FROM CULTURE TO COUTURE

From Jean Paul Gaultier and Christian Dior to Emilio Pucci and Christian Louboutin, international fashion bigwigs are finding much to be inspired by in India

From the opulence and royal styles of the maharajas to travellers’ experiences of India’s vivid colours — myriad aspects of the country have found their way into the collections of some of the biggest names in international fashion. The likes of Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Lacroix, Jean Paul Gaultier, Karl Lagerfeld and Christian Louboutin have reinterpreted India’s exquisite repertoire of imagery, patterns, motifs, embroideries, weaves, cuts, silhouettes, accessories and more. Our old-world charm, traditional craftsmanship and rich aesthetic heritage have drawn them in as markers of a rich past as well as a thriving present, malleable to suit modern as well as international sensibilities. In 2000, when I became the first Asian to head a French fashion house, not many Indian designers had done shows in Paris and for an Indian designer to be heading a French fashion house was a dream come true. There was a lot of pressure to succeed and back then, the world of fashion was not as open to India as it is today. That was also the time, however, when I noticed international fashion beginning to look to India for inspiration for the first time. Whether it was the oversized nose ring or Indian paisley patterns, international designers had begun to infuse Indian flavours in their creations and the rest, as they say, is history.

Jean Paul Gaultier’s Fall 2007 collection was among the first to truly astonish me. His creations were a colourful tribute to the royals of India. Bejewelled head pieces, long jackets, jodhpurs, gold embellishments and jackets with silk brocade work – all stunners in their own right. His was an interpretation of India in all its glory, with silver sheen coming through the fabrics, rich accessories and a fantastic turban with a brooch.

Louboutin’s Spring/Summer 2012 line looked to Rajasthan and created the Bollywoody and the Devidas, pumps featuring traditional embroidery and stone work. In the same year, Chanel’s Metiers d’Art show evoked Mumbai with a sophisticated couture showcase featuring a liquid-gold dress with a sari-esque draping and a Nehru-collared coat. In the year that followed, Maya Singer wrote of Marchesa’s Spring/Summer 2013 line in Vogue, “Elaborate threadwork, sari draping, fringe… India provided them an eloquent palette, loveliest in looks of chartreuse, peacock, bordeaux, or eggplant tones tipped with gold.”

Today, the India-story has matured and become more subtle. While the obvious influences are present, the world is digging deeper into our heritage of textiles and embroideries. While the gold and the jewelled textures have become more frequent on international ramps, we can also see more Indian surface ornamentation merging with Western sensibilities: ikat-inspired fabric texturing in luxury couture label Miu Miu’s latest collection is the perfect example.

And this link will become stronger; the diversity and authenticity in India truly distinguishes it from other countries, even in a fashion designer’s eyes.

Ritu Beri

About the author / Ritu Beri

Her name is synonymous with the explosive globalisation of India’s fashion industry. A pioneer in her field, she was also the first designer to storm the catwalks of Paris with her label.

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