Flights Of Fancy

Indian fashion is spreading global wings.


When it comes to strategically stapled fashion, of late home grown Indian designers are creating a kind of buzz, which once only waltzing pillars of fashion in the west could create.

Anjana Bhargav Collection.

The entire world looks captivated by the new Indi-chic form of fanciful fashion. The Indian couture kings are creating a gentle simmer in the fashion pot shot, by exploiting the avante garde classicism of the past and infusing a contemporary twist to it; thus displaying a spectacular fashion panorama, which not only echoes the intrinsic charms of the land, but is also a pleasure to beholders.

The hallmark of this recent resurgence is emphasized by the fact that a fashion stalwart like Jean Paul Gaultier showed a whole collection called “Indian Chiaroscuro,” hreflecting the designs of India. Fashion houses like Giorgio Armani, Valentino, Christian Lacroix and Emmanuel Ungaro are increasingly engaging the skills of artisans and designers in India to hand embroider their creations. Fashion designer Anand Jon uses a liberal sprinkling of Indian elements in his clothes, which find a definite favour with high profile celebrities like Alanis Morisette, Mary J. Blige and Ivana Trump.

So, as the saree becomes ubiquitious and the dupatta gets versatile, is it really the time when we can safely say, that the Indian fashion fraternity has finally arrived?

Well, in a way yes, says ace fashion designer Tarun Tahiliani, whose store in Mumbai caught the fancy of fashionistas like Naomi Campbell, Elizabeth Hurley and Goldie Hawn on their visits to India and who has also gained recognition for being the best couture designer 2004, by Moet and Chandon in Singapore. Tahiliani says that “Today India is much more confident with the global look it is projecting; there is a whole new realization of the classic designs and styles from India.”

Rajvi Mohan Collection.

Tahiliani participated in the Moscow Fashion Fiesta and Milan Fashion Week and has showings lined up at the fashion exposition in London. He says the response everywhere has been overwhelming and he is especially upbeat about the World Luxury Council which is hosting a reception in recognition of Tarun Tahiliani as the super luxury brand.

The fashion savvy no longer need to jet set around the world for the best in designer classicism. The new upscale urbanite fashion that the designers are churning is a rage not only with Indians but with the global audiences as well. The primary reason for this shift, according to designer Puja Nayyar is the healthy exchange of styles that is happening globally. Nayyar says, “Overseas Indian elements are a sure fire favorite, but there is also an increasing sense of intelligence that is creeping in. It is no longer any sort of Indian embroidery that finds fascination, but it is the detailed craftsmanship that is appreciated abroad. To cater to international buyers textures, embroidery, tie and dye, bandhini and kantha have become very architectural, which is a good sign for fashion.”

Foreign buyers find India a good place for exotic embroidery and outsourcing. Nayyar herself has done textures for Alexander McQueen, which she says is a matter of great pride and a hreflection of the fact that India has in store a powerhouse of surrealistic designs. She was also one of five Asian designers to be invited to Paris by Mercedes Benz.

Anita Dongre Collection.

Fashion stars Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla, some of whose creations have been worn by Sophie Maceau in the Bond flick The World is Not Enough, stress that the Indian weaves, beautiful colors, stunning embroidery and a vast range of fabrics stand as the epitome of high fashion. Little wonder, then that the western sensibilities are ready to adopt Indi-inspired styles with relative ease. As designer Malini Ramani, points out, “Fashion has now started looking like a global parade, everyone is using elements from everywhere, but it is the color, embroideries and soul of India that stands as a key.” Raminiii has held shows in Hong Kong, Moscow, Dubai and London and her spunky designs attract clients from as far as Monte Carlo, Ibiza, New York and Bali.

One of the most famous of Indian designers Rohit Bal too has designed clothes for celebrities like Uma Thurman, Pamela Anderson, Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford. At one of his shows Anna Kournikova walked the ramp in his stellar creation. While Ritu Beri’s tie-up with French fashion house Scherrer is all too famous, the high priestess of Indian fashion Ritu Kumar has presented her couture creations for charity in Times Square, New York.

Rajvi Mohan Collection.

