Trend Tracker | The cocktail groom

MINT

Trend Tracker | The cocktail groom

A few months before Abhijeet Wankhade, 26, a businessman from Nashik, got married, his fiancée would send him Pinterest and Instagram feeds almost every hour with wedding-wear suggestions. But Wankhade, who got married in May, says his mother was the real commander-in-chief of his dressing project.

It meant selecting garments for the five occasions from his “arrival” for the haldi ceremony to the reception, a ghazal night. It started with a shopping trip to Mumbai for an ivory sherwani for the pheras, a dash to Pune for an embroidered Nehru waistcoat, fittings for a Western suit by Raymond for the ghazal evening, and a search for the perfect dhoti for a pre-wedding puja considered auspicious in Maharashtrian wedding rituals. He shopped separately for a green ornate belt, a crinkled stole and a green and gold turban to offset the ivory sherwani.

“We had a destination wedding in Silvassa, plus my wife is a Marwari, so we had the rituals of two communities, leading to numerous garment changes. Now, people say that grooms should wear professional make-up to look fairer but I wanted nothing more than 10 minutes of make-up,” he says.

Grooms are fastidiously dressed these days. To fulfil the long-harboured ambitions of their mothers and sync with the designer dreams of their brides, they must shed old machismo for new dandyism. They are characters as well as props in a wedding bonanza. Many spend weeks shopping for an assemblage of ensembles. Besides ateliers of well-known couturiers like Manish MalhotraJ.J. ValayaTarun Tahiliani and Rohit Bal, they go to specialized wedding studios, often prodded by hired stylists. Asked to pick, Parthip Thyagarajan, co-founder of WeddingSutra.com, names Raymond Made-to-Measure, SS Homme and Studio Aboutir among the top favourites of grooms in Mumbai.

Traditional hang-ups are discarded for look-at-me style. This means vibrant colours, embellished fabrics, experimental silhouettes (think anarkali kurtas or a tie paired with a dhoti), kundan necklaces, pearl-lined turbans, large brooches and eye-catching flash. Tuxedos are as important as ornamental ethnic wear.

Sherwanis kiss the knee and are now layered with draped kurtassalwars and cigarette-fit trousers. The fitted Nehru-collar waistcoat and bandhgala is synonymous with occasion wear. Also, there is experimentation in surfaces, fabrics and colour tones for formal menswear,” explains Shantanu Mehra of Shantanu & Nikhil.

Interestingly, the bride and groom compete with each other to look like the leading cast in the Obese Indian Wedding. “Weddings have become more carnival-like and men’s occasion wear, which has come into its own in the last five years, has a big story ahead of it,” says Mehra. Though there are no figures available for the grooms-wear market, the Indian wedding industry was estimated to be worth $25.5 billion (around Rs.1.53 trillion) in 2013. It has been growing at 25% annually.

“About 35% of my business comes from dressing bridegrooms. Now, I give them separate appointments,” says Malhotra, whose calendar is reportedly choked with bride and groom appointments through the year. He says that navy blue is the new black for men for cocktail events, while tone-on-tone gold sherwanis are wedding-ceremony favourites.

Blame the bride. “The bride chooses what the groom wears; it’s non-negotiable, especially among NRI couples,” quips Umesh Jivnani, a fashion columnist and jewellery designer from Mumbai who, by his own admission, manages “rich NRI” weddings, clothes and ornaments for the entire family.

“Boys fly down from abroad for a day or two for fittings and try what their fiancées like. The cocktail party is the groom’s day out. He must match the non-traditional wear that brides choose for themselves,” says Jivnani. Since many of his clients are from business families steeped in old money, he says they go back to their Armani suits and Berluti shoes kind of global corporate wear the moment the wedding frenzy is over.

Wankhade agrees. “I had to perform to some songs at our sangeet function so I chose an embroidered Nehru jacket; its buttons could be opened while dancing and closed while sitting down,” he says.

Fashion expert Gautam Kalra, who styles ramp shows for a number of Indian designers, says that experimental silhouettes in unusual colours now define the dressing instincts of grooms. “These events are an opportunity to succumb to fantastical temptations for men who usually are formal and conformist in day-to-day fashion,” he says.

Indian weddings with their display cult are a ready context for noticeable change in heterosexual dressing. Earlier, grooms looked like mirror images of their staid ancestors staring out of stiff photographs, complete with twirled moustaches, even swords in hand, looking stern. Now, attired in fuchsia or velvet, if not both, they look heady.

Like a much-talked about groom from a well-known business family in Mumbai. He was keen to bust the myth of boring grooms with his garb, says a wedding planner, but didn’t realize that the fuchsia-violet brocade jacket he wore for the cocktail party would become the talking point of the wedding, more than the bride’s clothes.

Designers respond to the trend with gusto, their eyes on the emerging market. At the recent India Couture Week, Rohit Bal showed bandhgalas in multicoloured brocade; Anju Modi sent out a Zardozi embroidered coat paired with a tie, shirt and dhoti. For their stand-alone show, Shantanu & Nikhil made crepe lungis and long ombre jackets for men. Sabyasachi Mukherjee, who has always leaned towards androgynous silhouettes in men’s couture, showed floral suits at his recent show.

Thyagarajan says this fuss emanates from the importance given to the “entry”. “A dramatic entry—much of which is professionally choreographed—is really the new red and black of Indian weddings,” he says. Explaining it as the moment when the bride and groom first enter the wedding venue and theatrically float in to everyone’s attention, he says “The two must wear something equally dramatic to match the buzz which usually translates to over-the-top dressing.”

All hail the dandy groom, shall we say?

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