Archives for posts with tag: India Fashion Week

After many years of research, writing and re-writing (which also included a break to welcome our new baby Liam) Indian Fashion: Tradition, Innovation, Style is finally out in print!

Cover Image: Rahul Mishra, S/S 2011

This journey began with some early papers I wrote on fashion and the Indian middle class and Indian fashion magazines – presented at conferences while I was teaching design at Massey University in New Zealand. Back then (I’m talking of 2005) I would find little in terms of academic research on Indian fashion. Emma Tarlo’s Clothing Matters: Dress and Identity in India (an invaluable text) along with a few journal articles and chapters here and there were all that I could access that directly related to “fashion” and India. To find these one had to wade through masses of writings on the sari that also referred to it and all other forms of Indian traditional dress as “costume”.

My decision to turn my research into a full-fledged book proposal came about in response to this lack of academic discussion (then) on Indian fashion, as well as my awareness of the vibrant fashion scene I had witnessed (and once been a part of) in India, contrasted with the general unawareness of this fact outside of India. Now of course things are different—thanks to Berg/Bloomsbury and other such publishers’ support for authors and texts on non-Western fashion as well as much more academic interest in these areas (evident at the recent Contemporary South Asian Youth Cultures and Fashion Symposium held at LCF, London in Sept 2014—where for once I felt like my paper on Indian Streetstyle fitted the conference agenda!).

As highlighted in the book’s preface, Indian Fashion attempts to offer a broad overview on fashion in India and in doing so (as I’m sure many will agree) it leaves out a lot of detail. While I acknowledge this fact, as well as my lack of prior academic training (I have two fairly traditional design degrees that have brought me to this point in my career) my hope is that this text will compliment others that do indeed provide more in-depth discussions on various topics that I introduce and touch upon in the book. While not everyone will agree with certain aspects of my discussion in the book or in some cases my overall approach, I am certain that the key ideas and concepts it builds upon—such as the the impact of globalization on Indian dress, the co-existence of tradition and modernity, various strategies of design innovation and self-fashioning, and the resurgence of nationalist ideals and revival of Indian crafts and textiles in fashion design, to name but a few—should undoubtedly remain valuable points of reference. Also, through my own design training and years of teaching fashion design studio, I am confident that the images that support the book’s discussion accurately represent the dynamism evident in various the design innovations currently underway within the arena of Indian fashion—on the catwalk, in print, in the media, in film, on television and on multiple style blogs.

I am grateful to many people for their input and support as I worked on this book and I include here an excerpt from the book’s acknowledgements: “Many invaluable discussions on fashion with Asha Baxi were central to the inception of this book’s research. I am indebted to Shefalee Vasudev for sharing her deep insight on fashion in India as well as assisting me in approaching various members within the fashion industry. Several people generously gave their time and thoughts across numerous interviews and informal chats through the course of my research that have helped enrich the content in this book. I am deeply grateful to these wonderful and dynamic fashion professionals: Yatan Ahluwalia, Aneeth Arora (Péro), Sonu Bohra and Jasleen Kaur Gupta (FashionBombay.com), Meher Castelino, Neeraj Chauhan and Alpana Mittal, Anjali Chawla, Kallol Datta, RK Deora, Anita Dongre, Swarup Dutta, Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna, Sanjay Garg (Raw Mango), Gaurav Gupta, Amit Hansraj, Hemani Kashikar, Sangita Kathiwada, Vinod Kaul, Azeem Khan, Tarun Khiwal, Heena Kochhar, Narendra Kumar, Ritu Kumar, Ritu Kumar (O’Layla), Neeta Lulla, Gaurav Mahajan, Nida Mahmood, Manou (wearabout), Rahul Mishra, Anju Modi, Pavitra Mohan (Masala Chai), Puja Nayyar, Nazarul, Ekta Rajani, Nihal Rajan, Rajdeep Ranawat, Wendell Rodricks, Harilein Sabarwal, Priya Sachdev, Nitin Saxena, Mehul and Kaushik Shrimanker, Mandira Shukla, Sujata Assomull Sippy, Geetika Srivastava, Manasi Scott, Rajiv Takru and JJ Valaya. Additional thanks to Vineeta Nair, Savitri Ramaiah, Vinayak Razdan and Shalini Singh, and all those who generously contributed towards the book’s images – as outlined in the image credits. My field research in Mumbai would not have been possible without my sister Tarana Singh’s determination, endless enthusiasm and driving skills. I would also like to thank the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) for allowing me access to attend Pearls Infrastructure Delhi Couture Week (in 2010) and Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week (WLIFW, 2013). 

The thoughtful and thorough review notes provided by the anonymous reviewer on the initial manuscript as well as those from earlier anonymous reviews at the proposal stage helped strengthen the premise of the book. In addition, the texts edits and feedback provided by Lilian Mutsaers, Maren Nelson, Debra Parr, Shefalee Vasudev, Simon Holland and Param Sandhu – who were subject to various stages of the book’s rough drafts – were an invaluable and important part of its evolution. Furthermore, this project could not have been completed without Columbia College Chicago’s faculty development grants that funded various segments of field research and the supportive environment within the Fashion Studies department, chaired by Debra Parr, that allowed me the time and resources required for the preparation of the final manuscript.”

