There is a cliched ‘joke’ that does the rounds every year when the holiday list comes out, “Agar hume saare Indian festivals ke liye chutti milti toh hum kabhi kaam nahi karte,” (If we got a holiday for every Indian festival, we would never work).
That comment unfailingly gets me to roll my eyes. But there’s some amount of truth there. Thanks to its cultural diversity, India celebrates many festivals and we don’t probably know half of them. How many festivals could you name if you were asked to recount Indian festivals? We all know the big ones; Diwali, Holi, Christmas but what about the ones that get lost because there’s only one state that celebrates it?
How many festivals could you name if you were asked to recount Indian festivals? We all know the big ones; Diwali, Holi, Christmas but what about the ones that get lost because there’s only one state that celebrates it?
April is one of those months where we Indians have a lot of regional festivals being celebrated; from Vishu in Kerala, Puthandu in Tamil Nadu, Pohela Boishakh in Bengal, Baisakhi in Punjab to Bihu in Assam. And despite all of them being celebrated around the same time, this is never really referred to as festival season. A call from my editor got me thinking. We deck up to the tee for festivals that get the whole country in the festive spirit, but what do we do for these smaller festivals? How are we adapting traditional attire to our modern-day, cosmopolitan lifestyles? And so, I asked around.
A call from my editor got me thinking. We deck up to the tee for festivals that get the whole country in the festive spirit, but what do we do for these smaller festivals? How are we adapting traditional attire to our modern-day, cosmopolitan lifestyles? And so, I asked around.
Namrata Ramkumar, designer and co-founder of Kallista and a Malayalee, thinks of Vishu as more tradition than celebration. There’s a three-point narrative that all Mallus (yours truly included) reiterate—wake up at the crack of dawn, pray to God, and get money from your elders. But does that tradition extend to the clothes as well? Says Namrata, “You could choose to wear the traditional kasavu saree but mix it up a little. Having a white and gold colour combination gives you an almost blank canvass to experiment with.
In the past, I have designed a collection which used the white, gold-bordered fabric but reinterpreted it with Mughal architecture-inspired embroidery, Chanderi additions, gota work, etc. We designed easy-to-wear churidar kurtas which also made it more comfortable to wear.”
And comfort seems to be lowest common denominator in any outfit we are picking out today. The resurgence of Indian wear in its Indo-western (but more Indian) avatar seems to be key to this. No more is wearing a long kurta over jeans a fashion gaffe (thank you Anushka Sharma from ADHM), and dresses made from Indian fabrics have become all the rage. It’s about embracing your roots but without the bling that normally defines Indian festive wear.
Wedding planner and blogger Amritaa Khurana agrees. “Baisakhi,” she says, “is a harvest festival which in Punjab, is celebrated in open fields with men and women decked up in finery, dancing the Bhangra and Gidda. In metros, we have toned down the celebrations to visiting the Gurudwara and partaking in community langar. The outfits are what you would wear every day, maybe slightly more festive, but it is more about being comfortable than anything else.”
Festival or no festival, we are increasingly opting to wear clothes that are comfortable yet sartorially forward.
It’s a rare combination that is defining the current crop of design talent and one that personally, I am all in favour of.