Shahab Durazi’s Retro Bombay-Ness

Shahab Durazi’s Retro Bombay-Ness

Creating splendid couture without making it vintage, revivalist, or co-dependent on a celebrity showstopper, couturier Shahab Durazi reimagined Bombay glamour 

This may be starting a review from the wrong end of the stitch. But Shahab Durazi’s gentle-mannered demeanour on the ramp as he took a bow after his much-anticipated show on October 12 at FDCI x Lakmé Fashion Week’s ongoing edition in Mumbai, was emblematic of what his couture stands for.

Do clothes have a behavioural language? A temperament? That glamour, beauty, elegance, craftwork and fabric come together to form a language which differs from one designer to another is an established contention in the argumentative history of fashion. However, can clothes imbibe a certain identifiable manner in the way they are imagined, tailored, embellished and then sent out to speak for themselves? That possibility rarely becomes a visible idea.

Shahab Durazi’s retrospective or ‘return’ as it was excitedly dubbed by the fashion media had a powerful, yet unflappable temperament, beyond the language of craft. Presented as a special, a FDCI Showcase, the collection was personalised almost by the sentiments held dear by its maker—a certain elusiveness that eschews noise but embraces notice.


Durazi’s collection was presented as a special FDCI showcase on Wednesday, October 12.

The show had nostalgic Bombay-ness in its demeanour. It is not a dictionary word but vivifies a cultural essence. It wafted in like old-world glamour that would exist in the revolving doors between celebrity appearances and their elusive unavailability. When Bombay was about Colaba and Cuffe Parade. When Coke had not yet acquired Coke Zero as its slimmer sibling. When red carpet was not a brand promotion playground choreographed by swag artists and celebrity stylists. Before the category of ‘bridal’ took fashion experimentation hostage and never released it free without beheading its free spirit. When couture was not synonymous with the word lehenga in all Indian languages.

Durazi’s Bombay-ness took us back to the intense vibe of Shammi Kapoor and Rajendra Kumar films of the ’60s. When heroines wore badan pe sitare lapete huye saris or the salma-sitara saris, and heroes donned jackets like palpable outer skins while singing about passionate romance on the piano. When clothes were created with their own swagger and did not need celebrity influencers to turn them into fashion.


The collection consistently used black and white, separately and in combination, giving it a unified value.

Durazi did well to work without a Bollywood showstopper as the clothes got all the attention. No bridal lehenga, no pandering to India’s established commercial ‘market’ through familiar vocabularies of ostentation either, his was a couture presentation worth waiting 12 years for. Purist couture created with refinement, it was made with bespoke hand-embroidered and hand-finished fabrics. Artful bead work using fine Japanese pearls, Czechoslovakian glass beads, ingenuously designed resham embroidery in delicate silver zari, luxe fabrics in black, white and white-black defined the collection. Durazi says he makes each pattern artwork himself before he sends to his team of craftspeople to translate into embroidery or embellishment; beadwork dominates his creations across his body of work.

Womenswear brought in long and short dresses, some in lace, others drenched with very fine embroidery. There were jackets in different silhouettes, skirt sets, pant-suits, trousers and tops, blouses and just one sari from a past collection. The details added dazzle as did a couple of hand-embroidered shoes. All clothes were fitted, tailored, conceived in silhouettes to convey confident charisma instead of trying to appeal to several mindsets and demographics of size, shape, method and manner. The bespoke part was clear enough for potential consumers who may be size zero or a Goddess Plus or in menswear a size hulk or a gym devotee.


Durazi did well to work without a Bollywood showstopper as the clothes got all the attention. His was a couture presentation worth waiting 12 years for.

Shahab Durazi

Menswear—which was a tad too layered with several elements and could have been edited to be sharper—had slim, tailored trousers in dark luxe fabrics, pantsuits, jackets in different lengths, impeccably stitched shirts in white and black. Some shirts had lace cuffs, beaded gloves and there were diamanté belts, scarves, stoles, cravats. The long pleated fabric tailored to one side of certain men’s trousers, white or black, needed a proportional rethink.

Embellishment was a constant, but it had been carefully composed like a song—its melodious intensity rising or ebbing. Nothing shrieked for attention, yet most pieces deserve a re-see given the details that they were laden with.

Durazi did not succumb to any temptation to throw in a red, pink or neon outfit. The consistency of black and white, used separately or in combination gave the collection a unified value. The choice of models, both male and female, especially the former, was commendable. Each could carry off fashion as only clothes horses can, who know how to speak in the difficult Greek of glamour. The overall finesse on the runway revealed that all backstage variables had been fine-tuned, rehearsed, controlled.


Creations from the Durazi’s collection.

The designer gives the credit to choreographer and show producer Anu Ahuja for the styling, perfection, set design and helping to express his creative thoughts in the right form and format.

Old-world charm has a sepia-tinted sentiment. To free it of that warm glow is a couturier’s responsibility if he must step into and stand in the present and Durazi carried that well.

It is not difficult to predict a bespoke market for this kind of couture. In the post-pandemic era which has brought conviction for long lasting investments in self as well as tools of achieving that selfhood, black and white, both as metaphors and colours of fashion are statements to pay heed to.