Being solely responsible for almost all the image acquisitions and permissions for this book was also no easy task. Numerous people helped me secure valuable images from designers, magazines, TV shows and movies for this book. While some are mentioned in the list above as well as in the list of illustrations (in the book) I would like to extend a big “thank you” to various PR representatives of the designers and brands featured, the designers themselves, individual photographers, film and TV channel reps, as well as the editors of Vogue India, Elle India, Marie Claire India and Harper’s Bazaar India. In many cases hunting for images (such as the one from Bombay Dyeing or one from a old issue of Femina magazine that did not get published) was akin to being a detective – and I will write about some of these experiences in another blog post.

And finally on a more personal note: “This book is dedicated to my husband, Simon Holland, whose patient and selfless support over the years made it possible to complete. Also included in this dedication are my parents, Amrita Sandhu and Deshvir Sandhu, who never questioned my decision to study fashion design at a time when it was a relatively new field in India. Together they have served as devoted research assistants throughout my field research in Delhi. In addition to diligently mailing me Indian fashion magazines across the world over many years, Amrita Sandhu has also provided majority of the images in Chapter 2.”

Cover Image: Rahul Mishra, S/S 2011

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Dev R Nil’s S/S 2014 collection showcase at Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week this October was refreshing – not only for the simpler cuts that this design duo from Kolkata had to offer but also due to the way they complimented their aesthetic and general sense of minimalism by opting for a straight forward catwalk format (where models did not stop and pose, but walked on and off). This was a cause of some stress in the media photo pit as photographers and bloggers grumbled audibly about missing crucial photo opportunities. Not being a professional photographer myself + sitting at the corner end of the catwalk –  I mostly caught models as they turned away from me. While not all Dev R Nil’s Spring Summer proportions were to my liking, they had some great print-on-print combinations, Art Deco inspired tile and frame prints (see the pink print outfit for men), doily lace, circular floral motif prints and Ari work, and the most beautiful handloom silk Ikat stripe. Many items in the collection looked comfortable and easy to relate to – a plus point that has earned them positive reviews.

Here is a selection of some of the side views of Dev R Nil’s S/S 2014 collection:

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Sadly, not all my photographs were side views…

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(All images are by me)


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Not having seen a Pankaj & Nidhi collection on the ramp before I was eagerly looking forward to seeing their new S/S 2014 line at WLIFW (10th October 2013). Together this design duo is part of the new wave of Indian designers who have in the past five+ years really changed the face of Indian fashion once again – bringing new ideas, styles and silhouettes, new techniques for applying centuries of tradition and handcraft and contributing towards bringing Indian design to a more global platform. The collection titled “Grammar of Ornament” was in keeping with their signature style – which includes a high level of craftsmanship, close attention to detail, bold use of color and pattern and strong silhouettes. The collection combined a sporty look (a common trend across a number of other collections) with some incredibly detailed handwork – that demanded closer attention – as on the catwalk I was not fully able to gauge what treatments and techniques they had used.

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What appeared to be laser cut work or print from a distance – on closer inspection was actually delicately hand cut and perfectly hand embroidered pieces that in my opinion show the incredible limits to which Indian craftsmanship (with the injection of contemporary design) can be stretched.

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The colors ranged from crisp whites and creams to primrose yellows and navy with hot coral. In comparison to some other collections on show Pankaj and Nidhi’s silhouettes were more globally oriented. And while they do design Indian styled garments, overall this collection did not appear to be culturally or aesthetically rooted [read limited] to one particular place (i.e. not recognizably Indian). This I know is important to them – as they aspire towards greater global recognition for themselves and Indian design – which their accomplishments over the past year+ clearly show.

Here is a selection of images from the ramp, as well as some others that I was able to take in their stall at WLIFW. See more in the gallery at the end of the page. From a design perspective I liked the cohesiveness of the collection, something I stress upon in my own studio classes. But within the cohesion there was a lot of variety to choose from. My personal favorites are the images of the pieces up-close, especially those of the tiny fabric squares that have been cut and sewn on like sequins, and the jacket where they combine Ari work with (hand) cutwork and appliqué. (Thank you Pankaj and Nidhi for allowing me to snoop around your collection!).

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While speaking to Nidhi about these obviously time intensive and meticulous garments I asked her to consider sharing images or videos of the pieces in process – so that it is possible to better understand the kinds of techniques they have developed for their designs, as well as learn the stories behind each piece. I was glad to see that they have since uploaded some images on their facebook page sharing the same! Way to go!

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Images by myself (Arti Sandhu)

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I was fortunate to be able to attend three days of WLIFW S/S 2014 (Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week) in Delhi this October (10th – 12th) – and even luckier to be able to photograph some of the collections from the media photography section (aka photographers’ pit) at the end of the catwalk. WOW! This was a once in a lifetime experience which a whole lot of fun and a great learning experience as well.

A big “thank you” to FDCI for this great opportunity!