Celebrating its 15th anniversary in the industry, the FDCI-India Couture Week (ICW) 2022 was everything it promised to be. After a gap of two years, stalwart designers like Rahul Mishra, Tarun Tahiliani and J.J. Valaya returned to the physical runway, displaying their versions of Indian couture.
Much of the weeklong showcase was dedicated to Indian bridal wear. As designer duo Falguni Shane Peacock said in a recent interview with Lounge, “Couture in India is about the celebration of families coming together for weddings.”
It is true, most homegrown luxury labels cater to the Indian bride and groom. And it makes sense, considering it's a big business opportunity. According to a KPMG report, the wedding industry in India is worth $50 billion and expected to grow exponentially in the next few years.
Rooted in tradition, decadence and craftsmanship, wedding couture also allows designers ample opportunities to highlight their individual artistic creativity while creating Indian crafts.
The same was on full display at the ICW. Designers like Dolly J., Suneet Varma, Anju Modi and Varun Bahl presented an array of traditional pieces like saris, lehngas, kurta-pajamas and gowns in designs that are synonymous with Indian luxury. While it was all pretty, it wasn't something I hadn't seen before. As a post-millennial, who spends most of her day travelling the world and looking at gorgeous clothes and edgy trends—all through her phone (mostly, Instagram)—the show didn't wow me. Was I asking for too much? Isn't couture about pushing the envelope? I'm an avid thrifter accustomed to mixing multiple labels, fabrics and fashion genres. I couldn't quite catch up to these tried and tested runway looks.
One show that definitely stood out for me was Amit Aggarwal's. The exquisite designs and the way he played with Indian embroidery left me hopeful that we can look beyond chikankari and zardozi when it comes to couture. Designer Kunal Rawal's presentation was also great, as it showed how you can play with traditional menswear couture and create androgynous designs. Anamika Khanna took experimentation to another level when she presented patchwork co-ords, pantsuits, shear overlays and shredded bottoms. It was a refreshing departure from the wedding wear we are used to seeing.
Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna's Fibonacci at the ICW was like a breath of fresh air as well, especially with the way they brought elements of street style into couture. Trends like cut-outs, raised hemlines, corsets and shear bodice were beautifully merged with traditional silhouettes.
I wish there was more such experimentation, and we could proudly say that it was couture week and not bridal week. I understand that bridal wear sells but having at least one garment that shows a fresh approach towards couture would have been a nice change.
Perhaps one way to push the envelope could be designer collaboration. Internationally, collaborations between luxury maisons have become a common phenomenon. Remember when Fendi joined forces with Versace to create ‘Fendance’, the bespoke one-of-a-kind brainchild of Kim Jones and Donatella Versace? Or the more recent Adidas installation at the Balenciaga Cruise show? There is an undeniable allure to high fashion collaborations.
In India, collaborations between brands have remained subtle. Although Rahul Mishra collaborated with lenskart at ICW, the interaction between the two brands had little effect on the couture. In creating a collection together, labels exchange sartorial vocabulary. It's an exchange of power.
Maybe that's what Indian couture needs to get out of the sameness: a disruption that comes with the merging of two or more design heads.