RUBINA’S RADAR | THEATRE. ART. DESIGN. FASHION

India’s finest talent, Shabana Azmi is celebrating her late father, Kaifi Azmi’s birth centenary with an ongoing series of events across India, from mushairas to plays to live musical evenings at Janki Kutir. Raag Shayari is an artistic, theatrical collaboration between Azmi, tabla maestro Zakir Hussain, singer and composer Shankar Mahadevan and lyricist Javed Akhtar, interpreting the works of the accomplished late poet in a contemporary, musical manner. “Raag Shayari’s an evening of archival value because Shankar Mahadevan sings a selection of Kaifi Azmi’s poems, Javed Akhtar recites them in Urdu and I recite the English translations with Ustad Zakir Hussain interpreting the same on the tabla,” says Azmi. The debut show of Raag Shayari was on January 13 at NCPA, Nariman Point. The second show was held the following evening at the St. Andrew’s auditorium in Bandra, Mumbai with Waheeda Rehman, Asha Parekh, Rekha, Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan, Vidya Balan, Farhan Akhtar, Divya Dutta and Madhu Chopra in attendance.

Shabana Azmi, Javed Akhtar and Shankar Mahadevan during rehearsals for Raag Shayari. Photo: Rubina A Khan
Shabana Azmi during rehearsals for Raag Shayari. Photo: Rubina A Khan
Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi and Zakir Hussain during rehearsals for Raag Shayari.
Photo: Rubina A Khan

Businessman Shom Hinduja’s home in Juhu, Mumbai, is a consummate realisation of art and design by his older sibling, Ambika Hinduja. Her impeccable imagination made the first live cover of Architectural Digest’s India edition this January, with Irishman Joseph Walsh’s Magnus at the heart of her art. Hinduja created the space around the bespoke Magnus‘ universal energies. Nothing screams in the consciously designed space, but the people in it, in sheer wonderment of the art that is congruous to her sustainable design métier. I’ve never met a more self-effacing design virtuoso like Hinduja. Her visual artistry here is a master stroke of her own inherent genius, which understandably, her parents, Ashok and Harsha Hinduja, are very proud of. It’s not only her imagination that’s impeccable, but it’s also the name of her art and entertainment company, with offices in India and the UAE. Impeccable Imagination represents artists from Belgium, Brazil, Iran, Ireland and the United Kingdom and the company’s only just getting ready to launch Blue Beet, a multi-sensory design and culinary space in Dubai in the coming months.

Joseph Walsh and Ambika Hinduja in Architectural Digest. Photo: Andrew Bradley
Joseph Walsh’s Magnus in Shom Hinduja’s living area. Photo: Andrew Bradley

Forts are Indian fashion’s new runways du jour in 2019. Earlier this month, the Red Fort in New Delhi made for an enchanting setting for a fashion show held on its heritage grounds, organised by the Ministry of Textiles and Sunil Sethi, President of the Fashion Design Council of India. It was a historic first for Indian fashion and a commendable one at that. After showing at the Red Fort, master couturier Rohit Bal enthralled Mumbai with Guldastah, a collection inspired by Renaissance artists and botanical paintings, at the Blender’s Pride Fashion Tour held at the Bandra Fort on Wednesday evening.

Lakshmi Rana in Rohit Bal’s Guldastah at Bandra Fort. Photo: Rubina A Khan
Sidharth Malhotra in Rohit Bal’s Guldastah at Bandra Fort.
Photo: Rubina A Khan
Models in Rohit Bal’s Guldastah at Bandra Fort. Photo: Rubina A Khan

Models walked down the bedecked steps of the fort in luxurious Bal raiments in hues of ivory, black, gold and red to the dulcet sounds of Shubha Mudgal’s live classical performance. This was the best fashion show I have ever seen in Mumbai. Guldastah was an immersive experience and you could almost smell the roses of forgotten romances with the ethereal floral dominance in Bal’s impassioned collection.

Actor Sidharth Malhotra was Bal’s showstopper, but a resident dog of Bandra Fort beat him to it, wagging its tail happily on to the runway, ahead of him, much to the delight of everyone present. Malhotra seemed to have studied Amitabh Bachchan’s walk and stance thoroughly and mirrored the same quite well on the runway. But then again, mirroring is not quite like owning it! Anju Bhavnani, now more popular as Deepika Padukone’s mother-in-law versus Ranveer Singh’s mother, was all praises for her beautiful bahu when I spoke to her for a lightning Mumbai minute. “We are very happy and blessed, hashtag blessed,” she said. A family that hashtags together stays together? Insta guess so!

