Designers Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla are stalwarts of the Indian fashion design community. They have not just shaped Indian fashion but also helped it get a global stamp of approval.
Entrenched in craftsmanship, heritage, and tradition, Abu-Sandeep’s oeuvre celebrates everything Indian. Their designs featuring embroideries, chikankari, mirror-work, and gota patti are like heirlooms, and so it’s no surprise that the couturiers have dressed everyone from the who’s who of Bollywood to international celebrities. And when it came to associating with Blenders Pride Fashion Tour 2019-20, they were the ideal custodians of the theme ‘My Blend, My Pride’.
‘Pride’ is the cornerstone of Blenders Pride Fashion Tour, and the 2019-20 edition has taken the idea to new heights. In its 15th year, with designer Ashish Soni as its curator-in-chief, the event is akin to festivals of fashion, where legendary designers have come together to interpret the theme of ‘craft’, ‘blend’, and ‘identity’, and the platform is driving conversations around fashion and discovering new talent. Also a first in this landmark year is the platform’s association with the Fashion Design Council of India, the country’s leading fashion body credited for giving the industry a cohesive voice and global recognition.
After the Kolkata and Hyderabad editions, the Delhi leg of the tour took this idea forward. At the GMR Grounds in Aerocity, visitors were first greeted by the ‘Collection Gallery’ display comprising 82 iconic pieces by designers including Alpana & Neeraj, Shantanu & Nikhil, Varun Bahl, Rahul Mishra, JJ Valaya, Gaurav Gupta, and the late Wendell Rodricks among others. At ‘The Showcase’, a talent hunt and incubation platform that provides a breakthrough opportunity for aspiring fashion designers and models to be mentored and display their talent at Blenders Pride Fashion Tour, winner Ikshit Pande of QUOD rolled out a collection that included elements of couture, sharp tailoring, and a hint of edge packed with street style. Other winners of ‘The Showcase’ include Sushant Abrol (Countrymade) and Stanzin Palmo (Zilzom), and models Ritu Chauhan, Poojan Solanki and Preethi Prabhakaran.
At the ‘Style Forum’, which brings together some of the best names in the industry for an intellectual dialogue, designers Rahul Mishra, Ashish N Soni, and Ruchika Sachdeva; philanthropist and art collector Shalini Passi; luxury consultant Kalyani Chawla; and FDCI president Sunil Sethi came together for an exchange on the subject of making clothes borderless.
The piece de resistance of the Delhi edition was the fashion show by Abu-Sandeep that showcased Indianwear in all its glory, and was a tribute to the past, present and future; to multiple elements, silhouettes, and moods that make the new fashion landscape. In their signature opulent style, the show area, imagined by scenographer Sumant Jayakrishnan, shone in black and gold, while two aerial dancers suspended high above ground added to the dramatic effect.
The show was also a reflection of everything that is at the heart of the brand. From signature designs featuring intricate mirror work, shararas in a profusion of hues, floor-sweeping bridal ensembles, and saris with upgraded chikankari to support for LGBTQAI rights and genderless dressing, Abu-Sandeep created a fashion spectacle on the runway. Adding to the effect were cool denim sherwanis, blazers, jackets, and short kurtas for men. While actor Sara Ali Khan opened the show wearing a red heavily embroidered lehenga with a blouse that featured architectural sleeves, paired with a multi-tiered necklace, our favourite part of the show was actor Ankur Rathee, clad in traditional sherwani, breaking into an impromptu jig.
We spoke to the designers to understand what the show and the association with Blenders Pride Fashion Tour 2019-20 stood for.
What made you associate with Blenders Pride Fashion Tour?
We have actually barely been at fashion weeks in our career, but because it was Blenders Pride Fashion Tour’s special 15th year, we got roped in and knew we had to celebrate together. And since it’s all about commemorating ‘pride’, we thought it was a perfect fit. We take immense pleasure in this association, where our showcase was a tribute to the coming together of past, present and future, of multiple elements, silhouettes, and moods to create a new fashion landscape.
How did you integrate the idea of ‘My Blend, My Pride’ in your ensembles?
We have always been a label that ‘blends’ various crafts and styles of India. The collection we showcased was a special edition called ‘AJSK in Essence’, which essentially captures our signature style of traditional crafts, blended for the modern young woman. Just like we have been reinventing ourselves for over three decades, we did that for this show as well, in a way that blends perfectly to what we were and what we have become.
Tell us about the crafts we saw at the show
When we started 33 years ago, we had introduced crushed bandhani in a fresh avatar, so we definitely touched upon that. We revisited our chikankari and jamdani weaves, blended with khadi and various other textiles and embroideries that span across India.
Tell us about how you envisaged the show
We always like to go beyond just a show and add that x-factor to the entire experience. We return to our roots, our extraordinary legacy of indigenous textiles, craft techniques, and embroideries, to fashion a brand new expression that is unfettered by rules or borders.
How do you stay relevant for the millennial audience?
We love millennials, but they have the lowest attention span. So I always request them to tune in just a little longer. Everything isn’t instant and good things always take time.
All images: Courtesy Blenders Pride Fashion Tour