Style is the ultimate challenge in The Great Indian weddings. India Fashion Week, Mumbai, and its counterpart in Delhi have just wrapped up. Though fashion forecasting is relatively a new trend in India, designers and emporia are already on the ball looking to give a new spin to the two fundamentals of Indian bridewear—the sari and the lehenga.
Even in South India, where weddings were traditional affairs with minimum fuss but with the focus on jewellery, these two must-bes are evolving through different definitions and splendorous sass. Since demonetisation shook up the fashion industry, the business has been smarting. Many established designers are hurting, have closed shops and factories, or are looking to alternate avenues like home fabrics, tiles and interior design to keep their brand flying. The boutiques at Delhi’s fashion Mecca, Emporio, lie almost empty, haunted by the footfalls of customers past. Says a wedding superstar couturier who would rather not give his name, “Bridal was a cash business, for cash, by cash, of cash. Now there is no cash or people are afraid.
The taxman prowling around is bad for business.”
Struggling to survive, designers have teamed up with sponsors whose brands were reflected in shows such as Urvashi Kaur’s ‘Akara’ line sponsored by boAt where the models sported audio gadgets; Caprese’s accessories for Nimish Shah and Arpita Mehta, and Kanika Goyal; Shanti and Poochki promoting drinking water manufacturer Glaceau Smartwater’s marketing theme. However, at Lakmé Fashion Week, fashion maestro Ashish Soni managed to pull off the TRESemmé hair show that displayed reversible designs that suited the hairstyles.
Throwing the beleaguered individuals a gauntlet, Good Earth made its fashion week debut with The Miniaturist couture line sporting silhouettes and styles by a talented bunch of in-house designers who will undoubtedly break off the corporate
shackles one day.
hot, what’s not
The statements of the season at Mumbai Fashion Week were modernity, power dressing and androgynous style with scaled-up green fashion, architecture, religion accenting unexpectedly expected elegant mismatches and fun. Glass embroidery of Rajasthani forts are designed to woo even as dori work, Madhubani, chiffons, cottons, silks and soft crêpes are constants. As Assamese techie-turned-designer Sanjukta Dutta knows, pure silk lehengas are gaining over chiffon and net-based outfits.
The Bride 2019 visual would be elaborate lehengas and blouses embroidered with sequins, glass beads and miniature pearls in zealous zardosi work on georgette, velvet, silk, tulle and lace. Vintage craft plus low-key shimmer in AM:PM’s outfits in sand, tan, burgundy and forest green paired with eclectic prints would be politically correct while being aesthetically admirable. Mumbai-based designers Monica and Karishma of Jade see subtle monotones getting the spotlight they deserve.
Subdued hues such as blush tones, soft pinks, pristine white, beige, mint green, lavender, champagne gold and platinum along with mysterious shades such as midnight blue, noir black and earthy marsala will stand out. “Brides today want their trousseau to reflect their personal aesthetic.
They want to use their bridal pieces in everyday life too. So, versatile pieces are going to be a bridal essential—a hand-embroidered cape, an organza choli that works effortlessly as a crop top, a linen lehenga that can be worn as a skirt. It’s all about comfortable yet gorgeous pieces. Couture is no longer going to be reserved for special occasions,” says the duo.
Dhruv Gurwara, COO/CMO, Bridal Asia—the biggest bridal wear exhibition held in Delhi and Ludhiana—says young women today are conscious spenders and experimental at the same time. Many of them like to opt for embellished jumpsuits, long jackets with churidaar or anarkali instead of the normal lehenga choli. Being fitter they prefer raw silk and surface textures. Beige, monotone or pastels are the chosen colours, he adds. Says Leena Singh of label Ashima Leena, who presented their wedding collection Khwabeeda at the India Couture
Week, “We brought back something that has been forgotten in these times of excessive commercialisation: Intricate small beadwork, the combination of ivory (the colour was developed in-house), pink and muted gold, the old-world silhouettes, everything has a charming subtlety.”
have it, flare it
Theme dresses with the outré blue ice queen Elsa dress are taking the wedding cake. So are princess tail gowns. Try Shyamal and Bhumika’s bridal gowns. The sari gown mash-up has added a whole new dimension. Flares are a favourite with stylists because one flare suits all. The regular staple of metallic shades of silver, grey, gold, or bronze are inevitable. The fit-n-flare silhouette called by insiders as the trumpet silhouette is fitted at the waist and flares out at the ankles. A close twin is the mermaid silhouette that is perfect for the cocktail party.