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2019

RUBINA’S RADAR | MAKING FASHION HISTORY IN OLD DELHI AND CALCUTTA IN THE NEW YEAR 2019

The first week of 2019 kicked off with Indian fashion making historical moves on, and off, the runway on heritage sites. The formidable collaboration of the Ministry Of Textiles Government Of India, the Archaeological Survey Of India, the Ministry Of Culture and the Fashion Design Council Of India, created fashion history with Artisan Speak, a show that celebrated India’s majestic textile legacy at the Red Fort in New Delhi on January 5. The Red Fort grounds as a fashion runway was unimaginable, till it was the past Saturday. And, what a progressive first it was!

Headlined by designers Anita Dongre, Rohit Bal, Rajesh Pratap Singh, Gaurang Shah, Rahul Mishra and Anju Modi, the ivory Sawan and Bhadon Pavilions, and the red sandstone Zafar Mahal made for a dramatic backdrop for the show. Artisan Speak turned a page in India’s history, transcendentally juxtaposing the regal era of yore with the immediate now. The show honoured six Padma Shri and seven Sant Kabir award winning master craftsmen, wherein the Union Minister Of Textiles, Smriti Irani, gave away Special Recognition Awards to the indomitable contributors to India’s textile sector. Craft Revivalist and Textile Conservationist Madhu Jain was recognised for her work with bamboo silk and the President of the Fashion Design Council Of India, Sunil Sethi, was awarded the honour for Promotion Of Handicraft and Textile Design, for his Made In India ideology even before it became fashionable and his relentless pursuit of elevating Indian crafts and the handloom industry in the domestic and foreign markets, working in close proximity with the Textile Ministry over the years. When Irani lauded his efforts during her speech on stage, Sethi turned uncharacteristically bashful for five seconds.

On January 7, Anamika Khanna showed her collection at the Artisan Speak show organised by the Fashion Design Council Of India for the Ministry Of Textiles Government Of India at the legendary Currency Building founded in 1833 in Kolkata. It was a felicitous venue for Khanna’s show. Whilst most heritage buildings in Kolkata, the first seat of power of the British Empire, reflect Gothic styles of architecture, the Currency Building stood out in the city with its Italian style, particularly its Venetian windows. The building went through many hands and years of neglect and demolishment till the Archaeological Survey Of India took over and restored it to its distinct Italian architectural style recently. Archaeologists have found evidence of an underground canal from the building to the river Hooghly to cool freshly minted coins in its original avatar as a currency house.

Artisan Speak in Kolkata was yet another historical step forward for Indian fashion by showing in a protected building, creating awareness for India’s textile industry, the second largest employment sector in the country, after the agricultural industry. After the momentous fashion show, the Currency Building turned into an exhibition space, open to the public, for jute, silk and handloom crafts the following day. “India has seen a growth of 24 percent in the export of jute products in the last five years,” said Smriti Irani, Union Minister Of Textiles, a pivotal voice of Artisan Speak.

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2019


Patrons Of Rubina A Khan’s Visual Artistry

Getty Images

Art Dubai 

Christie’s Dubai

Chivas Regal

Chivas Alchemy 18

Fashion Design Council of India 

Ministry Of Textiles Government Of India

Sabyasachi

Rohit Bal

Nadine Kanso Bil Arabi

Sunil Sethi Design Alliance 

Kempinski Mall Of The Emirates Hotel Dubai

Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul

Indian Hotels Company Limited 

Velaa Private Island Maldives 

Niyama Maldives 

Shangri La Hotels

Swarovski

Emirates Classic Car Festival Dubai

Emirates Motorsport Expo 

Dilip De Smartphone School Of Art 

Expo 2020 UAE 

Ambika Hinduja 

Shabana Azmi 

Twinkle Khanna 

And many more…. 

©Rubina A Khan 2019

RUBINA’S RADAR | THE INDIAN RUPEE IS WEAK, BUT DELHI’S LOTUS MAKEUP INDIA FASHION WEEK SS19 AIN’T!

