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Why feathers will never go out of style

From Jared Leto to Janhvi Kapoor, celebrities across the world are experimenting with glamorous feathery ensembles 

From Falguni Shane Peacock's recent couture collection,  (Courtesy Falguni Shane Peacock)

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Blame it on the Gucci Aria collection, which features an array of feathered pantsuits, or the post-lockdown party exuberance, where fashionistas have succumbed to the allure of the lush plumage, but it's hard to overlook the use of luscious and tactile feathers this season. 

Let's rewind and look at the illustrious history of these appendages. Back in the 12th century, plumes became a staple in Italy. During the annual Venetian carnival festivities leading up to Lent, people would wear paper-mâché masks adorned with tufts to hide one's identity as all classes mingled together.

Also read | A Paris couture week lesson: minimalism can be a party-stopper

It was much later in the 20th century that the ethically produced feather trend became a mainstay. The swinging 70s and the outré 80s were marked by the look-at-me flouncy, feathery ensembles as the nightlife scene thrived. From Studio 54 to the stage looks of Elton John, Cher and Donna Summer, feathers became a key insignia of the decadent disco era. And it's not hard to understand why. Tufts instantly inject a degree of dynamism to the body.

More recently, the of-the-moment iterations of feathers have appeared in the 2019 and 2020 collections of Valentino, Marc Jacobs, Givenchy and Oscar de la Renta.

Alessandro Michele put it on the map in Gucci's centenary year and his muse Jared Leto has been sporting trouser suits with flocks of feathers embroidered on the jacket elbow patches and at times covering the entire sleeves.

While India has always been synonymous with zardozi and sequins, it’s interesting to see tufts percolating into our local occasion and bridalwear. Recently, actor Shraddha Kapoor was spotted in a pastel feathered Falguni Shane Peacock creation and Janhvi Kapoor was seen gracing the cover of a magazine in a feathered ensemble by Manish Malhotra. Style blogger Olivia Palermo was photographed in a fully feathered look from Giambattista Valli and Anthony Vaccarello's muse model Anja Rubik opted for a Saint Laurent marabou trimmed sheer and sparkly gown at the Met Gala. In the rarefied haute couture space, Chanel FW 21 presented a tiered dress embellished with ombre feathers and Valentino embroidered a wool sweater with feathers all over.

Designer Shane Peacock who presented feathered menswear five years ago at Lakme Fashion Week observes that each trend takes time to warm up. "We did a fully feathered, floor-sweeping cape in our debut menswear outing at the fashion week five years ago. Our approach to plumes was placement oriented and we trimmed the seams, cuffs and sleeves to make a subtle, but impactful statement. At London Fashion Week, we presented a cocktail dress with feathers below the bust. It's great to see that people and especially men today are open to experimenting," says Shane, who has clients requesting feathered looks in bridal ensembles. However, he cautions that it's a bold statement and the right attitude is important to pull it off.

"Feathers have always been synonymous with luxury and grandeur. A feathered, shimmery outfit instantly transports you to a fantasy world," he adds.

After almost two years of pandemic restrictions and the despondency we have all felt, the tide finally seems to be turning towards optimism. Payal Asnani, creative director, Cherie D, says, "People are ready to shake off their sombre tones and comfort wear to celebrate and this is reflected in their fashion choices. Feathers are associated with old world glamour. In fact, their first resurgence was in the Golden Age of Hollywood, right after the Great Depression. So similarly, we see clients ready now to embrace playful elements that make them feel feminine, glamorous and a little bit decadent."

But did feathers ever go out of style? Designer Neeta Lulla says feathers have always been an integral part of the red carpet dressing. "This season you see feathers making a visual impact like never before. I think it's here to stay. It's a great idea to embellish red carpet garments with plumage as they offer movement, a sense of magnanimity and also get photographed beautifully." 

The focus on feathers was zoomed right after the fur-free campaigns by various international labels. Designer Pria Kataaria Puri believes feathers aren't just about the party season, but can be worn all the year round. “From the embroidery done on the waist to the trimmings on the necklines, feathers are statement-making all around the year.”

Pria has toyed with them on the necklines, cuffs and belts in her kaftans. She adds, "A plume necklace can be worn with just about any ensemble under the sun."

Designer and stylist Eshaa Amiin observes that after fringe and tassels became a mainstay over the last two seasons, feathers are a refreshing change.

"You could use feathers as separates in bags, feather trimmed dresses, skirts, denims and jackets, gowns and feathers in the form of jewellery necklaces and earrings," she says. It's imperative that when wearing feathers, keep the rest of the look clean and minimal and only wear one feather item in one's look.

Designer Bennu Sehgal adds: “It's a vintage style of ornamentation that will never go out of style.” Sehgal suggests incorporating feathers in one's high street looks as accents. "For instance, as lapel trimmings of your coat or a feathered clutch," adds she.

Here's how you can take care of feathers

Feathers should be kept away from dust, light, and insects in pH neutral boxes, which can be obtained from businesses that sell archival storage materials.

Apt temperature for storage is 60 degrees Fahrenheit to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, with a humidity of 45 to 55 percent.

Handling of feathers should be kept to a minimum.

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