Trend Tracker | Fall, dark and handsome


Trend Tracker | Fall, dark and handsome

At the recent Autumn/Winter edition of the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week (WIFW), the first garment of the first show by Tarun Tahiliani, and the last garment of the last show by Namrata Joshipura, were black. Between the two, many interpretations of black walked out, putting the ultimate hue of independence, classicism and eroticism in the driving seat of trends again.

If these are put alongside the (fashion) history-altering black of Chanel, the glamorous black of Armani or the sexy black of Dior, they would still stand apart and tell the story of the Indian black. Like a Western modernist painting by S.H. Raza with the Indianness of a “bindu”.

“Black does creep into all our autumn/winter collections as an essential canvas, also because we work with different craft and embroidery techniques in pop colours which, without a black base, would become too folkloric,” says Pankaj Ahuja of the designer duo Pankaj & Nidhi. Their new collection, House of Cards, used plenty of black, including gold dori work and black zardozi on black fabric. In the past, they have used black dabka, black naqshi, thread and black moti (pearl), says Ahuja.

Consider the fabric spectrum of the Indian black—a coarse black Khadi and glossy black Kanjeevaram have totally different textures. Ditto for a black pashmina shawl and a black Banarasi. It is difficult to compare black Shibori with black Ikat but our designers strive to fuse such variations.

Black turns into a fashion-art issue as the voices add up. “Certain garments look safer and classic in black. It is a solid, monotonous colour against which the rest of the drama of a costume and accessorizing comes out,” says Gaurav Gupta, whose recent space-age collection with accessory designer Mawi Keviom interpreted black and black-gold in an avant-garde way. There are other instances. “For me black is a darker version of white. It is expressive, pure, clean and strong and India is learning its own black,” says designer Mrinalini. She cities film award shows—10 years back, a top actress would rarely dress in black, now black reigns on the Indian red carpet. Mrinalini’s autumn/winter collection last year was called Black Lovers Anonymous. “I explored black humour through it—it is also the hue of burglars, mafias, hustlers and all underground professions,” she adds.

Others cite a deeper, instinctual connect with black. “Whenever I pick a new swatch for a new collection, it is black. For me it’s a blank slate, it is easy to build up with black as the starting point,” says Joshipura, adding that black is serious and stable for her, not dark and melancholic. Her finale collection at the WIFW, elecTRON, used black as the primary colour for a variety of sassy and finely structured silhouettes mixed subtly with red, gold or silver.

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Nachiket Barve used three black fabrics for one garment

Black does have a Western address on its résumé. In a global cultural retrospective of the 20th century, it would inarguably represent fashion. In India, 20th century’s most memorable cultural icon was Mahatma Gandhi. His Khadi was never black. In post-Nehruvian India, vibrant colours defined the earliest garments of our senior-most designers Ritu Kumar and the late Rohit Khosla. They didn’t reject black but they didn’t celebrate it either. The early work of Tahiliani and Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla got memorialized through delicate white on white Lucknawi Chikan embroidery. Rohit Bal’s most used, most loved colour has been the off-white of mulmul.

Historically, black existed mostly in pastoral Indian costumes—the Kutchi Rabaris, for instance. It was not the colour of royal families though the decorative chogas of Mughal costumes recorded in books and museums show occasional use of black. As do Shia costumes.

“There is little reference of black in our costume history. That’s why I do my own black, which is charcoal or shahi,” says Sanjay Garg of Raw Mango, who has never done a black collection or used pure, jet black for his saris. “Black gives me a feeling of unnerving permanence, it is the end of the colour spectrum and there is no mystique in an end,” explains Garg, whose shahi options range from his work in Akola to Banarasi and Chanderi. He describes charcoal as the “Indian black”.

Black’s saleability is a contextual reason. “Reviewing our March sales, I realize our black tunics sold out in all the eight designs,” says Joshipura, adding that retailers always ask for black options in every design. “We sold 50 pieces of a black sari from my last couture collection,” says Gupta, adding that black sari-gowns are top sellers from his brand though there is so far no demand for black wedding lehngas. Every designer interviewed emphasized that they do not favour black for spring/summer as it clashes with the sentiments associated with the Indian summer.

That’s exactly why it’s a fall, dark and handsome colour.–Fall-dark-and-handsome.html