RUBINA’S RADAR

Paris Fashion Week kicked off with a Christian Dior show on September 24 in Bois de Boulogne in Paris. But what’s making more headlines than the French luxury label right now is Italian fashion house, Versace, of the famed Medusa head, with the impending Michael Kors buyout. Dior’s Creative Director, Maria Grazia Chiuri’s centerstage fashion and dance extravaganza left everyone breathless, but not more than her ethereal, bespoke designs for Italian fashion force, Chiara Ferragni’s wedding in Noto, Italy earlier on in September this year who chose Dior over every other fashion house for her special day. That’s had me screaming J’adore since. Rumour also has it that the SS19 collection in Paris was Chiuri’s last one for Dior.

American fashion designer, Michael Kors is getting ready to buy out Versace, headquartered in Milan, next week for approximately $2 billion after buying the designer shoe company, Jimmy Choo for roughly $1.2 billion in 2017.

This fashionable, not to mention consolidatory move of Kors will strengthen his position as an American powerhouse to European giants like Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) that owns 70 houses, with $50 billion in revenues in 2017 and Kering that have dominated the fashion industry with brands like Louis Vuitton and Gucci. Donatella Versace has been running Versace ever since the murder of her brother, Gianni Versace in 1997, the founder of the fashion house.

It’s always been a Paris versus Milan situation for fashion forwards, quite like the Mumbai and Delhi fashion weeks in India, but it’s always fashion that rules the runway regardless of geographical optics. The October Spring Summer 2019 edition of India Fashion Week, presented by the Fashion Design Council of India, takes on a new name – Lotus Makeup India Fashion Week with Lotus Makeup as its title sponsor. LMIFW takes place from October 10 to October 13 2018 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi. “Lotus is a leading make-up and skincare brand and what makes this partnership exciting is that it is a homegrown brand with indigenous offerings, which are rooted in India just like our constant endeavours to celebrate the innate Indian-ness in our design spheres,” says Sunil Sethi, President of the FDCI. LMIFW SS19 will see a Japanese designer showcase his designs, a first, on the Delhi runway and a triumvirate of designers together – Rajesh Pratap Singh, Rohit Gandhi & Rahul Khanna and Ashish N Soni, telling India what’s next on the fashion landscape in a sponsored show by LMIFW’s associate sponsor, Nexa.

Sunil Sethi, President FDCI

International beauty brands like Maybelline and Fiama Di Wills have sponsored India Fashion Week in the past, but this is the first time an authentically Indian beauty brand, Lotus Makeup, is collaborating with the FDCI’s India Fashion Week as its title sponsor. The sponsorship will add a definitive edge to Lotus Makeup’s thriving beauty business, an integral part of the fashion business. Given the crazed obsessions of beauty and fashion worldwide, this is a fiscal win for both. Add natural, sustainable and vegan beauty products that are cruelty-free with zero animal testing to Lotus Makeup’s beauty currency and you’ve got an Indian company that is fashionably on trend.

Abhishek Bachchan’s voluntary breather from acting saw him ironically breathe love and life in Anurag Kashyap’s Manmarziyaan as Robby a couple of Fridays ago. Kashyap is obviously happy with his narrative resonating with the audiences who’ve loved the film. The film is a lighter shade of love in comparison to his previous romantic dramas like Dev D (2009) and Gangs Of Wasseypur (2012) that celebrated dark loving. “This is the lightest shade of love that I can get. I need to keep it real. I can’t see myself making unrealistic films with no connection to the lives we all live. I now conserve my energies more for work than anything else and it seems to be working. Though, finding some semblance of importance in my teen-aged daughter’s life is another thing altogether,” laughs Kashyap over the phone from Strasbourg, France. “I’m delighted with the engaged response to Manmarziyaan and more so for my actors, Abhishek (Bachchan), Vicky (Kaushal) and Taapsee (Pannu) who portrayed them just so.”

So does Manmarziyaan indicate a more loved-up state of films from him, with say Salman Khan playing the lead? “Oh, that’s not going to happen as Salman is upset with me, but of course I would love to work with him,” he says nonchalantly. Whatever for? “Well, I was supposed to direct him in Tere Naam almost 18 years ago and I asked him to grow his chest hair and somehow, that did not go down well with him. We haven’t spoken since. I reckon he’s still mad at me though I am not sure. I’ve never told anyone about this but then again, it’s been a decade and more,” says the filmmaker.

Chest hair, really?

