MW 20TH Anniversary Special: The Global Domination Of The Indian Silhouette
I started doing menswear at a time when I was told that if I just do menswear, I won’t be able to survive here.
From there to now, I’ve seen fashion becoming an actual industry that is creating jobs, with numbers, and business. It makes me proud, because I’ve been fighting the menswear fight for a very long time. I’m glad that I didn’t have to change my voice and the market is pivoting towards our aesthetic. I think the Indian silhouette is very forgiving. And also, it’s unique, unlike any other, in a functional way. Take the sherwani, for instance. At the end of the day, a sherwani is just another jacket. It’s almost like an overcoat. And then there’s the kurta. I have been doing kurta shirts and that has coexisted with longline in Western wear. It’s very easy to create looks with the kurta. Layering is another advantage our silhouette has, which makes it more utilitarian. It helps you variate, pick up pieces, and create your own looks. It creates more value for an outfit, and is also educating in a subtle way that, listen, you have this piece, you could wear it in these different ways.
At the same time, the quintessential Indian silhouette is changing completely. Deconstruction has become an Indian-defined silhouette. The visual of it has changed and it’s become more versatile and aesthetically forward, which I’d like to believe my label has also contributed to. The aesthetic today is global. I must admit that when I started, Dstress was a contemporary label, and I used to feel guilty that I’m an Indian designer who is not delving into the Indian silhouette and going with a western one instead. But that was also the time when people I was working with or was around, felt the same guilt. I couldn’t connect to traditional Indian clothing. The aesthetic of the country was slightly more traditional than it is today. It’s a little bit more open, inclusive, less judgmental. And we’ve come a long way from there.
Occasion wear and traditional silhouettes from India have also majorly evolved. From either hectic or maximalist, we’ve come to form and functionality. The first groom even in Bollywood whose wedding outfit was a transitional one was Shahid Kapoor. Grooms can wear a proper sherwani, like a jacket, but the construction of it is broken up in a way that lets you move freely. So now, you can dance at your sangeet without being stiff. That, to me, is an evolved silhouette. And designers are putting it out there these days, where they encourage people to have fun with their clothes. Men have also eased out on changing the way they dress, and take an interest. With western wear, they still had a take. Someone’s a pink shirt guy, someone’s a blazer fellow. But with Indian silhouettes, they didn’t want to experiment. Now, there are transitional pieces that go from the western side of your wardrobe o the Indian, and that’s because Indian silhouettes have such versatility. Indian men don’t have the same bandhgala suit that goes for dry cleaning before any reception function these days.
I think the biggest trend in fashion today is cross-cultural influences across the globe, and geographical restriction is blurring. The world is becoming inclusive. I think it’s very exciting for designers globally. You already see our silhouettes in European fashion weeks, as you even see other silhouettes, be it from a Japanese designer or a Turkish one. And social media has upped that even more. It’s opened so many eyes towards India. At no cost, you’re getting educated about fashion, and especially menswear, which is becoming more experimental by the day. Are Indian designers keeping up with the global changes in fashion? Well, we don’t need to keep up with anything, because our clothes are worn in all regions. We just need to keep in mind that we don’t feel out of place in any region. A luxurious, modern look could be worn anywhere in the world, with regional tweaks to the linings, as suited for the region.
I can say that because, with the kind of men I cater to today, Indian menswear has become cool again. If anything, I feel we have a more powerful presence than the global brands when it comes to our kind of product, because of our aesthetic and the transition our clothes can make from occasion wear to otherwise. For example, I put out the Solar collection last year, and I was so proud to see Fendi do it at Milan Fashion Week this year. The market is far more evolved when it comes to menswear globally, as compared to India. But India is not far behind. On every front, a lot of global brands do production in India, which are backed with great craftsmanship. Everyone is dipping into our fabric textile bank and our silhouette bank. The good part is, now, we put out our silhouettes under an Indian label, and not the domain of superbrands only. It’s so important, because from a business perspective, because we put in so much more into our pieces, even when it comes to the kind of quality or the kind of work we put into our stuff and with our prices, anyone abroad will charge five times or six times more.
I think globally, everything, including the Indian silhouette, has gotten a slightly modern update. The world we live in dictates the aesthetic that we perceive as normal and then you start making choices, and talking about mass in India. The update is on the lines of functionality, versatility, and comfort, and the sort of cuts and patterns we create. For me, the process of the fabric becoming a garment is beautiful. I create most of my fabrics. So, it falls differently. It moves differently. I love the concept of manipulation where something looks a certain way but the movement of it tells a different story. If you talk about where we stand globally on the gender-fluidity radar, I think the market for gender-fluid clothing is still growing. To give retail space to androgyny, I think we are a season or two away. It’s a sustainable thought as well. All around the world, the flow is changing. Men are wearing sheer and layers of sheer, while women are wearing more structured silhouettes.
I don’t think there’s any area of menswear in India that we haven’t taken to the global audience. Runways have sherwanis, and every fashion week has updates on our jackets. Every international designer that comes to India does a bandhgala and other such constructions. We’ve crossed the boundaries, and we’re going to get bigger. While our silhouette has and is making its global place, I think this decade is going to be more about Indian designers and labels going global. Otherwise, we’re pretty much there. Look at how much couture uses India and our crafts. Even references to our hair, make-up, tikkas, the bindis, body tattoos, everything is making a big impact on global runways. But, I think what’s not happened so much is Indian designers going out there and making their presence felt. That’s what the future of Indian fashion on a global scale holds —Indian designers cracking into the mainstream and it’s going to happen soon.