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Why the men’s asymmetrical ‘kurta’ is still going strong

The style trend first caught on five years ago—but does it now need a tuck and a nip?

Antar-Agni's Saint Kurta (Courtesy: Antar-Agni)
Antar-Agni's Saint Kurta (Courtesy: Antar-Agni)

The last four-five years have seen the asymmetric design trend become a menswear wardrobe staple.

Classics, such as the kurta or jacket, have been reinterpreted continuously, be it through the age-old angrakha’s overlayers or the modern gathered drapes and angular hemlines. The designs have become ubiquitous, executed in multiple permutations and combinations.

If designer Ujjawal Dubey’s label, Antar Agni, uses plain, handwoven textiles to craft simply striking silhouettes, designer duo Shantanu & Nikhil craft detailed and embellished versions, combining both fluidity and linearity. Like several large brands and independent labels, these two popularised the asymmetric design in the mid-2010s.

Today, it has become a defining characteristic of the “Indo-Western” category of clothes, versatile enough to be paired with traditional pyjamas as well as jeans. The kurta’s mass popularity goes beyond seasonal collections.

Lounge reached out to two designers and two stylists to understand if this trend will stay the course. Edited excerpts:

Sandeep Gonsalves, co-founder, Sarah & Sandeep

The mindset behind opting for that style comes from wanting to stand out from the ordinary. For shoppers still familiarizing themselves with style trends, this trend is a unique variation from the classic, symmetric style that they are used to. From a menswear perspective, it’s a great design alternative. It’s still popular, because people usually opt for the classic sherwani to showcase its embroidery surface embellishments, but those with a more minimalistic outlook look at these angular, silhouette-based signature details.

Of course, my perception comes from knowing what my clients might go for but I think the trend will continue. We have been incorporating those styles in our collections because we see the requirement from our customers. I do recommend it be implemented as a subtle detail, so that even a simple outfit looks experimental and not mundane. There are also clients who have said that these details are a bit too much for them, almost too artsy or feminine, but that’s how the traditionalists are. The fact that it’s so over-represented in designer collections now has helped it become a little more mainstream.

Divyak D’Souza, freelance stylist

The asymmetric kurta is such a deviation from the norm. The otherwise classical garment has been worn historically and is such a key silhouette in Indian menswear, and can be worn casually and festively. It’s an interesting way to play around with the traditional silhouette, but having said that, you need to make sure that you aren’t wearing it for the sake of wearing it.

The way Ujjawal Dubey designs the trend has a nomadic vibe to it, somewhere between safari-chic and Bedouin-mood in the fabric and colour palette. It’s that rustic, half-finished quality. It defines that new voice of luxury where you don’t have to shine and sparkle, but opt for a washed-out and lived-in style. Personally, that’s how I would like to wear asymmetrical styles in kurtas, because the outfit tells a story and has a mood, more than being a trend that’s hot right now.

Another example of someone who does it in a very different way is designer duo Shantanu & Nikhil. Their styles of pleating and draping involve adding more fabric to the otherwise stiff and structured silhouette of a bandhgala. The aesthetic balances out fluidity with structure.

I don’t think that it being a trend is a bad thing, but it depends on the kind of story you want to tell.

Sarah & Sandeep's Black Kurta (Courtesy: Sarah & Sandeep)
Sarah & Sandeep's Black Kurta (Courtesy: Sarah & Sandeep)

Ashish Soni, designer

The trend might have started off as a fad, with just few designers experimenting with it, but it definitely has grown into a widely-accepted consumer-driven trend more than a design-driven one. Looking at the last five years, not every designer was experimenting with it, but the last few seasons have had us adapt and have our own take on it and make our own versions; some subtle and some over the top.

It’s interesting because very rarely are trends very strongly driven by the consumer. And, in this instance, the trend was driven more so by high-street labels and their permutations and combinations of that style, after the initial experimentation by independent designers. The trend became so mass that designers had to innovate and create their own styles. Usually, it’s the other way around, when designers create a trend and it trickles down to the masses through the high-street brands.

In that sense, I am quite a believer of the classic style, but having said that, I had to make my own versions of the trend in the last couple of years because the consumer wants something not-so-classic—but I have made them in a restrained manner.

It’s indicative that the consumer has become more adventurous, taking on asymmetry in more than one way by layering them.

Ojas Kolvankar, freelance stylist

I still feel that there is very limited experimentation with the asymmetrical kurta. Only in dressier designs does such experimentation take place, but when it comes to more traditional clothing, such as angrakhas, the trends seem to be too classic and similar.

Making the kurta asymmetric seems to be the easiest and safest option but we need to be pushing more boundaries there because so many silhouettes remain under-represented. When Sabyasachi made his angrakhhas for men, they were so androgynous and voluminous. Even the Gujarati kediya jacket can be experimented with, it is a traditional staple. Rajesh Pratap Singh’s work with brocade and zardozi resulted in some lovely angrakhhas as well.

So, there are ways through which silhouettes can be pared down to not be flashy, but they still need to be made popular and mainstream.

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