Is Indo-Western a dated term now? My story in Mint Lounge

Indian summer

Rachana Nakra

‘Indo-Western’ stands challenged as local identities dominate Western silhouettes in Ikat jumpsuits and Chanderi gowns

The umbrella term “Indian wear” remains exciting work-in-progress—defying a predictable rotation within traditional options. At the recently concluded Lakme Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2013 in Mumbai, it was hardly about bling—a variety of kurtislehngas or anarkalis to be worn at Indian weddings or celebratory occasions. The runway was a blossoming of ideas and options in the realm of Indian: Silk shorts, lycra saris,mulmul skirts, Chanderi gowns, Ikat shirts, and jumpsuits with prints inspired by Indian history.

“Earlier, we gave a Western touch to Indian garments, such as a spaghetti-strap blouse with a sari. Now, designers are finding ways to give a Western silhouette a traditional Indian appearance,” says designer Payal Singhal, who presented shorts in embroidered velvet and net. To cater to an international clientele and make local heritage accessible to youth, this look, which presents a distinct Indian identity but in a wide choice of silhouettes, is the fashion aesthetic of choice.
A handwoven Assamese paat dress inspired by the mekhla.

A handwoven Assamese paat dress inspired by the mekhla chadar.

“Indo-Western” might now seem a dated, even limited, term to describe the unique twists these style makers are bringing to fashion. Gaurav Jai Gupta of Akaaro, who showed a collection of dresses, skirts, tops, trousers and jackets in handwoven fabrics such as Chanderi and Ikat, refuses to use that term. “My collection is Indian, global, practical and easy,” he says.
The influences are varied. Daniel Syiem used Jainsem and Jainkyrshah, the traditional garb of the Khasi tribe of Meghalaya, as inspiration to present a relaxed and trendy line of togas, dresses and wrap blouses in fabric sourced from the North-East. Hyderabad-based Asmita Marwa repurposed vintage Indian mirror-work garments, using motifs by artist Thota Vaikuntam, and embroidered her garments with the Telugu script, while Kolkata’s Rimi Nayak used Bengali typography on ensembles comprising gowns, kaftans and shirt dresses. “The importance of the language is declining and we are forgetting the rich heritage of Bengali literature,” says the designer.
At first sight, all these clothes look strongly Indian; only later do you realize this it is not an extension of the old story of saris and salwar-kurtas. Something else is happening here.
A silk jumpsuit with old Indian postal stamp print.

A silk jumpsuit with old Indian postal stamp print.

A growing love and pride for India’s textile heritage is the primary but not sole reason for designers experimenting with a sartorial mashup. The duo Shivan and Narresh—well-known for their edgy bikinis, maillots and accessories—showed a holiday line of swimwear and cover-ups peppered with saris. To cater to Indian sensibilities of their clients while keeping in mind today’s easy-to-wear fashion aesthetic, they included pre-tailored saris in linen and lycra that require no pleating, draping or dry-cleaning. “Many Indian women are not too comfortable with swimwear and look out of place in a holiday setting. We wanted to provide a familiar silhouette that is user-friendly to the Indian woman travelling abroad,” says BanarsiNarresh.
Those who, quite literally, like to wear their Indian identity on their sleeve, could pick from Singhal’s collection. Cropped anarkalis with palazzo pants, a Banarasi georgette gown and tulle embroidered shorts paired with a cotton kurta—ensembles that will fetch notice at a New Delhi party or double up as stunning separates for a holiday in Hawaii.
A cream silk mulmul and Katarva cotton high-low tunic with jaali work, with embroidered velvet and net shorts.

A cream silk mulmul and Katarva cotton high-low tunic with jaali work, with embroidered velvet and net shorts.

Read more at–Indian-summer.html


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