reinvent style for the covid-19 world

From Rajesh Pratap Singh to Namrata Joshipura, Lounge picks the best of the shows from day one

Rajesh Pratap Singh's collection, ''
Rajesh Pratap Singh's collection, ''

The Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) kicked off its Lotus Make-up India Fashion Week (LMIFW) Spring-Summer ’21 presentation on Wednesday. While the organization marked its India Couture Week (ICW) 2020 as the country’s first ever virtual fashion event in September, with designers presenting their collections as fashion films, the LMIFW is a “phygital” event, owing to its set up of a digital showroom for designers’ stalls and a retail platform for them to interact with buyers and merchandisers from across the world.

From the fashion film shows presented on day one, it appears that the collections were tightly curated and edited, with far lesser looks in number than usual and the absence of many Bollywood "showstoppers". Such trends were also evident in ICW 2020.

Lounge gives you the lowdown of the shows from day one of LMIFW S/S ’21:

Rajesh Pratap Singh's collection, ''
Rajesh Pratap Singh's collection, ''

Rajesh Pratap Singh captures the zeitgeist of the times

In a grassy field, with oxygen cylinders standing around, the designer’s collection was a mirror to the industry’s current, pandemic-induced condition. The nation-wide lockdown and the subsequent migrant crisis affected various craftsmen and artisans. Singh paid a tribute to the latter through the cylinders, named ‘O2 Baby’.

The collection was a contemporary take on Pratap’s classic styles, with a mix of modern separates and traditional staples, such as blouses, tunics, jackets, dhoti pants, shift dresses, angrakha and kediya jackets and lehngas. Their treatment ranged from bright stripes to crisp, abstract and asymmetric whites and bright pastel hues. These were accented with hand block-printed techniques and pintucks, which looked simple from afar but intricately detailed up close, on handloom textiles, glass cottons and silk satins. The styling was a smart lesson in colour-blocking. A gold shift dress with bell sleeves marked the collection’s peak. At the end, the line “Thank you to our karigars” resounded powerfully on the screen, a sentiment we all share.

A part of the sales proceeds have been committed to a foundation for supporting crafts persons displaced by the pandemic.

Vaishali S' collection, 'Janmaantar'
Vaishali S' collection, 'Janmaantar'

Vaishali S seeks a resurrection

From an opening shot of jostling crowds and flapping pigeons in front of the Duomo di Milano, the scene shifts to lush valleys, following a woman walking through the woods dressed in all green. It’s from that moment that anyone familiar with Vaishali Shadangule’s work can instantly recognize the label’s signature cord technique and abstract, asymmetric silhouettes.

Janmaantar, as the collection is titled, follows several other women like this, dressed in Shadangule’s manipulated clothing, wandering through the woods, lounging by a pool, or on swings, lying on the grass and everything else you can imagine little girls doing — except these are grown-up women. Their actions represent a yearning to return to nature and innocence, and the healing bonds are Shadangule’s clothes.

Apart from the cording, Shadangule has sculpted flora, foliage and natural landscapes from fabric as well as fungi-like creations, all on conceptual separates, such as blouses, skirts, trousers, and dresses. The textiles used are from across India; chanderi, khunn, Murshidabad silk, Maheshwari raw silk and more, of course, having used as many as 14 different weaving techniques.

The beauty of the Shadangule’s technique lies in its realistic appeal despite, or rather because of their raw, almost unravelling forms.

Dhi's collection, 'Mirror Me'
Dhi's collection, 'Mirror Me'

Dhi’s clothing is as simple as it gets

A relatively newer label on the block, Dhi, translating to "a thought" in Sanskrit, has built its design philosophy on creating sustainable clothes that are timeless and seasonless. Dhi uses zero waste techniques and uses Indian pattern-making skills to contemporise Indian silhouettes.

Their collection, Mirror Me, was functional enough to get through the pandemic’s "waist-up" dressing trend. The models walked languidly through a white set, with odd home objects like chairs and a dressing mirror.

The silhouettes were relaxed and comfortable, even “stoic” or nondescript, as they rightly described it themselves, rendered as billowing dresses with slight embroideries, pleated waistlines, shift dresses with mandarin collars, tunics with asymmetric hemlines and jumpsuits and dress-sleeves with smocking. The attention to tailoring was sharp, crisp and clean.

Fabrics such as organic cottons and handspun khadi made the clothes simple and wearable at home, while being minimalist. The colour palette, ranging from muted neutrals to pastels to navy, also exuded a sense of comfort. The pieces are versatile and can be paired with almost anything in your existing wardrobe.

Nitin Bal Chauhan's collection NAEVUS.
Nitin Bal Chauhan's collection NAEVUS.

Nitin Bal Chauhan revisits Indian history

Chauhan’s collection NAEVUS was inspired by the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919. While it might seem far removed from our present realities, it made for dramatic storytelling that tied the mediums of film and fashion together.

Models with dramatic make-up and accessories were dressed in exaggerated versions of the British Army’s uniform — red jackets with puffed sleeves, Victorian collars and cuffs and Chauhan’s signature 3D embroidery, reminiscent of bullet belts, all subtle colonial references combined with military-inspired detailing. There was even a chain-mail like dress, probably signifying an armour.

After the visualised massacre, the uniforms turn into jackets and trouser sets with soft tones of nude featuring artworks of screaming, glaring and deathly faces, done by the designer, a reminder of all the lives lost. These outfits were textured with grunge-inspired detailing and, again, military-inspired styles, but with detailed hand embroideries.

Payal Jain's collection, 'Holy Script'
Payal Jain's collection, 'Holy Script'

Payal Jain’s spiritual awakening

From Kashi to Sarnath to McLeod Ganj, Jain finds inspiration in the religious cultures of northern India for her collection Holy Script.

The footage of her work is serene, with models floating on water with flower petals on them, wading through shallow pools in wispy garments, vividly and vibrantly coloured.

These are mostly dresses crafted from blends of cotton and silk chanderi, organza and munga, and are accented with textiles with traditional techniques of jacquard, such as katrauan and kadua, or woven in silk yarns, which float into sheer, diaphanous silhouettes that float fluidly. The colour palette is inspired by traditional Buddhist thangka paintings, in bold hues of vermillion, lapis, emerald sulphur yellow, and is rendered in blob-like paint strokes.

Namrata Joshipura's collection, 'Circle Back'
Namrata Joshipura's collection, 'Circle Back'

Namrata Joshipura: Ready to party again

Joshipura — one of the first Indian designers to combine the aesthetics of luxury and sport — ended the day with her collection, Circle Back.

If there’s one quality you can expect from her, it is drama. Borrowing contemporary silhouettes, Joshipura added her signature style of elevating them with stunning embellishments and accents. The first look itself, a cape jacket, seemed as though it was floating with feathered plumes.

The designer also rendered tiger stripes, but in complex pearl embellishments that lent a sophisticated vibe to the otherwise usually feisty-looking animal print. There is a quietude in her vision of luxury. Paired separates are crafted from denim, slip dresses slinked in beaded fabrics, and loosely tailored blazers and shorts with the tiger prints. There were crop tops paired with slinky trousers, and the accessories included stylish visors and bucket hats.

The colour palette was a classic monochrome, along with pale blue denims and shiny metallics. The message was clear: Joshipura’s ready to head out and party again.

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