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2018

RUBINA’S RADAR | FDCI’S INDIA COUTURE WEEK 2017

RUBINA’S RADAR 

The 10th edition of the Fashion Design Council of India’s (FDCI) India Couture Week 2017 (24th-31st July), orchestrated by Sunil Sethi, President, FDCI, was a splendacious celebration of India’s fashion vanguards at the Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi. India Couture Week has earned its laurels for the past decade of being the best in the country with its marked excellence in fashion. And what’s a fashion week in India without some Bollywood stardust thrown in? ICW 2017’s couture catwalk had actors like Alia Bhatt, Ranveer Singh, Aditi Rao Hydari, Shilpa Shetty and many more walking for the participating couturiers.

TARUN TAHILIANI | Tarakanna:
Tarakanna was an alluring experience with an “evolved vocabulary of design” befitting the legendary status of Tahiliani and his majestic consummation of couture. His design constructs were fluid, almost seamless, in silk, velvet, brocade, Italian tulle and georgette, in hues of burnished rose, gold, olive, black, ivory, midnight blue and the de riguer bridal palette of red.  The unparalleled artistry of Tahiliani’s craft shone on the runway. As the models glided on to the breathtaking autumnal leaved set, designed to semble the end of autumn, Central Park in New York perhaps, the earthy tones came alive with the shimmering Swarovski crystal-embellished ensembles, all 85 of them, taking over the runway. The line alluded to a bride’s lightness of being, akin to her dancing in the glory of her marital coupling in bespoke designs, fitted not just to her body, but also to her soul. Scenographer Sumant Jayakrishnan’s visual aesthetic lent itself beautifully to the magnificent confluence of the Tarakanna line and the buoyancy of the human spirit it embodied. Throughout its duration, the show appeared to have suspended the audience in the most exalted place of happiness and wonderment, that stayed on long after it had ended. 

MONISHA JAISING | Opera:
Sexy is a vibe Jaising shoots for consistently, and her Opera collection wasn’t left wanting in the least. The clothes were tantalising and edgy, and a tad theatrical too, primarily made in lamé, velvet metallics, Italian organza, banarasi brocade and metallic satins. The light and set design of the runway didn’t really take you into the world of operatic tenors and high octaves that inspired her line this season, as the models walked in her evening dresses and gowns, cocktail saris, crop tops and ball skirts. The multi-faceted actor-turned-businesswoman-turned-yoga-guru, Shilpa Shetty – a flawless showstopper who nails it every single time, tripped on the brocade train of her gown, not once, not twice, but four times, as it kept getting caught on the runway floor. To say that the runway nailed Shetty, rather than the other way around, would be an understatement here. Shetty of course, let it slide and slayed it forward on the runway, with a strut only her enviable body is capable of, coupled with the radiance of her persona.

ANITA DONGRE | Tree Of Love:
Anita Dongre is a relatively new entrant in the Indian couture and bridal wear landscape, having started her couture line, Bridal, only six years ago. But, she is a veteran player, and a very successful one at that in the prêt-à-porter business of fashion for the last two decades, with her labels – AND, Global Desi, Pink City and Grassroot. Dongre opened her first Grassroot store in Manhattan, New York, recently and will be opening the doors to her Bridal store there subsequently. Her Tree Of Love collection was inspired by the Bishnoi community and their spiritual reverence for nature. Dongre married her “love for trees, rich Indian craftsmanship and music into one joyous collection” with dominant shades of blue, green and red. 
Beautiful SEWA (Self Employed Women’s Association) embroidered tabards, paired with tulle skirts, mushroo and hand-embroidered tea-length dresses with gottapatti lehengas, obi belts, embroidered flat shoes and cross-body potli bags made up the very desirable contemporary bridal line. The uncut diamond jewellery from her Pink City line as stunning. Dongre’s runway felt like an Indian summer wedding, with the metallic trees adding dramatic flair to the aureate mood board.

GAURAV GUPTA | Moondust: 
Gaurav Gupta’s knows how to haute couture the runway up. Structure and form are Gupta’s forte and he plays that well, like a consumed installation artist, with “blurred boundaries of traditional and modern couture”, choosing to “sit on the cusp of both worlds”. The Moondust collection is Gupta’s interpretation of a surreal ball Cinderella went to, in sculpted ensembles created from translucent textiles in pale tones of grey, blue, green and teal, playing with shadow and light. Handcrafted embroideries and silhouettes accentuating one aspect of the body – either the legs, the back, the arms  or the shoulders – but never all at once, kept the collection elegant and sassy. Though he was going for an immersive experience with this line, it was anything but immersive. Aditi Rao Hydari was Gupta’s showstopper and surprisingly, she was one of the best ramp walkers in the lineup of Bollywood stars.

