As we got deeper and deeper into the worldwide pandemic, many among us began to realise that the idea of 'physical' changed forever. There was no going back to the old notions of experiencing anything physically in the same fashion that we were accustomed to for many reasons and habits. As I reached the Lakme Fashion Week 2021 venue for its first physical runway show featuring designer Tarun Tahiliani's Autumn-Winter '21 collection called "The Reunion" celebrating fashion and togetherness, it finally hit me that I was physically present at a fashion event after a long time as yearly fashion week ritual had gone virtual in the last couple of years. The happily murmuring attendees hiding their overexcitement and how glad they were to finally catch a physical fashion show , the overprotective security team and volunteers trying to keep everything in order, the faces from the management asking around if we are comfortable at the venue, some familiar faces trying to figure out if they know each other and doing the small talk at distance, it all made sense to what fashion has been needing for sometime now. That is space and structure.
People talked about many things, reminiscing the old days when fashion week wasn't such a quiet affair and the more the merrier was the mantra not only for the organisers but the designers too. This time, there was no spilling off the plate and everyone had enough space to communicate as they wanted to in their own comfort zone. Some stuck to a basic nod from a distance and some embraced a hug, a careful handshake or the safest, a fist bump. Somehow it all looked and felt calm and everyone stuck to the basics. As we entered the venue for the fashion show, I did miss the hustle where people fought for seats and stomped on each other's feet. Some physical memory I guess. The chairs were lined up at an appropriate distance from each other and more or less, everyone maintained the decorum. As I settled on my seat, I overheard two contrasting thoughts from two different generations. A young attendee in her 20s whispered to the next, "This just doesn't seem like fashion week", while in the second row a guest who appeared in her late 40s gushed about how it's been a while attending a show physically while she also stretched the conversation about markets and bridal wear.
The show began and Tarun Tahiliani's collection, "The Reunion" unfolded its 10 mini capsule collections inspired a range of crafts, textures, art forms, textiles, architecture and motifs from the Rabari Craft, Pichwai art traditions, Chikarkari techniques among others celebrating the richness of Indian heritage traditions. The ramp was decorated with criss-crossed white ropes giving an impression of being held together in difficult times as the pandemic hasnt curled in the claws as yet. But so what? The bridal market continues to be up and about and there has been a popular belief that people never stop shopping for bridal wear and truly so. The capsule collections were presented well with the rich inspirations, techniques and textures backing them but it gave an impression of lacking somewhere in breathability, newness and the idea of 'reinvention' -- a term heavily used by Indian designers and practiced rarely. The accessories, the drapes, the pastels and rich colours, the embroidery, the grandeur in bridal menswear and womenswear was all well and good but where is the change? Why cannot we go beyond embellishments and hiding behind the same time honoured craftsmanship? Why can heritage be presented with simplicity, exposing us to a contemporary take on bridal wear keeping in line with changing mindsets and what the new bride wants? The bridalwear hangover needs immediate attention as we need more than clubbing traditions, techniques and artforms with textiles, textures and crafts. We need a new eye, we need a new view and we surely need a new narrative. We also need easy, simple, accessible and the imperfections that made fashion more than it was supposed to mean. How about imagining the feathers on a bird and interpreting how light it could be rather than adding it to a heavily embellished palette that would bruise the feathers yet again.