Who could wear that? The most common question asked at India’s fashion weeks, was asked again when models walked the ramp dressed in wood-finish bondage dresses at Alpana and Neeraj’s show at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week. Ditto at Gaurav Gupta’s showcase, where lithe frames were swathed in latex swirls and quilted constructions.
But as the quirkier designers know, what they show on the ramp is not what you’re likely to find in stores. “A designer is an artist, and this platform is very important to show your vision,” says Alpana, whose wood-like wonders created a ruckus on day four. “We’re not the kind of designers who make pretty clothes. At the same time, these garments are meant to show the extent of our technical skill. It’s our way of telling buyers this is what we are capable of, but we can also make wearable garments using the same technique and aesthetics.” The designer adds that concept stores often buy her collection hot off the ramp to attract eyeballs. “They may have simpler designs too, but ours are what draw people in.” As a buyer, Aparna Badlani of Mumbai-based store Zoya, wants to see drama on the ramp. “It’s exciting to see non-wearable clothes at a fashion show because those are the designer’s 20 minutes to show his creativity.
Why would I attend a show to see kurtas and leggings?” she asks. Badlani adds that most buyers meet with designers after their show to decide on what will make it to the stores. “We discuss lengths, colours, fabrics and even silhouettes, and all designers are willing to make changes in their garments because they understand what ultimately sells. It’s the same internationally. If you watch an Alexander McQueen show, it’s completely over-the-top. But the commercial line takes inspiration from the ramp collection and features very wearable garments,” she explains.
Another reason ramp collections differ from what’s on the racks is because tastes and requirements change with different markets. “Each city’s style differs from the next and as designers, we have to be tuned into that,” says Gaurav of Gaurav and Ritika. “Our clients in Mumbai are more confident of themselves and comfortable in western wear, as compared to Delhi. While we’re showing a winter collection here using heavy fabrics, we’d have to adapt the same designs in lighter materials to suit more humid climates like in Mumbai.”