Four days ago when fashion world whisperers were busy ogling at Valentino ready-to-wear Spring 2014 show at Paris Fashion Week, one thought occurred to everyone. As models strutted down the ramp, they reminded one of the mystical Sabyasachi princesses wreaking a multi-sensory assault – be it the headgears, make-up or the ornate ensembles which had strikingly similar Indian silhouettes. While critics abroad dubbed them as Goth sorceress from Eastern Europe, back home fashion influencer and blogger Santu Misra of The Devil Wore tweeted, “Valentino was like Sabyasachi meets Manish Arora.”
India was definitely the toast of the recently concluded spring collections at Paris, Milan and New York. And Valentino was no fluke. Some key pieces at Marchesa and The Row by Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen at New York were inspired by the Indian sari-drape while Givenchy took inspiration from Indian goddess Kali. What is it about the subcontinent that seduces designers across the globe season after season? Our designers express their views...
India — A mecca of inspiration
Wendell Rodricks says, “Emperor Ashoka’s Greek wife took to the sari and gave it a drape that has evolved till today. Do we need to recount the designers who have taken India as inspiration? From Yves Saint Laurent to Galliano, Jean Paul Gaultier to Karl Lagerfeld, India has fed their dreams in couture, so it is no surprise hat Givenchy, The Row, Valentino and Marchesa have followed suit this season.”
Anamika Khanna agress “From Galliano to Hermes to McQueen, all have dipped into India for inspiration so it doesn’t surprise me.”
Varun Bahl adds, “Over the last few years the collections have become more boldly inspired and reflective of Indian fashion. Chanel’s Paris-Bombay Metiers d’Art show, Marc Jacobs’ sari dress, Louis Vuitton’s ‘L’ame du Voyage’ collection — these labels were all extremely vocal about their Indian connection and paved the way for many more designers since. The fact that international celebrities are a lot more experimental with their fashion choices, many of whom have Indian designer favourites, also leverage Indian trends and styles across the globe.”
Nikhil Thampi seconds it. “We have played inspiration in the past to Karl Lagerfeld doing an interesting collection for Chanel where we replicated our traditional garb in gorgeous variations using jewellery like a nathni, mang tikaa, jumkas, kamarbandh, payals, haathphools etc giving our ethnic fabrics and silhouettes a modern twist.
Another great visionary, Jean Paul Gaultier’s favourite muse of all time has been the Indian gypsy and also did a collection where Sikhism played a major role and was one of his key inspirations.
More recently with their SS14 lines, Givenchy was inspired by Maa Kali making their models look very blatantly like the goddess and Valentino broke away from their stark reds to showcase a collection which reflects some gypsy and bridal amongst other designers as well,” says Thampi who recently showcased a Kerala-inspired line at LFW.
India — A micro trend for summer of ’14
Aniket Satam says, “For Spring 2014, many international designers have taken cues from our quintessential design elements rather than kitsch interpretation of all things desi. The most impressive translation is that of The Row by the Olsen sisters, who have crafted an earthy urban Indian-inspired collection, with an interesting take on how bags can double up as faux-pallu detail. Dries Van Noten also took the rustic route celebrating the traditional Kutch shell embroidery in some of their statement pieces. On the other hand, the sari-esque drapes and rhinestone Kali-inspired make-up at Givenchy was also notable. Valentino on other hand had striking Sabya undertones with bejewelled hair bands, muted palette, full sleeves and Baroque embellishments.”
Indian heritage: A great reference point
Dhruv Kapur of label DRVV says, “India or Indian-inspired baroque, embroidery, prints have been a recurring theme on the international runways for eons. I’ve noticed pretty much every other season right from McQueen in Fall 2008 that designers have been using our rich heritage for reference. It goes on to affirm just how much India has to offer and that India as a market is finally a priority for major brands. Chanel even had a couple of outfits last year that looked suspiciously like salwar kameezs. Hermes has made saris and this season also saw sari drapes in dresses from Missoni. India has a diverse past — from various periods and places in our history.
Furthermore this past sings with a rich bourgeoisie-like taste for expensive fabric and intricate craft work.”
Thampi says, “India has been motivating and influencing the world in different ways for quite some time now and it was only a matter of time before this applied to fashion as well. I am not surprised with how India and its culture has unravelled itself on international runways and how designers are seeking inspiration from it. India as a country has so much of culture, heritage, stories, myths, beliefs and art that none of it can go unnoticed.”
Bahl says, “Culturally and historically, India has always been a draw to people from across the world enamoured with its magnificence. Our ethnicity is like no other — its vibrancy, unique customs and traditions, impeccable craftsmanship and techniques are inimitable and it seemed only natural for designers to recognise and utilise this beauty and skill.
India: A serious market
Kapur says, “Brands manage to position themselves at the pinnacle of the contemporary luxury market by making use of the richness of Indian heritage craft by using it in their collections. I can only summarise that international brands are looking at taking India more seriously as a market and this is a way for the brands to develop a following in India (for when they do come here if they aren’t here already).”
Thampi concludes, “There was an era when we looked at them to get inspired but today, the tide has changed and it’s a good time for Indian fashion on an international platform.”