Trend Tracker | The red carpet aesthetic

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Trend Tracker | The red carpet aesthetic

The very first garment from designer Gaurav Gupta’s collection Lightfall shown at the recent PCJ Delhi Couture week was a gold and black, clingy, see-through, slit, sequinned soft-mesh gown. The model wore a mask on her face but no innerwear. Less than 10 days after the show, that dress, which could well be Indian fashion’s boldest piece in a long time, was ordered from Gupta’s DLF Emporio store in Delhi. It conjured up a classic Hollywood red carpet moment but was bought by someone Gupta calls “one of my regular Indian customers”. But where will she wear it, you want to ask only to realize that debating its practicality would mean missing the whole point of new, daring, made- in-India couture.

The spirit of such garments may embody the exhibitionism of the red carpet, but they also represent an inflection point in local couture. So while Gupta’s edgy garments are picking up a following in Delhi, on the other side of the planet, actor Julie Marie Berman wore one of his red lace 3D embroidered gown for the 40th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards in Hollywood this June. Last year, actor and musician Javina Gavankar wore a Gaurav Gupta dress for the Grammy Awards.

Red carpet garments by global-Indians like Naeem Khan and Prabal Gurung may have contributed to bringing attention to designers here. The attention and orders from Hollywood stars or their agents is beginning to give Indian designers new goals in business and its reach. To their customers in India, this experimentation with garments worthy of the international red carpet is adding new dimensions in style. They can buy a glamourous piece for a black tie event made in India by an Indian designer. “Most of my couture is for the red carpet or an event as elaborate as that. I imagine actors like Rooney Maara or Katherine ‘Tilda’ Swinton who have redefined celebrity dressing on the red carpet as muses for my creations,” says Amit Aggarwal, who is all set to show a contemporary collection created from a mix of unconventional fabrics and materials today at the ongoing Lakmé Fashion Week (LFW) in Mumbai. Aggarwal’s LFW collection is an extension of the couture line he exhibited in Paris earlier this year. “Celebrity stylists in the West are looking at India for new creativity,” says Aggarwal, adding that his clothes have found a growing liking in the emerging market for new couture. “The purpose of couture being exceptionally special, one-of-a kind clothes with shock value is what my aesthetic is all about,” he says. Gupta would agree too as style agencies in the US and Europe have begun to contact him for clothes for the red carpet appearances of celebrities.

Yet, the intrinsic Indianness of these garments elates the designers making them. “The world expects something Indian, some beading, and a bit of embroidery, however subtle. I feel we have better chances of selling abroad if the clothes have a refined stamp of our identity,” says Sekhose. His argument is in sync with Aggarwal’s. “In an indirect way, I am inspired by Indian mythology and characters from our holy books. There lays my love for gold and structured opulence,” he explains.

These designers may be keen on Hollywood clients and display opportunities abroad but are simultaneously finding ways to appeal to their non-celebrity Indian clientele with the same offerings. “I am observing a slow but very strong growth in the Indian market for new couture. A lot of the younger clientele wants to experiment with something new for at least two evenings of their wedding celebrations and destination weddings—something quirky, fun and feminine,” says Aggarwal. Sekhose agrees. “I have clients from Delhi, mostly those who have studied abroad who have the right accessories to pair with such clothes, who are experimenting with evening wear,” he says, agreeing that the shared buyer-seller inspiration is indeed Hollywood.

Gupta, Aggarwal and Sekhose are excited with the new possibilities of Indian couture but they aren’t disconnected from the reality of the local market. “It is a shift alright but only among a few, it needs tens of each of us to generate a mass influence in new design,” says Gupta. Aggarwal adds careful editing of what they show and sell will lead the shift from being seen as a country of good fashion, not just as the world’s best beading centre.

It may also need an A-list Hollywood star wearing an Indian couture creation—without beading, embroidery or crystals—to announce this delightful divergence to the fashion-able of the world. Tall order yet.

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