MANISH MALHOTRA | Sensual Affair:
Manish Malhotra’s exceedingly mirrored runway for his Sensual Affair collection, seemed to be asking, “Mirror mirror on the wall, on the ceiling and on the floor, Who is the grandest couturier of them all?” Satin organzas, silk tulles, satin velvets made up the fabric for Malhotra’s lehengas, sherwanis, voluminous skirts and gowns with trains and the gorgeous fitted corsets, in ivory, soft grey, vintage rose, burgundy and teal tones. The models swirled around on the gleaming catwalk, left, right and centre in a fast-paced, synchronised rhythm, showing off 85 ensembles, with not a second to breathe. It left you wanting to see more of the clothes, with just a little bit of stay. Rapturous glamour is what Malhotra does best, be it sensual, sexual or unusual. There is no one grand couturier of them all, but t
he grandest finale to a decade of couture at the India Couture Week 2017 was undeniably Malhotra’s, with Alia Bhatt and Ranveer Singh walking for him. The raucous screams that erupted throughout the show area were deafening and most definitely burst an eardrum or two amidst the audience in the excitement of it all. Tears were shed at not meeting Singh, who seems to be the star, no, superstar of Delhi. Sure he’s popular, but really? Bhatt was an enchanting delight on the runway as always, looking like the Bollywood belle of the ball. 

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2017

India Couture Week 2017’s 10th Anniversary Edition

The Fashion Design Council of India’s annual event extraordinaire, India Couture Week 2017, celebrates its 10th edition this year with a seven-day fashion extravaganza in New Delhi. The luxuriously indulgent runway week commences on July 24th with opening shows by designers, Rohit Bal and Anamika Khanna, and a grand finale on July 30th 2017, with a viewing of Rina Dhaka’s line and a closing show by Manish Malhotra with his Sensual Affair

“2017 is a momentous year for us at FDCI, a non-profit organisation and the apex body of fashion design in India, represented by over 350 members, completing ten years of India Couture Week this year. It’s the only event in the country to offer a prestigious platform to couturiers to showcase their talent in offering irrepressible indulgence. It has been an incredible journey that would not have been possible without the support of the board members and the FDCI team. We look forward to presenting many more editions of this magical event as we take it to a new high with seven days this time around. What has been most interesting is that our couturiers have influenced the evolution of the luxury consumer. They have not just been revivalists, but also innovators. Our embroideries and handmade crafts have found a place on the world map, and that is why it is imperative to promote the Make in India endeavour. We hope to create a new language of high definition glamour through our celebrations,­­” says Sunil Sethi, President FDCI and Founder, Sunil Sethi Design Alliance

A legendary vanguard of Indian fashion and a headliner for all things luxurious, couturier Tarun Tahiliani, will exhibit his Tarakanna collection on July 26th at 9.30PM at the Taj Palace Hotel, New Delhi. “This year our India Couture Week show is about lightness, borne by a new construct and a conscious desire to make the most floaty couture that women desire to wear a hundred times over. Tarakanna is stardust,” says Tahiliani in his quintessential smoky voice. 

Rohit Bal’s ICW show is offsite, at the restored Bikaner House on opening night at 9.30PM. “My collection is an ode to lost craft and tradition. A journey from the past to the present with a gentle nudge of contemporary influences. It is an effort to revive heritage pieces from the costume collections of royal Mughals which have been immortalised in museums. The collection highlights an amalgamation of traditional craft with modern sensibilities preserving its timeless beauty,” says Bal of his new collection.  

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2017 

Fashion Design Council Of India Presents India Fashion Week Autumn / Winter 2017

The Fashion Design Council of India’s Fashion Week Autumn Winter 2017 edition celebrated India’s immense talent in the world of fashion, right from handloom revivalists to the unabashedly glamorous. Union Minister of Textiles Smriti Irani, Alia Bhatt, Sunil Sethi President FDCI and Union Minister for Women & Child Development Maneka Gandhi made for some great photo ops and the Delhi sunshine demanded iced lattes on the hour to keep up with the frenetic pace of the week.