Brides are braver about making a statement with outfits in bold royal or electric blue and yellow along. For the mehendi or sangeet, stylists recommend the balloon silhouette with the hem drawn in, creating a flare just above the neck and just below the waist to loop down above the ankles. Bright blue looks to be the rage. Straight-fit silhouettes are predicted this season. Shilpi Gupta of Surkhab Couture says, “There is a focus on beautiful unusual bright floral patterns on deep subtle or fresh tones with baroque touch and tonal colour blocking. Voluminous drape or convertible duppattas can be used as a coat or cape accessorised with a belt or a broach.”
twirl and swag
The bridge between summer and winter wedding couture seems to be light looks and flowing outlines. Summer bridewear was muted for the hot bride to stay cool. Pastels ruled in the hugely talented diva Anita Dongre’s ‘Songs of Summer’ collection that preened with lehengas with pockets, nude dupattas and saris paired with crop tops. Lehengas with ruffles is the crossover in couture and this season pastels and neon are to marry in.
Weddings are never complete without Payal Singhal, whose draped layered dupattas and pleasing heavy jali-work lehengas teamed with a long jacket without too much embroidery were swallows that made the summer. Known for their creations using handloom and heritage weaves, the mother-son duo Gautam and Asha Gupta of Asha Gautam also focused on getting the structure of the lehenga correct.
“Generally we use a lot of muslin to get the shape but once it is cut in kalis the shape gets distorted. So, we made eight panels to get that nine-metre flare,” he says, adding that this year brides will swirl in pastel hues. Their new collection (the colours peach, pink, sea green and royal blue will be abundant), where motifs have been inspired by florals, nature and Indian jewellery, has been created keeping that in mind.
Ridhi Mehta’s Cinco collection is for the avant garde bride playing with frills, ruffles and faux fur. The Reddy girls Anushree and Jayanti mixed and matched: Anushree’s beige lehengas with ballroom skirts were not as extravagant as Jayanti’s bridal wear, as her same fabric-design jacket worn over a blouse lehenga with elaborate and naughty frill work challenged the shy girl.
Her off-shoulder cape lehengas also need an ego to carry off. Capes are for chic girls, contemporary and worn with saris and lehengas both. Anju Modi deviated from the tried and tested with a collection that paid an ode to the Victorian era. Sari guru Gaurang Shah’s subtle prints and sophisticated motifs on blouses with base colour cuffs bordered with brocade are undoubtedly for modern brides with a conservative side.
And sari or lehenga, the look is incomplete without bold embellished belts and delicate chains with crafted clasps. According to Tarun Tahiliani who showcased his wedding couture collection ‘In Elysium’ at the India Couture Week this year, apart from the elegance that they suffuse their creations with, the focus is also on managing the weight of the garments. “It’s elegance as opposed to over the top. Lightness, freedom of movement, looking like yourself and the contemporisation of being bridal are the moot points. You are not an actor. You don’t have to be Padmavati,” says the celebrated Indian couturier, adding, “Young brides who walk into my studio want the effervescence of great construction, beautiful colours, sparkling diamantes and thread work. But the sum of it all should not bog them down.”
Like sheer net saris, the perennial ruffle sari trend in borders, pallus and blouse sleeves will continue its reign. Fringes and tassels on borders, on blouses, blouse sleeves and capes have been in vogue since 2017. Saris combined with waist length peplum blouses and peplum-cropped jackets were visible in this season’s shows. They can be paired well with lehengas. The truly experimental bride is bound to wear the sari-pant look.
As last year’s style highlight, dhoti pant saris from designers such as Anamika Khanna are fashion statements for mehendi sangeets. Mini Mathur showed a black and gold sari gown at Lakme Fashion Week. Shirt blouses are gender tricks ideal for fashionable brides. High neck blouses without jewellery worn with chiffon, satin and lace saris are being rediscovered. Apart from the Banarasi, Chanderi, Kancheevaram and Pochampalli saris, every bride needs a bafta sari from Madhya Pradesh, a Murshidabad silk sari, a Kota doria sari, a Venkatgiri sari, a Narayanpet sari to complete her wardrobe.
Naina Jain’s wedding collection Gulab Bai (dedicated to her grandmother) is full of Kota doria saris. “She had this penchant for cotton Kota doria saris woven with pure zari,” says the designer, who has tried to break the perception of conventional bridal wear. “Breezy fabric is the rage this season. Our wedding lehengas have caught up with the cold-shoulder fever too,” explains Jain.
So, get ready to hold a gaze by styling your bridal ensemble with a lavish designer belt and make an everlasting impression. Make sure to do the right pairing to steal the desired appeal and call it a statement. Hurry up, gorgeous! This coming wedding season also has some surprises by fashion veterans Tarun Tahiliani and Neeta Lulla who draw galactic inspiration with the glitter effect. Tahiliani has embellished lehengas and kurtas with Swarowski while Neeta Lulla’s millennial bride will wear a first-of-its-kind outfit in Indian fashion: fibre optic technology has been used in dresses to dramatically accent nuptial newness with Star Wars silhouettes.
With inputs from Sharmi Adhikary and Anandi Paliwal