LFW: There is fashion everywhere, but where is style?


LFW: There is fashion everywhere, but where is style?

It all started wi

Mumbai: Hype and hyperbole are on the house in the world of fashion. Everything is so “fashion” at a fashion week especially in Mumbai with its once-legendary style quotient that the very flash starts needling you. Soon, questions trickle down. Are the rumbles and tumbles of the fashion industry even relevant outside the venue of a fashion week? Especially at a time when retail is such a competitive, challenging field, with dozens of versions of similarly mediocre designs defining “Indian fashion”. This is not intellectualization, it is rationalization. Fashion demands argumentativeness and must make realistic sense inside an ecosystem; especially pret. It must be determined by the economy and the mood of the nation, it cannot (just) be a pretty fairy tale.

The drive to St. Regis hotel, the venue of the Winter-Festive 2016 edition of Lakme Fashion Week (LFW), takes you past the BDD chawls of Lower Parel—a Maharashtrian stronghold of lower middle-class living. The cab driver points out to sabzi mandi, phool mandi and some other mandis; he coughs repeatedly, wracked he says by a persistent viral for days. It’s raining and he wants a raincoat for his 14-year-old daughter and black leather shoes for his son, not layered ensembles, cropped pants or white sneakers that dominate Indian fashion currently.

Inside St. Regis, around the main show area, the scene is completely diverse.

You have got out of one lifestyle and entered another. Girls in great clothes, boys in even better ones. White sneakers by the dozen. Models walking around in pre-show disarray. A whirring blur of strong lipsticks, chunky heels, brogues and cool glam. What drives the fashion industry and its foot soldiers, kings and subjects—season after season? The spell of sheer style, once the hallmark of Bombay fashion has long been gathered to God in Mumbai. There is fashion everywhere, but where is style?

I watch the shows, restless, questioning the genre I write on and how to make observations relevant (and interesting) for readers who may care little about the goings-on inside a fashion week. Is there a broader connect to our daily lives or is fashion always and nothing but that superficial coating that we can paste on and shrug off when we want? Here are some highlights from Day One, that may tell us why fashion matters even when it is cooped up inside one five star hotel on a rainy Mumbai day.

  1. Senior designer Wendell Rodricks has done the next best thing. He has taken on younger designer Schulen Fernandes to extend the work of his label and sustain the wind in its sail. “What do we think; we are not going to last forever,” said Rodricks making a quick, valid point. He has thoughtfully passed on the mantle, and retained the signature. It’s a first such move by an Indian designer as none of the biggies have (publicly) brought in designers to carry on their mantle. The fabrics were fabulous—Malkha and natural-dyed Bengal cotton my favourites among these—the colours mesmerizingly soft, the trapezoid shapes suitable for women of all age groups.

It struck relevance and utility and beauty by making trends work for us instead of us working for trends. Models of all ages wore the unisex, unisize clothes to make the point. Let’s applaud Rodricks. Also for the release of the Indian Women’s Standard Size Chart that accompanied the first showing of the Fernandes-Rodricks showing. “The figures stated are body measurements and the industry is encouraged to add seam allowances depending on the style and fit desired,” said the press release as LFW and Rodricks await industry feedback.

  1. Karishma Shahani’s collection for her label Ka-Sha showed Navya her current collection. Beautifully layered and proportioned ensembles, Shahani’s signature style walked by, some enamouring, others too cluttered. The winsome moment was the last bit when Shahani walked out with her child strapped to her body in a baby sling with fabric and patterns from the collections to take a bow, even as two other young mothers wearing their babies and large smiles walked alongside with models. Great, warm touch: young mothers at work. Totally in fashion.
  2. Ujjawal Dubey, who debuted barely four seasons back right here at LFW is, with every show, becoming a label of heft. The young designer is saying something we should heed to, his menswear is clean, it may be a bit ponderous and is always in shades of brooding black and dark tones is appealing. What I loved best about the show was how every time two models crossed each other on the ramp, they physically brushed past each other. It was thoughtful and mild, an “I make space for you and you for me” message (the world is a crowded place after all), not a head on collision.
  3. The much-awaited GenNext show mentored by fashion and business expert Sabina Chopra had some very good pieces and a couple of collections that came together to make a cohesive point. I didn’t get gooseflesh but the fashion potential was clearly visible. Abhishek Paatni, Anupreet Sidhu, Diming Rubu, Gaurav Khanijo, Paridhi Jaipuria and Vaibhav Singh as debutants flashed a few points. One: the days of clingy bling are over and out. Boots are in, for men and women. Fashion is relaxed and unhurried, full of loose shapes. Youth is not about flashing skin, it’s about toned down rebellion. My top favourite: Diming Rubu.
  4. The Grazia Young Fashion Awards show, where the magazine awards a clutch of deserving designers every year and then brings a capsule collection by each of them on the ramp was a good one. Well-curated fashion, saucy accessories, absence of attention seeking design, youthful insouciance. Thumbs up.
  5. Note of concern: Nimish Shah put out a tightly-edited collection for his label Shift. The flat footwear that looked “wearable and efficient” from a distance soon became Distraction Number 1. The soles was slippery and obviously without grip, the flat sandals fitted the models poorly as they kept minding their walk and holding their toes tight so as not to go flying on the ramp.


Lesson for us: The shoe world is not flat.