What do I personally seek in a designer? If I will wear them, then the ability to express myself and translate my personality into a higher version of who and what I am. Am I a brand loyalist? Perhaps, to an extent. However, only if the brand becomes an extension of my inner self manifesting into outer, without over-powering, over bearing, interfering, crowding my space, that screams for the garment to be noticed, and not myself.
Just as you grow into the person you want to be and come to become, Anita Dongre subtly offered me an alternative, a mix and match of voices, almost growing on my sensibilities with her smart, effective, non-invasive and all inclusive flair for feminine womanhood. You are who you are, so embrace it. Most importantly understanding the changing avatars and body shape of her audience. And in that, a spring change in wardrobe over-haul and creative, multi-faceted grooming of today’s woman. Yes, throw in the colours, prints from the ubiquitous black and white slavery of modern life. Enough said? Hardly.
Her refreshing debut seen at FDCI’s India Couture Week 2016, was a romantic poetry in loop sung in verses of fabric, colour, vibrancy, creativity, textures. It seemed Anita Dongre was literally on fire. A passion all consuming that you could not be left unaffected. This is how I need a collection to stir me. To surprise me and leave my throat dry. Hence, `Epic Love’ was gigantic in its proportion, scale, design imagination and theatre play.
The show opened to a plush garden of a Rajasthan palace, recreated on the runway. Artiste Gaurav Raina’s melodious blend of Indian classical and folk with electronic music ‘Indian Electronica’ set the mood for the evening. This collection attempted deliberately to involve the senses – remember what I said about `stir’ earlier – with the distinct signature scent of all Anita Dongre stores with notes of jasmine and rose greeting you. Unveiling her Epic Love story told by a designer so comfortably secure with a deep knowledge of her art, craft, technique and originality, Dongre’s bridal couture collection spoke with the grandeur of an India we have perhaps long lost in her history and architecture. A stereotypical jhulla (swing) so reminiscent of Indian love stories set against traditional villages and movie lore, flushes of red-pink bougainvillea grotto, a water fountain, the famed hand-done thikri craft transporting us straight into a luxurious Rajasthan palace garden.
Setting foreplay to a nice crescent by now replete with an anticipatory storyboard mood, the first face that stepped out was beauty flushed with pink blush – brilliant MAC palette this — heavily hypnotic eyes highlighted in pink and burnt orange around cheekbones, under eyes and on forehead, lending an almost fantasy young ethereal gypsy look to the model. Hair fastened in tightly plaited braids adding an aura of vintage tribal folklore to the proceedings.
I’ve lately become a fan of Dongre’s accessories having appealed to my `must-be-unique-then-I-wear’ fundamental. She did not disappoint. Adorned in heirloom-like pieces Dongre’s jadau jewellery label `Pink City’ and antique silver pieces added to her folklore narrative. Not dated, but edgy in a very funk kinda way. Stunning maang-tikas, large nose rings, intricate haath-phools, chunky chokers and necklaces spun a `celebrate your individuality’ tale of its own.
And now the big deal. Opening with an air of a fresh faced, free-spirited woman of our times, chintz-inspired printed lehengas, palazzos teamed with Bohemian blouses, fluid shoulder slips glided across the ramp. Rani pink, delicious peach, dreamy yellows, fresh lemon and oranges, print on print in synchronicity…The designer’s signature gotapatti work breathed life into her prints, classic Indian styles blending seamlessly with contemporary long, column tabards to give the wearer a beautiful illusion of flow and height. Lean, sleek silhouettes brought modern relevance into bridal couture. Contemporary fusion for the global woman. The beauty of Dongre’s collection lay solely on its versatility – Bohemian gypsy tops paired with a printed lehenga, just as beautifully as it would go with a pair of silk pants or cigarette slim skirts. Fringe-finished sarees with tie-up tops wrapped around the drape for a contemporary twist to the classic saree. Fabulously feminine. Then moving progressively into a regal palette, jewel-toned solids in rich wine, orange, classic reds, moody indigo, lush creams and golds took centre-stage. Dongre’s signature technique gotapatti clearly reigned queen across the collection, first on prints and then teamed with thread work, appealing instantly to a young 25-year-old as it would do a classic 45 tried-and-tested woman of the world.
A limited edition of men’s bridal/formal wear also made its appearance. With pink lined eyes and nose clips, male models heralded a moving away from the masculine lines into softer metro sexual avatars of their recent selves.
For a designer who has contributed so much to giving a voice to Indian artisans, I’m so glad that there are some designers who hold steadfast a voice that makes them uniquely giants of their generation. Love all over again for me.
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