All eyes on your wallet

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All eyes on your wallet

Almost all 59 designers who showed at the Lakme India Fashion Week celebrated the richness of colour and texture. AFP

After a season that paid too many tributes to the global recession with dull, lacklustre collections, Indian fashion flitted out of the darkened cocoon of the last few months all shiny and glittering — despite the insufficient monsoon sparking fears of a true, homegrown downturn.

Raakesh Agarvwal covered his models in gold chains and Vikram Phadnis covered his bride, Sushmita Sen, in enough jadau jewellery to bankrupt Bill Gates. Rich, luxurious fabrics were everywhere, from Rocky S and Tarun Tahiliani to Manish Malhotra’s everything-and-the-kitchen-sink bridals.

Anita Dongre served up a profusion of colour instead, opting for deep blues, golds and bright vermilion tones that referenced to India’s rich folk heritage in her Japiur-inspired collection. She didn’t skimp on the fabric either, with voluminous fan sleeves, swirling kurtas and one 48-panel stunner of a skirt that was almost worthy of Christian Dior’s historic post-WW2 New Look.

Indeed, there was so much richness in colour, texture and fabric that one could be forgiven for thinking one was at a display of heavy Fall/Winter and Festive lines instead of at an ethereal tribute to Spring/Summer.

But it was a clear message: we may not be over the recession, but we’re certainly over feeling sorry for ourselves, now can you consumers loosen those purse strings please?
And to allow consumers the opportunity to feel better about dropping so much of their hard-earned money on chi-chi frivolity, wearability was a key message. Not for the recessionista the luxury of throwing away an outfit after wearing it just twice  — after wardrobe recycler and current uber-style icon Michelle Obama has championed repeat power time and again this year, everyone else now wants at least three wears from each set, which, looked at another way, can be justified as a whopping 33.3 per cent discount.

Agarvwal’s saris were extremely versatile and Gauri and Nainika turned in Valentino-style classic confections that will endure for generations. Anamika Khanna, always a designer to watch, was one of the few to approach this fashion business with languor; sending out dressed-down gypsies in luxurious, delicately crafted neutrals with mere hints of blazing colour.

And Leconet Hemant trod the value-added road with their trendy but synthetic-free organic range treated with special oils and herbs to envelop the wearer in therapeutic, healing clothes.

Anuj Sharma went one further with garments that can be fastened in many different ways, making for a variety of silhouettes and looks — surely a winner for anyone trying to make the most of her wardrobe.

However, as might be expected in a year that has seen people around the world find comfort in the familiar, there were jarring notes of nostalgia everywhere. From the first-decade anniversary (LIFW is ten this year) celebratory flashback that kicked off the week to finale designer Tarun Tahiliani’s continued long-running ode to the Grecians, the past was an ever-present ghost.

Sanjay Hingu’s feel-good vibe went as far back as India’s freedom fighters, with pictures of some walking across a T-shirt or brightening up a monochrome checkerboard jacket. And Rohit and Abhishek delved deeper into the past, harking back to royal India with angarkha tunics and Jodhpuri jackets with English khaki breeches for men.

Scarily, there was one more message in the subtext with religion going beyond poppy prints. Neeta Lulla and Krishna Mehta were clearly unashamed to admit they’ve been reduced to praying for better business in recent months, with both choosing to feature sacred elements. Lulla’s show was opened with a live rendition of a mantra by Siddharth Mahadevan, Saunil Shringarpure and Alyssa Mendonsa, while Mehta had a dreadlocked, conch-blowing sadhu wake up the gods to bless her Kumbh Mela-inspired collection — surely an Indian fashion first.

Maybe the pair was only being prescient, referencing the dreaded double-dip recovery path that has world leaders frightened, but it’s a sad day indeed when fashion must rely on mass opiates to dull consumers into swiping their plastic. Heaven help us.

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