Here is the FDCI presented India Fashion Week 2017 in pictures:

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Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium entrance

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Schulen Fernandes | Wendell Rodricks

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Schulen Fernandes | Wendell Rodricks

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Schulen Fernandes | Wendell Rodricks

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Siddartha Tytler

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Siddartha Tytler

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Alia Bhatt for Namrata Joshipura

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Malini Ramani

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Vaani Kapoor for Rina Dhaka

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Pankaj & Nidhi

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Nachiket Barve’s sari

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Madhu Jain

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Rara Avis sari

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Golden Threads of Assam mannequin

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Tarun Tahiliani & Amit Aggarwal’s Grand Finale

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Opening Day

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Opening Day

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Sunil Sethi President FDCI with Maneka Gandhi Union Minister for Women & Child Development

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Sunil Sethi President FDCI with Smriti Irani Union Minister of Textiles on opening day

Getty Images

©Rubina A Khan 2017

Varun Bahl’s Fantasy Bouquet Show At India Couture Week 2016

Varun Bahl has been showing at the Fashion Design Council of India’s India Couture Week since its inception eight years ago with Sunil Sethi as the President of the council. Tonight, he shows his Fantasy Bouquet line at FDCI India Couture Week 2016.

Your show last year was spectacular. What is the theme of your couture line this year?
We have renewed our commitment to reinventing traditional Indian silhouettes for the contemporary woman with our India Couture Week 2016 collection and are showing almost 50 looks. Delicate floral motifs make a prominent appearance in the entire collection, with sophisticated colours, textures and patterns mixed with the intricate craftsmanship that our brand is well known for. Dainty vintage inspirations meet opulent baroque influences in this line, which has a hint of tropical motifs as well. The colour scheme is versatile and varied, and imitates a bouquet of flowers.

unnamedVarun Bahl 

Whose show are you most looking forward to, apart from your own?
Each designer’s creations are so unique that to differentiate and pick one would be an exercise in futility. What I look forward to most is the post-couture-week time, when I can enjoy looking at all the collections in detail and appreciate everyone’s particular vision for the season.

Is there a celebrity walking for your show?
I feel a celebrity showstopper is not essential to a successful show, but I’m not averse to the idea either if it suits the concept of the collection. For this couture week, though, you’ll have to wait and see.

What is the most challenging aspect of doing a couture show, aside from all the other preparations?
The modern Indian consumer is evolving. She is well aware, has ample global exposure, and is extremely quality-conscious. She is also one on the lookout for designs that seamlessly marry Indian heritage with an international sensibility. The real challenge is to appeal to her nuanced tastes. Another imposing challenge is to stay true to the craft in the face of growing commercialization.

You are largely known for your couture and bridal lines. Do you think bridal and couture and clearly demarcated in India?
One can’t deny that the focus of the couture market in India is largely on bridal pieces — they are considered two sides of the same coin. That’s mainly because the wedding market in the country is one that cannot be ignored. Moreover, since couture is associated with hefty price tags, people are more likely to purchase them for wedding festivities. While the trend of considering couture and bridal as synonymous is changing, it will take a while before the two are clearly distinguished. As a brand, we’ve been paving the way for couture to be embraced as part of one’s daily wardrobe since the very beginning.

How many people pronounce couture right? Do you correct them, or you let it ride?
Almost everyone I meet can pronounce it right, but in case they can’t, I prefer to let it go. Getting a pronunciation correct is not the foremost thing on everyone’s agenda. Besides, they may be better than me at other things.

What is the most often repeated request for a Varun Bahl couture outfit?
There are many actually, like our sari-gown, our farshi-palazzo with a couture tunic, our anarkalis and of course, our haute couture saris.

unnamed-2What’s your signature style that creeps up in every collection?
Our focus has always been to blend the classic with the contemporary, and the antique with the new. We are constantly reinventing traditional staples to keep them fresh for the non-conformist customer of today, but without diluting its traditional essence. Innovative use of fabrics and florals are also mainstays of all our collections.

What do you think makes your designs different from the others?
Our designs take global cues, but are not run-of-the-mill. They have a unique quality that makes the wearer stand out. We also believe in creating classics that will serve the wearer for years to come. We have stayed to true to our artistry even in the face of commercialization of the design business in India. Moreover, we introduced the concept of black and ivory bridal wear even when they were considered taboo colours in India. It may be de rigueur today, but we championed the concept when it was unheard of. Our treatment of the traditional embroidery crafts of India — like zardozi, aari, dabka, muqaish, chikan, etc — in contemporary motifs and colours is also our signature.

Varun Bahl’s show is at 8pm on Saturday, July 23, at the Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi.

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on 22 July, 2016

©Rubina A Khan 2016

 

Anita Dongre Makes Her India Couture Week 2016 Debut With Epic Love

India Couture Week 2016 kicks off in New Delhi today. You are debuting your couture line at ICW 2016 this year. Have you been doing couture all along in your career, as you are largely known for pret lines under various labels?
It is our debut at the India Couture Week this year. I started couture five years ago. I believe fashion should be affordable. Everybody deserves to own a label and our pret brands are doing just that. We are very excited to unveil the bridal couture collection in the capital at such a prestigious event on the fashion calendar. The Epic Love collection is inspired by Mughal gardens and architecture. Our muse, a young gypsy princess is free-spirited, yet embraces tradition in her own special way, much like young brides today who enjoy what they wear rather than being weighed down by it. Traditional silhouettes like the lehenga choli and saree are reinvented in contemporary and individualistic styling. We are exhibiting 55 pieces from our Epic Love line. unnamed-2                                                                                  Anita Dongre 

Whose show are you most looking forward to, apart from your own?
India Couture Week showcases the most selective and the best talent that the fashion industry has to offer. ICW is the event that dictates the bridal couture trends for the season. It is exciting to see every designer’s work because each one has put together his or her best creations of the season.

What is the most challenging aspect of doing a couture show, aside from all the other preparations?
There is a lot of work that goes into putting a collection together for the ramp. The whole team works together on this. We have hundreds of people who are working very hard on the collection and the event. Coordinating with so many people is challenging, but it is all worth it in the end. For me, every show we do is exciting.

You are one of the most successful and popular designers in India, fiscally even more. How are you feeling right before your first couture show? 
For me, every show we do is exciting.

Do you think the blurred lines between “couture” and “bridal” are becoming clearer over the years in India?
I think in India, couture means bridal. Weddings are when people look towards buying couture labels.

What has kept you busier – the production of the Kate Middleton Gulrukh dress or the couture line you are showing at ICW?
I know we have sold about a hundred pieces of the Gulrukh tunic dress after the Duchess of Cambridge wore it, and orders on that are still pouring in. I am in charge of the design process; my production team takes over from there. I am always busy with creating the next line, which is the bridal couture line of 2016 – Epic Love.

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Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton in Anita Dongre’s Gulrukh dress on her first trip to Mumbai, India | Getty Images

How much of a difference has the Duchess wearing one of your designs made to the Anita Dongre brand globally?
Of course, it is a matter of immense pride that I am the only designer who dressed the Duchess on her maiden visit to India. It was a wonderful experience for me personally; and the label made headlines across the world.

Anita Dongre’s show is at 8.30pm on Thursday, July 21st, 2016 at the Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi, India.

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on 20 July, 2016

©Rubina A Khan 2016

 

Tarun Tahiliani’s Back At India Couture Week 2016 With The Last Dance Of The Courtesan Collection

India Couture Week last year was a fashion symphony extraordinaire, with Sabyasachi and Christian Louboutin taking collective bows amidst a bedazzled crowd of fashion forwards on opening night in New Delhi. The eclectic showing of couture by India’s finest designers put together by Sunil Sethi, President of Fashion Design Council of India, was grandiloquent, with glamazons like Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan, Shilpa Shetty, Chitrangada Singh and Kangna Ranaut walking the ramp.

This year though, Sabyasachi will not be showing at India Couture Week 2016 and previewed his Firdaus line on Instagram on Monday, the 18th of July. But the week’s schedule smacks of fashionable excitement as the ICW sees Anita Dongre, designer of the immensely popular Gulrukh tunic dress that Kate Middleton wore on her trip to India in March this year, making her couture line debut and Tarun Tahiliani returning to the week after a six year hiatus.

Two of Bollywood’s most beautiful faces, Deepika Padukone and Fawad Khan are walking for Manish Malhotra who is kicking off the fashion extravaganza on July 20th at the Taj Palace Hotel, with a finale by Rohit Bal and the de riguer smattering of famous faces lending their celebrity to the runway for various designers. “Tarun and Anita have been influencers and trend setters in the fashion space and will present defining looks through their sartorial rendition of what a modern woman desires at ICW 2016. From the year I became the President of the FDCI eight years ago, I take great pride in the quality of designers who put their best designs on the ramp each year. The fantasy and dream of these designers turn into reality for the customer at couture week each year and I take great pride in that,” says Sethi, making it sound like the thrilling fashion carousel of India’s best designs on the runway that it’s expected to be.