However many fashion critics believe that it will still take some more ingenuity and patience for Indian designers to achieve the practiced chic. Men’s wear designer Rajvi Mohan who has studied the finer nuances of fashion at the London School of Fashion and at the Parsons School of Design, New York, says that in a few years, the Indian fashion scene can ride the crest of popularity. She recalls, that during her internship with Armani Exchange and Viviene Westwood she realised that people are becoming aware of Indian fashion.

Mohan adds that “Designers like Gautier and Alexander McQueen have shown Indian inspirations in their collections, which highlights the impact of our country in the field of fashion.”

In tow with the designers who have shared the international podium are Anita Dongre and Wendell Rodricks, the first Indian designers to present their collections at the world’s largest pret-a-porte fair IGEDO in Dusseldorf Germany. Dongre reminicises, “During the show one of the German models wore a pink colored chikankari gown from her creation on the ramp. The model so fell in love with the gown, that she immediately bought it to wear it on her wedding which was round the corner.”

Dongre says, “It indeed was a biggest compliment for me, that a model from a different fashion sensibility took a liking for my hugely Indian design. This also goes on to show how styles are surpassing geographical boundaries.”

Rodricks quips, “Thanks to Lakme India Fashion Week, the West is realizing that we have a serious fashion industry.”

His designs have bedazzle people across the globe at various shows abroad, such as Dubai Fashion Week. In 2002 the mayor of the Parisian wealthy suburb of Boulogne, Billan Court invited him to present the gold gilt city hall, a rare honor.


In India the fashion circuit often converges on Lakme India Fashion week (LIFW), which in the past few years has given a forum for designers to interact with buyers and media. Designer Narendra Kumar, who is among 20 designers selected worldwide to showcase their designs in France at the invitation of the French government, asserts that LIFW has been crucial in attracting foreign buyers, However it was only last year that the fashion week was positioned in the international calendar to accommodate the buying cycle.K

Kumar says, “Design industry in India, I would still say, is at a nascent stage. We are slowly getting recognized, but it is not only about being heard of, it is more about getting your marketing logistics correct and having a studied awareness of the international market before one thinks of competing abroad.”

However, one thing that strikes a common chord and is voiced by almost all designers is that the hreflection of Indian influence such as the glorious zardozi, vibrant colors and intricate handwork are the buzz among western fashion connoissuers.

Designer Anjana Bhargav says, “We are considered by the West as designers who focus on wedding and trousseau, because of our ornate style. Though there is nothing bad in it, but we still have to improve on our cuts for making a foothold in the foreign markets. We also have to keep under consideration various body structures, while women abroad have longer torsos, the Indian belles are blessed with a stouter torso, so obviously the structured tailoring has to vary.”

Quizzed on her participation at the Miami fashion week, last year, Bhargav, who participated in the Miami Fashion Week last year in an Indian design showcase, says she witnessed a lot of applause. “People there were surprised that though our creativity was Indian, our touch was international.”

Her show at the Toronto Fashion Week too drew rave reviews as did her work at the Hong Kong Trade Fair 2004 was fun,a lthough, she adds, that because prices in China are so low, “I am wary if it can reap much benefits.” She will be participating at the Selfridges show in London later this year.

Young designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee won great accolades for his clothing line at the Milan Fashion Week 2004. And Suneet Varma, a designer who honed his skills during stints with couturiers Yves Saint Laurent in Paris and Nicole Farhi in London, recently drew strong reviews for his collection at the Alta Roma, Italian Couture Week in Rome. He believes that to compete in the global fashion market, it is important that we use the richness of Indian cultures and traditions and amalgamate it with Western ideologies. Varma has been involved in a revival of weaving and embroidery for international design houses like Donna Karan, Carolina Herrera and Nicole Miller.

The past few years have seen sustained efforts among the designer community to put Indian fashion on a global platform. The glamour packed Lakme India Fashion Week serves to showcase exhibitors, both established and the new talented crop. The temperature soaring fiesta brings together the top models, the best designers and the latest fashion vouges to present a glamourama on the ramp.

Indian designers are on an inspiring flight of fancy. With their huge dollops of imagination and versatile designs they are all set to take a headlong plunge into the whirlwind world of global fashion. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *