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What the FDCI x Lakmé Fashion Week taught us about life

A year after covid-19 was declared a pandemic, designers reminded viewers that clothing can be about fantasy, comfort and, most importantly, hope

Bollywood actor Ananya Panday represents designer Ruchika Sachdeva during FDCI Lakme Fashion Week phygital finale in Mumbai on Sunday.
Bollywood actor Ananya Panday represents designer Ruchika Sachdeva during FDCI Lakme Fashion Week phygital finale in Mumbai on Sunday. (PTI)

Forty-eight hours before Bodice’s designer Ruchika Sachdeva presented her collection Ready. Set. Play. at the grand finale of the FDCI X Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai on 21 March, I asked her a question: What do you want people to feel after watching your show?

After a 10-second pause, she replied: “To feel at that moment. In the past year, we have gone through so much… we’ve felt so many emotions that we have forgotten to live in the moment. I just want people to stay in the moment with me... to just feel alive.”

Today marks a year of India’s first nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of covid-19 when everything came to a halt because of a contagious virus. A few weeks in, illness and economic insecurity had risen, dimming all hopes of a return to what we knew as a “normal” life. All industries and sectors were badly hurt. Fashion was the last thing on people’s minds. At a time when many were dying or losing jobs, it was hard to imagine a time when we would dress up again.

Social media had made us more aware of all that was long wrong with the fashion industry: stock overproduction, exploitation of cheap labour, increased carbon footprint. Some even went on to say covid-19 would sound the death knell for the fashion industry. It not only survived but came out more resilient, both globally and at home.

Take the recently concluded FDCI X Lakme Fashion Week. While many senior designers, including Tarun Tahiliani, Anita Dongre and Rahul Mishra (who presented at the Paris Fashion Week in February), chose to sit out of the fashion week, the six-day long event brought together the forces of Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) and Lakmé Fashion Week (LFW) for the first time, offering, in the process, many life lessons—from the importance of collaboration and tradition to the role of desire in our lives to the power of fashion to give us hope.

The show must go on

On 17 March, the day Anamika Khanna opened the fashion extravaganza with her collection Timeless The World (a tribute to Indian heritage), FDCI’s chairperson Sunil Sethi said, “We couldn’t have thought of a more fitting designer to kickstart the five-day joint ‘phygitial’ event—a Kolkata designer for a joint Mumbai and Delhi fashion week that truly sets the tone for a collaborative spirit of fashion.”

A similar collaboration was celebrated in Khanna’s collection: of casual comfort-meets-luxury wear, of arts and textiles. With the hand-painted visuals of artists Deepak Kumar Saw, Smriti Lekha Gogoi and Amlan Dutta who added their floral and abstract touches, Khanna showcased one-shouldered tunics, cropped blouses, asymmetrical skirts and double-breasted jackets, among others. “My collection is a homage to the fact that what is created will one day perish. What is left behind is legacy, and what matters most is what you do with it,” explained Khanna.

Reminding the world that “sustainability” can no longer be a mere buzzword, label Bloni’s Akshat Bansal, who was part of the emerging talent category, showcased a gender-neutral collection made using marine plastic waste textile. Blending tech-generated fabrics with hand-crochet and knitting techniques, the clothes in clean silhouettes “did not conform to any particular gender. It’s self-accepting, it’s self-informed,” said Bansal.

Ritu Kumar, too, displayed sustainability in the form of saris made using soya fabric. Her colourful collection, which blended modern minimalism with boho chic, included a variety of yarn dyes that brought in a bit of mix and match possibilities, from floral prints to patchwork, laces and intricate geometric designs.

The event also took the viewers inside a world where fantasy and celebration ruled. In their collection #SNSafari by S&N, brothers Shantanu and Nikhil offered uber-cool millennials asymmetric kurtas, cropped jacket shirts, open-cut sherwanis and structured shirts with Nehruvian details, T-shirts, sneakers and shorts—all inspired by the “notion of celebration on the move”, with earthy tones and unconventional silhouettes.

While Manish Malhotra celebrated the grandeur of a wedding with his bridal collection in shades of pinks, lilacs, blues, greys and whites, he also included “pandemic-life inspired” oversized jackets and colour-blocked lehengas. He described his collection as one “that sits firmly with the pandemic-induced preferences but also relatable to our aesthetics and our loyalists”, adding, “We need to rewrite the idea of design, which is not bound to a similar thread of uniformity.”

Masaba Gupta, on the other hand, took the viewers back to a time when people could dance, eat and sit together without worrying about their health. Her Summer 21 line, in collaboration with boAT, had flowing kaftans, easy breezy shirts, lots of cover-ups and a variety of separates with playful florals and animal motifs—all drenched in happy, vibrant colours.

Sachdeva of Bodice, which completes 10 years this year, too, used a lot of colours in her collection because “last year, I had been working without anybody's physical presence. There was too much silence, so I wanted to disrupt it. In life, we always strive to find a balance. As a brand, I want to disrupt my legacy. I want to grow my boundaries and horizons. After the dark year we have seen, we can use some colours. Actually, a lot of them.”

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