Mumbai’s Spring/Resort 2013 fashion week wrapped on Tuesday. In a roster of roughly 80 new and established names, most designers deftly balanced a modern sensibility with India’s rich legacy of fabrics, colors, surface ornamentation, and its most ancient silhouette—the sari. For instance, Sailex Ngairangbam (above, left) presented a pre-pleated sari topped with a T-shirt instead of the conventional, heavily embellished, rib-skirting choli. “My business was suffering because I wasn’t designing traditional Indian wear,” admits Ngairangbam. “Sadly, that’s where the money is. The way out, I figured, was to get into the sari and lehenga-choli space, but with modifications.”
Ngairangbam isn’t alone. “I’d be a fool to shy away from Indian craftsmanship,” says Kolkata-based designer Nupur Kanoi. Her Spring collection borrowed from masculine shapes like the Pathani (loose pants), safari suits, trenchcoats, and military jackets. The wares were sparsely embellished with Ari work, a technique native to Kashmir of using beaten gold on fabric.
Old and new sentiments were seen in Namrata Joshipura’s range of sorbet orange, acid yellow, and pop pink skirts, pleated palazzos, jackets, and shorts (above, center). A closer look revealed intricate Indian workmanship and proved she was willing to catch up with the present without abandoning the past. Meanwhile, Anushka Khanna collaborated with London-based artist Rewati Shahani to to transfer images of buildings and birds onto separates via digital prints, appliqué, beading, and threadwork.
There’s no question that India’s designers offer a wealth of creative contemporary clothes, but tradition was still a Spring focus. Veteran menswear designer Narendra Kumar offers one explanation: International trends don’t make economic sense for his ilk. “For me, it’s not trends, but stories that matter. My fashion is not disconnected from the society I live in,” said Kumar, whose collection, Thought Police, took a potshot at the Indian government’s recent attempts at silencing youth protests. The show began with beige, yellow, blue, and orange—colors representative of youth—before moving to grimmer shades.
Suhani Pittie seconds Kumar. “Indians prefer to invest in classic pieces,” said the jewelry designer, who turned out a tribal-inspired Spring range of copper and acrylic (above, right). “And that works for me, because my forte is Indian with a modern twist.”