Changing times call for changing ideologies, and championing the same are fashion designers and brands worldwide who are harnessing the power of the digital realm in full force to cater to the evolving consumer and market needs.
Joining in on the brigade unleashed by the Parisian takeover of international couture showcases, the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) has taken a bold yet defining step into the digital space with India’s very first digital India Couture Week.
Spread across 6 days (18-23 September 2020), the 13th edition of India Couture Week saw 12 path-breaking Indian couturiers showcase unrestrained virtual identities and depict their magic on the small screen.
The impressive line-up of designers included Amit Aggarwal, Anju Modi, Dolly J, Falguni Shane Peacock, Gaurav Gupta, JJ Valaya, Manish Malhotra, Rahul Mishra, Reynu Taandon, Shantanu & Nikhil, and Suneet Varma. Menswear maestro Kunal Rawal showcased at couture week for the first time.
Accompanied by fully choreographed short film videos, live streams as well as lookbook shots of each of the looks created for their respective collections, each designer presented their Couture 2020 collection in their own unique way — specific to their label’s persona.
In keeping with the new reality, FDCI has taken prompt strides for a robust digital transformation, thereby enabling designers to reach tech-savvy audiences by exploring interesting ways of showing collections and communicating their designs.
The designers’ couture films/videos and supporting content went live on a pre-set show schedule, emulating the format of a physical event on FDCI’s digital platforms including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and its website.
Here’s looking at the top designers who stood out in terms of collection, delivery and concept…
An organic extension of his Paris Haute Couture collection ‘Butterfly People’, Rahul’s latest couture offering at India Couture Week aims to uphold the brand’s core values by continuing employment opportunities for kaarigars (hand embroiderers and tailors) and local craftsmen amidst COVID-19.
The first Indian designer to have showcased at Paris Haute Couture Week, Rahul is known to champion slow fashion with traditional Indian crafts by furthering the philosophy of the 3 E’s – Environment, Employment, and Empowerment.
Titled ‘Lotus Pond’, the collection symbolises hope and optimism for a better future. It features both womenswear and menswear pieces, and stands as an ode to the evolving ecosystem of aquatic plants, fish, planktons, dragonflies and butterflies – all brought together by the sublime lotus.
Details such as mirror work, French knots, three-dimensional patchwork embroidery, and sequined embellishments in a myriad of bright, happy colours lend a much needed respite from the current dim times.
Having mastered the art of millennial men’s dressing, Kunal forays into the world of couture with his first ever digital showcase.
Titled ‘Hide and Seek’, his 100-piece collection is an addition to the label’s occasionwear line — highlighting deeper nuances and detailing demanded by a couture garment.
The legacy of traditional Indian crafts and handwork detailing come alive in Kunal’s comfort luxury clothing with a special emphasis on techniques such as their signature tone-on-tone embroidery and French knots that lend a three-dimensional visual appeal to the pieces.
Details such as body contouring, deconstruction, mock layering, functionality, versatility, and sharp cuts that shape the body to achieve a clean and lean look are a mainstay of the collection. Standout styles include cropped jackets, mixed media fabric applications, body cheat patterns, asymmetrical hems, and print pattern play that focus more on technique rather than fuss – something that the men of today prize over all else.
Falguni & Shane Peacock
Staying true to their brand ethos, the designers extend their design prowess by infusing traditional Indian craftsmanship with contemporary techniques in their latest couture offering.
The collection features bespoke bridal couture and occasionwear for men in the hues of classic Indian reds, ivories, and pastels. Details such as feathers, Swarovski crystals, pearls and risqué necklines lend an opulent vibe to the collection.
Though the collection is high on commercial appeal, the concept behind the film falls flat as the couturiers aim to take the audience behind-the-scenes with a fashion film titled ‘Spectacle Privé’ which translates to an opportunity to experience something before it is officially presented to the public. The duo fail to highlight the craftsmen, tailors and kaarigars that constitute a major part of such a concept, which would have further strengthened its appeal to the public, especially given the current conditions surrounding migrant workers and skilled labourers in the country.
Shanatanu & Nikhil
Far from the idea of a dying craft hit by a global pandemic, couture re-strengthens itself through a new vision by the acclaimed couturiers.
Titled ‘The Resurgence’, the duo’s latest couture collection reinterprets Shantanu & Nikhil classics, bringing back the opulence associated with their design journey.
The designers find power in metallic influences, Goth applique and classic zardozi to redefine structure and linearity that is signature to the label. A subtle romance is reconstructed using fluid drapes and godly architecture symbolic of a ‘beacon of hope’ in these hard times. An abundant usage of metallic gold and sheen goes well with their contemporary sense of aesthetic and decadence of the collection bringing their interpretation of the neo-luxe bride and groom centrestage.
The collection scores high on lazer-cut techniques, drapery, and three-dimensional gold and silver metallic detailing which lends a fierce yet bold look which has long been regarded as one of the label’s USPs.
Indian veteran designer JJ Valaya continues his extravagant style in this Ottoman inspired winter collection named after ‘Bursa’, a city which holds a special place in Ottoman history as their founding capital, and also as the birthplace of Ottoman architecture.
Valaya’s first-ever digital collection holistically reflects the usage of burnished metallics and golds that impart an antique aesthetic to the garments, sitting against delicate and intricate craftsmanship.
Swarovski crystals, silk threads, beads, pearls and age-old Zardozi are intricately sewn into the gentle folds of fine silks and velvets, lending a nostalgic yet royal resonance to the collection.
Researched inspirations for this year’s collection include the famed Ottoman silks, the nomadic kilims from the period, Ottoman miniatures known as ‘Taswir’, the art of ‘Tezhip’, (meaning ornamenting with gold), a non-figurative painted or drawn decorative art in books or on a sheet, as well as jewels from the Ottoman Empire including the ‘Topkapi’ palace jewels, which are revered amongst the largest such treasuries in the Islamic world. Details of Turkish armour, especially the quills used then, as well as a medley of Turkish flora, fauna and fruits further enrich this year’s collection.
A commercial success, the collection features 48 pieces for men and women, and revolves around three key silhouettes – The Lehenga, The Sherwani, and The Sari, along with the label’s latest addition: the IKA jacket, which is a younger sibling to ‘Alika’ – one of the label’s cult and iconic jackets, which people can configure for themselves on-screen, signifying a decadent feast and emotional high for onlookers and patrons.
We give 100 points for the feature film which is able to aptly communicate the legacy of the JJ Valaya brand, as well as the opulence of the period quoted as inspiration.