Lakme Fashion Week 2020: Midway through the first-ever digital edition, a round-up of the best shows yet

Swareena Gurung
·5-min read

The five-day Lakmé Fashion Week opened on 21 October with designers like Abhraham & Thakore, Payal Khandwala, Suket Dhir, Rimzim Dadu, Urvashi Kaur, and Sanjay Garg marrying traditional techniques with individual aesthetics. In the time of social distancing, as the fashion world takes measured steps towards a sustainable future, here's what the picture looked like for the first-ever digital Lakmé Fashion Week on Day 1, 2 and 3:

Day 1

All About India €" A craft journey across the country

Indian fashion's most pressing need right now is to conserve its craft ecosystem €" one that relies on kaarigars, many of whom find themselves in volatile situations. The fashion film All About India €" a collaboration with the NGO Creative Dignity €" marked the initiation of a long-term project that seeks to promote craft clusters across India. It brought together six designers, who each worked with an Indian craft-form to present four looks:

Payal Khandelwal interpreted jamdani techniques from West Bengal through her vivid, colour-blocked saris. Rajesh Pratap Singh's saris for Satya Paul (Puttapakka Ikkats from Telangana) played with geometric prints €" like a monochrome bordered one styled with a polka-dot shirt-blouse. Anavila Misra's collection, named after the Sanskrit word for 'rainbow', incorporated linen and khatwa from Jharkhand, and introduced some much-needed lightness through colour and delicate embroidery. Suket Dhir did what he does best €" structured suits in rich Banarasi brocade. Urvashi Kaur's trenches and loose garments combined Japanese shibori with tie-dye techniques from Haryana and Rajasthan, and in their earthy tones, captured the austerity of the moment. Last, Abraham & Thakore's beige and gold-toned collection integrated block print techniques from Uttar Pradesh, and featured polka dots in different dimensions.

Shot in eerily deserted spaces of the St Regis Hotel in Mumbai, amidst the disorderly scattering of chairs and abandoned construction materials, the film reflects a world in disarray. While the collections themselves are important conversation-starters about indigenous crafts, the film leaves us wanting. A more enhanced focus on the clothes would have been nice as one would've been able to see the voluminous skirt of a Suket Dhir suit or the entirety of the Urvashi Kaur dresses without having to wait for the press photos.

Raw Mango €" Rajasthan in fashion and film

By now, most of us are tired of home. Sanjay Garg isn't. When home for the Raw Mango designer is Rajasthan, how can he be? His latest festive collection, Moomal, is inspired by the rich dress traditions, architecture, and crafts of his home-state. Garg closed the first day of LFW by showcasing this collection through film, staging €" quite splendidly €" a Marwari marriage, shot in Shekhawati over 15 days.

Since Garg began in 2008, he has perfected a design formula, the catalysts of which are Pinterest-savvy 20-year-olds and middle-aged art curators alike. Moomal presents tropes that are familiar and well-loved: clean tailoring, colour blocking, vivid brocades, and a restrained luxury that diverges from the florid templates of contemporary Indian festive-wear. And yet, he introduces Rajasthani bandhej techniques for the very first time in his saris and lehengas, along with gota-patti work by way of embellishment.

Raw Mango is less known for its lehengas than its saris, but this time around, the focus is on the former. It is the lehenga, Garg explains in his film, that has been the daily garb for generations of Rajasthani women. In the film, they are modelled by actors and friends €" his sister Prerna Garg plays the bride €" as they dance in circles in celebration, pose in hallways and bedrooms. One wonders if the film also ends up as a reminder of female communal rituals and spaces that €" for many housewives €" would have been encroached upon, during the mandated home-isolation.

It's a collection and a film to remember. Thankfully, for all the right reasons after Raw Mango's misguided Kashmir collection last year.

Untitled design (3)
Untitled design (3)

Snapshots from Sanjay Garg's festive collection, Moomal

Day 2

Péro €" A pretty respite

Trust Aneeth Arora's Péro to intervene with its joie de vivre when high fashion is wont to take itself too seriously. In the brand's Locked in Love film, nine girls are locked up in their colourful, doll-house rooms. Bored with hardly anything to do, they eventually discover ways to be with each other and find joy in company.

Wallpapered rooms, flounce dresses, lace-trimmed peignoirs, embroidered robes, gingham, pastels, beribboned hairstyles with fun barrettes, satin bows, and lots of flowers €" the collection, to put it plainly, makes one smile.

Behind the fun, though, is serious workmanship. Arora was inspired by the doll-like Japanese street style culture of Harajuku fashion, and reimagined her garments using Indian textiles: Mashru, gabardine and taffeta sourced from South India; sheer, lightweight, stripes woven in Varanasi; and cottons and linen strips exclusively woven by over 500 artisans in Chanderi, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal. The playful petal embellishments were painstakingly laser-cut and hand-folded, and all 3D embroidery was meticulously hand-made.

The garments could fit in anywhere around the world, but their foundation €" their nuts and bolts €" could only have been Indian. This is the hallmark of Arora's brand.

Day 3

Amit Aggarwal €" A hopeful state of mind

After having showcased an underwater film at India Couture Week 2020, Amit Aggarwal presented his 15-piece capsule collection First Light in the final hour of day three. The film features models floating in meditative poses €" as his lehengas and saris mimic the fluidity of their actions, and diaphanous dupattas glitter against the star-spangled backdrop.

This time around, Aggarwal combined his signature recycled polymer with indigenous fabrics like chanderi and matka silk, South Indian temple motifs, and leheriya techniques. His colour palette of Venus violet, gamma green, and earthy plum, combined with the way he enlivens his garments with wispy lightness, is reminiscent of the cosmos and celestial weightlessness that he is so drawn towards.

"As we experience the world through the safety of our homes, stars continue to twinkle, and space remains vast and undisturbed. I dream of escaping into this gossamer freedom, and want the collection to capture that sense of beauty," he says of his poetic vision.

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