Designer Suneet Varma's creations come alive on prints

Former supermodel-turned textile activist Milind Soman attired in a Tantrik Art ensemble from the exhibition, 'The Eye of the Beholder', showcasing Suneet Varma's collections. IANS

The 1994 creation "Tree of Life", by veteran designer Suneet Varma has been shot by ace fashion photographer Prabudha Dasgupta and printed in a life-size frame by Thomson Press (India) on special paper.

The print uses four-colour glitter technology. As a result, the appliqué work on Shyamolie's dress stands out of the surface of the photograph, like a mass of glittering green leaves.  

Welcome to a four-day exhibition of fashion print art "Eye of the Beholder", where Suneet Varma's classic fashion meets photographic art by India's best fashion lensmen and state-of-the-art printing technology with stylised ultra-violet, glitter, crystal and laser cut finishes. The exhibition of 34 photographic prints which opened at the Emporio Mall in the capital Saturday is a tribute to Suneet Varma's designs spanning over two decades.

It is being presented by Thomson Press and the fashion magazine Harper's Bazaar. "When you do a retrospective like this with ensembles designed over the last 22 years, the feelings are mixed. At times, I am happy and at times I am sad. There are things I feel I should not have done. You can call this show a tale of my time," Varma said.

"Printing technology is charting a new course," Varma said. The prints belong to the designer's personal archive. "I have been photographing, cataloguing, documenting and making notes on all my creations for the last 22 years to chronicle my journey of fashion. There is a book in me which will come out sometime," Varma said.

The designer is a graduate of the London School of Fashion and a former instructor at National Institute of Fashion Technology. The prints cover almost every new fashion line created by Varma. The Tantrik Art series, a collection of attires inspired by the beaches of Goa and its free-wheeling life, features former super models Milind Soman and Ujjala Raut.

Shot in 1993 by Bharat Sikka and blown up in print by Thompson using a four-colour ultra-violet gloss technique, Milind Soman's black and red desert chieftain ensemble with a matching turban in the Tantrik Art series acquires a shine. The surface of the silk appears as a separate texture against the matte printing paper.

"The printing technologies are new. We have used a special screening device whereby you get a contrast as if the dress is floating out of the picture. It is done with a coating of ultra-violet agents that adds glitter and three-dimensional solid texture to the surface of the photographic print. We have also embellished the prints with Swarovksi crystal," C.J. Jassawala, the executive director of printing at Thomson Press said.

The retrospective stands out for the prints of some of Varma's famous creations featuring Milind Soman and Madhu Sapre, shot in 1995 by Bonny Hazuria, shows the pair clad in medieval European creations as Queen Marie Antoniette and Maximilien Robespierre, the founder of the revolutionary Terror Party in France.

The four-colour print using "abrasive ultra-violet" technique is a fusion of black-and-white background with coloured clothes. The figures, highlighted by special treatment on a special Curious Village Ivory printing paper, almost step out of the picture. 

"Fashion photography and printing processes are more sophisticated now. We believe in innovating with the latest digital printing technology and marrying fashion photography and printing for better effects. India is now wearing fashion up on its sleeve," Sujata Assomull, the editor of Harper Bazaar said.

Fashion has changed dramatically over the last two decades, Varma said. "It is no more the way people dress, but a lifestyle statement. Women have also changed, they are not demure any more. The arrival of Malaika Arora Khan changed the perception about women, I think. Indians are more well-travelled and open to new styles."

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