x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

The rise of Indian fashion design

Lady Gaga has drawn attention to Indian fashion designer Little Shilpa, but the country holds plenty more in store.

The designer Little Shilpa on stage with models at Lakme Fashion Week in March, showing the Summer Resort 2011 collection.
The designer Little Shilpa on stage with models at Lakme Fashion Week in March, showing the Summer Resort 2011 collection.

Lady Gaga has drawn attention to Indian fashion designer Little Shilpa, writes Suryatapa Bhattacharya, but the country holds plenty more in store

Instead of clothes, the models wore large parquet boxes, adorned with pictures of buildings against clouds, meant to evoke skyscrapers, birds and flight. On their heads a signature touch, hats made to resemble wings.

Lady Gaga would have approved of the display, seen during the Shilpa Chavan show during Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai earlier this month.

Gaga, after all, is no stranger to the designer known as Little Shilpa. She wore her Swarovski crystal-studded helmet on the cover of the December 2009 issue of Canada's Flare magazine. And she is not the only celebrity performer looking to Indian designers to up their style game. Celebrities such as Heidi Klum, Nicky Minaj and Katy Perry have been spotted in Manish Arora creations.

During the opening ceremony performance for the Fifa World Cup in 2010, Fergie wore an embellished body suit by Falguni and Shane Peacock. The husband-and-wife designer duo have also dressed Madonna, R&B singer Brandy, Ozzy Osbourne, Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears.

Judging from what was on the catwalk in Mumbai, this trend may only just be beginning, said Payal Parija, an Indian fashion blogger at highheelconfidential.com.

Parija singled out Pero by Aneeth Arora, Kallol Datta and Sabyasachi as especially appealing to an international market.

A particular standout in Kallol Datta's collection were a pair of orange shorts and jacket with his signature print: step-by-step instructions on constructing a paper plane.

"If you have a good product, it will get noticed ... these designers have design aesthetics that aren't just restricted to a local market or aesthetic," said Parija. "The more evolved the vision, the more it resonates with the crowd anywhere."

Part of Chavan's appeal to the likes of Lady Gaga is her approach to fashion as art: she admits that she could not care less how her clothes actually look on a person.

"I've never designed with a market or even a person in mind," she says. "I've always designed to try to do total justice to the theme or inspiration for the collection at that point."

These days, buyers and stylists are looking for "outlandish pieces" in addition to magnificent colours and exquisite craftsmanship, says Karmik Varma, the vice president of online creations for Kimaya Fashions, which stocks Indian designers and retails internationally, including in Dubai.

"Ensembles that will make the celebrity look out of [this] world are their favourites," he says. "At times, the celebrities' sensibilities magically match with that of a particular designer, and they become a combo - Katy Perry with Falguni & Shane Peacock is one such story."

Judging from the Lakme Fashion Week catwalk, celebrities could continue the trend, says Parija.

Varma is also hopeful that Indian designers will continue to gain prominence on the red carpet. They have a distinct advantage, he says - the country's rich heritage in colourful prints and weaves, which can be translated to eclectic designs.

"The western-wear [made in India] may have a global appeal, but it retains the essence of Indianness in the fabric, embroideries and embellishments, making it a perfect marriage of two sensibilities," says Varma. "This is what is largely picked up by international clients."