Couture Week turns into wedding week

For today’s bride:  A model shows off a Manav Gangwani creation  PIC AFPThe recession may have dealt a body blow to haute couture around the world, with shrinking dividends keeping long-time clients away from the top international fashion houses, but even as the likes of Christian Lacroix go into administration, in the emerging superpower that is India, the industry is both alive and thriving.

The second edition of HDIL India Couture Week (ICW), held in Mumbai as the world emerges from a debilitating slumber, drew nearly a dozen designers, who sent out wildly embellished trousseau lines in keeping with the country’s love of all things extravagant.
And as with any fashion event in India’s film capital, ICW saw so many top Bollywood stars on the ramp, you might be forgiven for thinking you were at a film awards show instead.

Ajay Devgan and Aamir Khan walked the ramp for a Salman Khan charity show, Sridevi modelled jewellery for Queenie Dhody, Manish Malhotra roped in Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor and Karan Johar got Shah Rukh and Gauri Khan to model his debut collection.  We bring you the week’s highs and lows.

Shiny stuff

As if to underline India’s runaway growth (with 2009 GDP estimates now revised to 6 per cent), ICW hosted a first-ever “couture jewellery” event this year, choosing four celebrity designers for what became the week’s opening show. Queenie Dhody, Maheep Kapoor, Farah Khan and Devaunshi Mehta came together in a single display of hand-crafted jewellery.

Dhody, who had Sridevi modelling her glittering gems (to the chagrin of the actresses’s sister-in-law, Maheep Kapoor), sent out a contemporary line of art deco pieces studded with precious and semi-precious stones. Mehta was inspired by classic Indian pieces, which she reinterpreted in 18-karat white gold for a fresh, current feel, but which she insisted would nevertheless become family heirlooms. Her piece de resistance was a white gold handbag with 64.75 carats of the finest quality diamonds.

Farah Khan also went back to the past for inspiration, modifying traditional jadau jewellery for today’s woman. Kapoor, meanwhile, presented an eclectic line of what she called “antiques of the future”: nothing but the finest and rarest diamonds set in timeless designs, with each piece costing a cool one crore rupees.

Couture capers

Pallavi Jaikishen kick-started the clothes segment of the week with a collection of five bridal stories. Divided into five segments that expressed five different emotions a bride goes through on her wedding day, she showed opulent evening dresses in gold brocades and antiqued lace, stunning minakari jewellery, flirty lehenga sets and of course, a line of her signature floral embroidery. Champagne gold, apricots and peaches dominated the colour palette.

Varun Bahl chose to marry Indian fluidity with Japanese zen-like control, resulting in a sensual fantasy that was heightened to fever pitch with tantalising glimpses of geisha sensuality.

And so to one of the finest collections of the week, La Belle Epoque by Suneet Varma. The Delhi-based designer was inspired by the three decades or so that preceded World War I, a time when feathers and furs were fashion staples, when life centred around the cabaret, when champagne was perfected and haute couture was invented.

Varma’s take on those high-voltage years was crafted from luxurious silks, velvets and sheer fabrics in a rich, deep palette of blacks, emeralds, teals and maroons, all embroidered in copper and gold, with tone on tone appliqué work. Braided belts and embroidered stockings teamed with empire-line dresses harked back to a time when life was slower, lazier and infinitely prettier.

Bollywood favourite Manish Malhotra, meanwhile, chose to present clothes for a destination wedding, with garments aimed at brides getting married in Mykonos and St Tropez. Working from a palette of light tones such as ivory, salmon, old rose, teal, mint blue, olive green, tangerine and aqua green, his focus was firmly on the opulent, with lehengas, off-shoulder kurtas, jackets and flattering cholis for the women and more traditional sherwanis, kurtas and jodhpurs for the men.

Finally, Monisha Jaising, who closed out the week, turned in a stunner of a couture collection — her first. Jaising cut suit fabrics into feminine garments and mixed them with tulle, sequins, lace, chiffon and gold detail. Her hemlines were either ultra-short or very long, and everywhere she brought alive the Indian element in the form of print, colour and embellishment.

Her finale was a presentation of three brides in black and white, inspired by the three brides of Dracula, from Bram Stoker’s novel.

Charity champion

Beefy actor Salman Khan chose ICW to remind us all of his philanthropic side. Close friends Ajay Devgan, Sanjay Dutt, Katrina Kaif, Aamir Khan and others walked the ramp in clothes by Rohit Gandhi & Rahul Khanna, Ashish Soni, Falguni & Shane Peacock, Gavin Miguel, Rocky S, Babita Malkani and Gayatri Khanna — all in the name of charity.

Corset for a crore

Designer Manav Gangwani chose the occasion to price himself into the closets of those with more money than style sense, sending singer Shruti Haasan out onto the ramp in a bustier worth Rs 1 crore. While the piece is extremely detailed, with several rose-cut semi-precious stones, the sheer weight of the garment is enough to tire out any bride unfortunate enough to wear it.

Starry debut

Fashion’s most star-studded week yet closed with a show by a debutant designer — only this wasn’t just any fresh face. Bollywood director Karan Johar teamed with Varun Bahl for his first commercial line. And what a line it was. KJo and VaBa steered clear of Bollywood influences, sending out garments that were formal and sophisticated but very of the moment in their understated approach to glamour.

With a palette of black, white, gunmetal grey, red, brown and gold and silver, sequins, crystals and fine stitch details conveyed Johar’s rockstar inspiration. It was a collection for the man who is confident of his ability to create his own niche in the world, and to be comfortable in it.

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