Excerpts from the interview with Tarun Tahiliani ahead of his upcoming show on July 21st at India Couture Week 2016:
unnamedTarun Tahiliani

You are back at ICW after 6 years since it shifted to New Delhi. What made you participate in the ICW this year and what is your couture line all about?
Yes, I am. I am not sure if ICW was ever in Bombay, it is just that I had started with India Bridal Week, and so I stayed with the platform that I had started out with. However, over time I felt that India Couture Week being officially backed by the FDCI was the correct one to be involved with and it happens at a consistent time and at a consistent location, with a degree of professionalism that I have come to expect at the FDCI events so, it made sense for us to switch back since we are a Delhi based design house. We are very happy to be back and looking forward to having our first show with ICW next Thursday.

How many pieces are you showing?
We are exhibiting 28 couture pieces and 16 couture bespoke pieces for men as well from our Last Dance of the Courtesan collection. In addition, we will show the Ready-To-Wear bridal lehengas which will come out in a separate section and are styled to look different, as we do not have a separate platform for the RTW Bridal. We understand that couture is very linked to Bridal in this country. In view of that we are doing it in this manner.

Whose show are you most looking forward to, apart from your own?
Apart from my own show, I am most looking forward to seeing Anamika Khanna’s show, who is a friend and colleague. I don’t think will have time to watch the other shows because I am travelling thereafter. I am sure there will be a wonderful standard in many shows this season. It’s been a long, slow summer and people have had lots of time in their workshops.

13718553_1132045066855366_6494982334806720601_nLast Dance of the Courtesan India Couture Week 2016 collection

Is there a celebrity walking for your show?
No, there is no celebrity walking for us. We have tried the trick and it gets us tremendous eyeballs, but unfortunately, that’s all that’s talked about. We’d much rather have the star of a couture show be the clothes themselves with people noticing the finesse, fit and the embroidery on them. It is very easy to fall into the celebrity trap and we are trying to resist that for as long as we can because honestly, it’s better for the reportage of the clothes if they are the real stars as they should be. Too often, I have seen very mediocre clothes get a lot of splash because it’s been worn by, let’s say Kareena Kapoor, and I don’t think that’s what we want to be associated with.

What is the most challenging aspect of doing a couture show?
The beauty about couture is that it is made to particular bodies and for a show, you get your models at the very last minute in a way, although you do fittings, it is not pushing the envelope as much as one could normally have had one got one the models right from the start. To me, that is always the greatest challenge and how to differentiate the couture and RTW shows, besides the costs, price ranges and the finesse of the embroidery and the quality of materials we use.

Describe how you are feeling right this moment, despite the vast experience of being one of the most legendary and reputed designers the Indian fashion industry has ever seen?
I would be lying if I said I am not a bit nervous, I am actually very nervous. I have got a lot riding on the show and I worked on it the whole summer, and we have 25 minutes to show the line, so I am very concerned about all the components coming together to portray it exactly as I see it in my head.

13529002_1124943444232195_4408707928758731629_nLast Dance of the Courtesan India Couture Week 2016 collection

Do you think the blurred lines between “couture” and “bridal” are becoming clearer over the years, or does most of the fashionable populace think they are one and the same in India?
I think that’s one of the best questions I have heard. The lines between couture and bridal are becoming completely blurred because the only time people really indulge in couture without even realizing it is during weddings. Most people think that if something is expensive, it is couture. It could be entirely machine-embroidered or machine-stitched and they still think it is couture. They don’t understand that it’s a bespoke experience, designed to mould to every body. We are probably the only design house that has a separate couture studio, though we think it might be time to merge the two now. I am not sure whether the fashion conscious want the same thing, but they don’t have a specific regard for handmade v/s machine made and I think the designers who don’t do a special couture line have used this to their advantage to keep propagating the myth that it is the same thing. The fact is that it is not.

How many people pronounce couture right?
Most people can’t pronounce the word couture correctly. If it is relevant, we try and teach them the correct pronunciation but there are many who will never get it because phonetically they can’t say certain things, and it is okay if we call it what it is as long as we understand what it is and uphold the standards in every which way, namely, in the fit and on the quality of the garments, I think that is more important than how it is pronounced.

Tarun Tahiliani’s show is at 9.30pm on Thursday, July 21st, 2016 at the Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi, India. 

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on 19 July, 2016

©Rubina A Khan 2016