Getting people's attention in the world of fashion, fast-paced and tirelessly regenerative as it is, can be quite an ordeal for young designers. One has to undergo a trial by fire of sorts, and then to pass the even more challenging test of time, in order to get anywhere close to the popular appeal and professional stature that some of our celebrated fashion designers now enjoy. In short, there aren't any shortcuts to success when it comes to fashion. Expect that there is one: getting your work featured at the Lakme Fashion Week.
That's exactly what happened to a lucky few design neophytes in Mumbai earlier this month. Winners of the Grazia Young Fashion Awards and those featured on the 20th batch of the Fashion's Week's Gen Next show comprise some of the most promising names in the contemporary fashion industry. Here's a quick roundup of the rising stars in homegrown fashion:
A graduate of the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Ajay Kumar's expertise is fashion that belongs strictly to the 21st century. His recent collection, Consonance and Dissonance, involves a line of clothing where he combines multi-coloured kaleidoscopic prints with dominant blacks and whites. Kumar is known for his attention to detail. Thus the patterning on his clothes is often highly intricate and geometrically defined. His use of colours, too, is what some would call uninhibited: lotus pink, cranberry, parrot green and bright red are some of the colours the designer has recently put to use, but in a way that's refreshingly understated. At the latest edition of Lakme Fashion Week, Kumar's work was showcased as part of the Gen Next show in Mumbai.
Gone are the days when clothing lines were subject to dull categorisations and strictures defined by gender. The contemporary style is more liable to cross over and can travel, in stylistic terms, much more smoothly across genders. Designer Charchit Bafna's work carries quite such "androgynous" touches. In his most recent collection, called Elakka Ice, Bafna plays with shapes and outlines. His silhouettes are easy on the body just as, from another perspective, they are easy on the eye. He works with fabrics as various as poplin, cotton mesh, organza and leatherite, and his colour selection involves a classic emphasis on the triptych of blue, green and gold. Bafna, too, is among the 20th batch of the Gen Next designers who was featured at the Lakme Fashion Week.
Karma Laugani & Gauri Verma
The appeal of the retro never wears thin in contemporary fashion. Karma Laugani and Gauri Verma, and their collective designer label called Jodi, are known for a style that mixes tradition with modernity. Their latest collection won the Grazia Young Fashion Awards in the Label Alert Category at the Fashion Week, and it draws inspiration from the casual, easy-going spirit of the 1970s. Some of their cut-out tops and roomy pants come embellished with hand-block Jaipuri prints, as well as more sophisticated pattern work that may remind one of Ashley Goldberg's floral prints. Jodi has been featured in these pages before, and the brand's impressive showing at the recent Fashion Week can only result in further kudos for the designer duo.
Fashion designers are never given enough credit as artists. So when Pallavi Dhyani compares her vocation to a form of self-expression, she is demanding that her work be judged by artistic standards. Her recent collection, under the label called Three — which she only started last year — does seem to have been put together with the careful eye and the delicate touch of an artist. Her designs are for the most part understated, but also deceptively simple. What makes them so is Dhyani's fondness for linear compositions, including design techniques like layering, quilting, pleating and putting together grid patterns. Three was among the Grazia winners here, also under the Label Alert Category.
Tina & Nikita Sutradhar
The Sutradhars, and their label Miurku, won the Grazia Young Fashion award under the "Breakthrough Act" category at the Fashion Week. The winning collection, entitled Birthday Party and comprising around eight garments including coats and tops with vinyl add-ons, has already been lauded by the critics for its originality and its all-purpose significance in any casual wardrobe. The designers have also made good use glitter — jewellery by Laura Wass, for instance, was used to create improvised metal tubes on coats and dresses.
Lest the fashion-conscious gentleman might begin to feel somewhat left out here, we now turn to Ujjawal Dubey, whose forte, as they say, is men's wear. Dubey's label, Antar Agni, presents a blend of old-world charm and modern comfort. The designer has himself stressed how important it is for the clothing style to reflect the personality not just of the designer but of the person wearing the clothes. He has also talked of his fondness for "neutral hues". So it is something of a mild surprise that Dubey's Bollywood debut will be marked by Akshay Kumar's upcoming flick, Singh is Bling, where it would be interesting to note the emphasis on the blinginess, or lack thereof, in the superstar's wardrobe.