Jean Paul Gaultier 2007, Hermes 2008, McQueen 2008, Dior 2009, Louis Vuitton 2010, Chanel 2012, Stella McCartney 2015; all international design houses and in the instances mentioned, all with one thing in common—India.
Reinterpreted saree dresses, bejewelled jackets, Ikat weaves, paisley prints, motifs of Indian deities; an endless list of catalysts to propel that creative streak, India has been, for many years now, a must-visit on fashion pioneers’ itineraries. But at home, there has always been an aspirational tendency towards western fashion, be it silhouettes, patterns, or even colours. That is, until a few years ago..
Look around and you see a growing love for India’s textile heritage. Designers like Rahul Mishra, Sanjay Garg, Abraham & Thakore, Aneeth Arora, amongst others are all changing the way traditional Indian textiles are perceived and worn. While till a little less than a decade ago, the argument would have been that clientele for these designers is limited (an argument that still holds true in parts), today the fashion landscape has undergone a metamorphosis of sorts.
A quick online search, and you will be left amazed by design talent that is questioning the status-quo, adding new, unique perspectives to the mix, and reintroducing their clients to the versatility of Indian textiles and drapes. Pune, with its young energy and creative exuberance, has its own share of home-grown design innovators, who are responsible for the city’s style evolution.
Meet Nikita Sharma, co-founder of UpsideDown, a Pune-based couture design label. Nikita comments, “As a label, we don’t believe in fast fashion. Our clothes are easy going. We experiment with tie and dye, explore different Indian embroideries, and work with earthy fabrics which are suited to Indian weather, exploring western and Indian patterns, for men and women both.” Ask her about how people are embracing this new wave of design and she says, “Bohemian, easy-going style is in. The uptight attitude towards fashion, where certain colours or patterns were preferred and heralded, is being eliminated. There is more awareness of our own fashion heritage. Indian style is about colours and diversity. That is our calling card. And people are proudly exhibiting that.”
Pune-based designer Sukhada Chavan founded Montage to develop sarees inspired by Indology. Her designs, for both, every day and formal wear, reflect Indian history, culture, and philosophy. Sukhada says, “There is a growing interest in Indian fabrics, and awareness. When I was studying, I had no clue what Pochampally was. Now people know the difference between an Ikat and an Ajrak. It also helps that the styles popular today like anti-fit silhouettes, bell sleeves, maxi dresses, complement Indian fabrics perfectly.”
Prod her about what she thinks fuelled this interest and she mentions social media campaigns like the textile-ministry-initiated #iwearhandloom and the #100sareepact. She adds, “Women are experimenting with the way sarees are worn, substituting blouses with crop tops and sweaters, and draping sarees over jeans or shorts instead of the traditional petticoat. Experimentation has led the way.” Both, Nikita and Sukhada also hail this revived interest in Indian fabrics and drapes among fashion aficionados for benefitting handloom weavers and putting the spotlight on sustainable fashion.
Indian fashion is undergoing a transformation that has evidently a social, cultural, and economic impact. We have travelled back in time, embraced our past, and it certainly looks like a bright and colourful future. Fellow fashion lovers, this time in the name of Indianness, let’s give the fashion cycle a rest, shall we? We could do with this being an eternal affair.