Review: The Miniaturist by Good Earth

Review: The Miniaturist by Good Earth

As part of Lakmé Fashion Week’s ongoing Winter/Festive 2018 edition, Good Earth — which made its foray into apparel ten years back — joined the fashion industry way of doing things on Wednesday, the 22nd. With a formal fashion presentation. Yet almost every guest at the brand’s flagship store at Raghuvanshi Mills in Mumbai, the site of this event sensed that this wasn’t going to be just another show.

The Miniaturist was not just another show.

When you stepped into the corridor, interpretations of Gota work, Rajasthan’s jeweled old technique of metallic thread embroidery on fine fabrics or block printed textiles had been exhibited in a museum style display. Some pieces were behind glass, some had been put up on walls while an AV about Gota and its present interpretation played in a continuous loop. Swatches of Gota work, hand-cut motifs of traditional patterns like Chaand (moon), Anaar (pomegranate), Baadal (cloud), sashes and tassels, a few prized ghaghris (gathered skirts made from multi-metres of cloth), a choli from Good Earth founder Anita Lal’s wedding trousseau of many decades back, accessories like armlets, headpieces, ear cuffs all in Gota —the assimilation spoke in a language most of us would understand. The language of our culture, of exquisite handmade craft, of the Indian fondness for embellished finery, of how material becomes memory and the two together cement emotional bonds in our lives.

As fragrance (dozens of fragrant candles lit up the evening), and live music by singer Suchismita Das who sang old and new songs from Hindi films—Khwaja mere Khwaja from Jodha Akbar and Piya tose naina lage re from Guide being just two instances—wafted around, guests were guided to watch tableaus with models wearing Gota couture in the form of lehnga-cholis, wide and crushed ghaghris, unstitched drapes, velvet blouses, deconstructed bottoms, long tunics, diaphanous saris, chunis. One intimate setting of models in languid palatial surroundings would be lighted up as another was muted into darkness as the show waltzed from one tableau to another, knitting and retelling stories in the viewer’s mind. You had to be attentive to keep up with the narrative as fragrance, music, couture, the choreographed play of lights, beauty, oldness, romance and painstakingly made clothes (that had to compete with the other tools of storytelling) unfolded before you.

To term all this pretty and luxurious is easy because that’s what it was. Very beautiful in parts, strongly “Good Earth” in sensibility, in taste and sophistication. It may also be safe to argue that The Miniaturist will fly straight into the wish lists and then into the wardrobes of a certain class of customers of Indian luxury as wedding and occasion wear.

Designed by Namrata Rathi, with the show and production curated and created by the brand’s lead designer Pavitra Rajaram and Deepshikha Khanna who leads Sustain, with matriarch Lal as the poet, potter and choirmaster of the show, The Miniaturist’s best moments and pieces however were its details and not the way it told the story. Very intricate Gota in floral threadwork, geometric jaal (net) patterns, aari and danka (types of embroidery) work used with care and dazzle, delightful amethyst and aquamarine hues, beckoning mashru and silk kota fabrics –these were the real and unmistakable heroes. The tableau tales, the setting was complimentary and would have perhaps allowed a better play of clothes if their nuances had been quieter and discreet.

Because soon as you widened the horizon of your gaze away from a pattern, a fragment, the dance of stitches, the dexterous handwork, the flowy silhouettes so dear to the Indian wardrobe to the bigger picture—models in lavish, princessy surroundings and moods—the story blurred into something you had seen and heard somewhere, sometime, as an Indian. The story of privileged society with access to leisure and craftsmanship, to the rites of tradition and the indulgence of luxury. That bit challenged the contemporariness that actually existed in the creations. It certainly made me wonder if The Miniaturist could have been bolder and more questioning in its approach, if it could have been slanted towards a newer burst of ideas, certainly minus the resonances of palatial charm. That would have made way for the clothes to get the engrossment and absorption they deserved.–1206