Spacemen and robots wrestle with masked warriors in jungle costumes. No, it's not a Japanese Manga comic.. it's the future of fashion. The couture brat pack is pushing design to new and scandalous heights, led by Mr. Shock and Awe himself, Manish Arora. Rochelle Pinto and Sujata Reddy scope the scene.
Someone said that after your circus-themed finale last season, nothing can impress further. Your thoughts?
Well that show was unsurpassable.. the budget was much higher, so there was more drama. My current collection had more design detail. I'm only up against my own reputation, so I have to outdo myself.
There are young designers who are following in your footsteps. Do you watch their shows?
I know there are a few young designers who are doing similar things, but I haven't managed to catch a single show. I only watch my friends' shows.
Your clothes have been worn by celebrities like MIA and Kate Perry. How does it feel to see your designs on such international icons?
It is exciting, but for me the clothes are the true celebrities.
How do you react to fashion critics who pan your collections for being too outré?
I don't think that people can understand what goes on in my mind. There are only a few fashion journalists in this country who understand fashion and only their opinions matter. I have worked in and studied fashion so why should I pay heed to people who don't know the basics?
Considering your strength of detailing, what is the process that goes into creating a collection?
I follow a natural process like any other designer.. starting with styling, sketching and experimenting with silhouettes. But I research my subjects vigorously. For my Circus collection, I watched the Cirque du Soleil to get a better perspective.
Have you ever reached a creative impasse where you've had to turn back or abandon an idea?
No, I'm a great planner, so I rarely make a mistake.
What have you realised from your experience of consistently showing at foreign Fashion Weeks?
Internationally, a stylist is the first thing that you need. I don't think I can work without one. They help complete the story you're trying to tell with your clothes and function as editors.
Indian Fashion Weeks place great importance on set design. Does this hold true abroad as well?
The locations should work for the clothes. I make it a point to showcase my collections in places that don't need set designs.
How long does it take to perfect a collection?
Each garment takes almost three months to complete. But despite the intensity, I lead a normal life.
So how do you explain the phenomenon of Manish Arora?
I just work harder than everybody else.
He may look like a meek, unassuming fashion student. He is anything but. In fact he uses the ramp as a means to break free and vent the aggression in him. "Everyone thinks of me as a nice, sweet boy.. the shows reflect the state of my naked mind," he says.
Verma makes no bones about an insular upbringing. He spent a lot of time reading, painting, but never socialised, he tells us.
His autumn winter line had outfits that flaunted muscle and had a disciplinarian edge to them.. all a symbol of power. He sympathises with pop star Madonna, identifying her as someone who is trying to portray aggression through her works too.
Fashion shows, to him, are a bi-annual assessment of where he stands as an artist. He strongly believes that his responsibility is not to provide what the market wants, but to create a trend. "If I'm on the same page as the buyer and the store, then I'm just a supplier. I like to think on different lines. But, my intention is not to create the unwearable but to make a client wear the unthinkable," he says.
So, does he seek the approval of the audience at a fashion show? "I'm not a courtesan dancing to impress. The audience just happens to be there," he concludes.
He has avant-garde written all over him. Dressed in a pink tee and fitted pants in a shade of mud with suspenders loosely hanging, his personality extends to his clothes. He describes his autumn winter line as abstract and vows not to get stuck in a rut. "In my mind, I challenge myself all the time, I'm always scouting for a new element. It could be a silhouette, a colour or even an embellishment," he explains.
So while his new collection floored the fashion critics, Gupta candidly admits that he would be the bitchiest critic ever, if he ever played that role. But he's not giving us a trailer yet. "All can do better, I just expected more from the whole Fashion Week," is what he restricts his comments to.
"I am told that this is my best show till date. I started with voils and cottons only last spring/summer. Before that I dabbled in jerseys and georgettes.. so I've evolved," he states. "Heck, I even did bling last season."
Gupta strongly recommends hiring a stylist to take the show to another level. "Gautam Kalra styled my show this time. Check the models strutting in headgear with rose petals," he says.
While some designers crib that the brief given to them for the fashion weeks is confusing, Gupta has no complaints. A section of designers groused that though they were asked to design keeping the international audience in mind, the venue was flooded with domestic buyers. "To me domestic is also part of the global market," Gupta says nonchalantly putting an end to the debate.
Nitin Bal Chauhan
He began the fanfare at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week, teasing the audience with a somber collection in his disciplinary style. Matching fantasy headgear with theatrical choreography, Chauhan's depth of vision borders on intimidating.
"My clothes are not a resistance to tradition. I enhance silhouettes with cutting and sewing as opposed to draping," he explains. "I enjoy the technical aspects of creative pattern making. Even when selecting hues for my grey autumn/winter collection, I pick colours that match the skin tone."
But call him futuristic and he offers a rebuttal.. "I'm quite a traditionalist because I draw my inspiration from classical European fashion and art. It's my treatment that gives the clothes their edge. To me that is futurism - presenting something that is ahead of its time by contrasting ideas."
Does the prodigy from Shimla fear falling into a creative rut? "Remember that ad for bath fittings where the couple wants the house to be designed around a tap?" he asks. "That's my design process. I work around a detail at a philosophical and a tangible level."
But this puzzle-building design strategy doesn't always turn out the way he hopes. "Sometimes a garment is complete at the sketch phase itself and you feel like you've cracked the equation. And then there are some clothes that never feel complete and become a part of the archive," he recounts.
While critics laud his ability to turn every garment into a three-dimensional canvas, Chauhan himself is nonchalant. "No corner of the garment can be neglected," he grins. "Otherwise the garment may get jealous."