India Couture Week: Designers draw on sunsets, romance and the expanse of the cosmos

After a year and a half of lockdowns, new couture collections celebrate life, love and craftsmanship

Published: Sep 4, 2021 09:00:00 AM IST
Updated: Sep 4, 2021 02:07:46 PM IST

Metonia by Amit Aggarwal

Hope, joy, strength and confidence were the overarching themes at the India Couture Week 2021-2022 held in the last week of August. The digital fashion showcases of 19 designers such as Manish Malhotra, Tarun Tahiliani, Rahul Mishra, Shantanu & Nikhil and Amit Aggarwal were a collection of glamorous, heavily embroidered outfits that urged people to celebrate life, love and rich craftsmanship.

Forbes India lists some of the most stunning couture collections from the week, from Amit Aggarwal’s fluid ensembles to Gaurav Gupta’s glittering comet-inspired gowns.

Metonia by Amit Aggarwal


This is designer Amit Aggarwal’s story. “This is a story of my resurgence. A life where I breathe and live for every moment. A life where I let my feet touch the earth a little more, the waters wash me to a new every day and the air caress me bare each time she comes knocking on my window sill,” said Aggarwal in a press statement.

The collection, according to the designer, is an ode to the three life-sustaining elements—earth, water and air—featuring 35 styles and silhouettes in colours ranging from moss, sage, forest green, roseate, azalea, lisianthus, taffy, mulberry, fuchsia to eggplant and indigo, using materials like glass fibre, raffia palm and optic fibre to spin architectural structures into fluid ensembles.

The lehengas, saris, gowns, capes and dresses showcase hand painting through marbling patterns over discarded PVC and hand woven polymer. The collection has the designer’s signature metallic polymers which have been used for intricate pleating, 3D hand-embroidered threadwork and metallic cording in detailed silhouettes which are structured yet fluid, personifying “hope, acceptance and new paths”.

Artisanal Couture Collection by Tarun Tahiliani


Designer Tarun Tahiliani presented his Artisanal Couture Collection, a set of six capsule collections--Chikankari, Pichwai, Rangrez, Cocktail Goddess, Pakeezagi and Bridal--that have lehengas, shararas, concept saris, kurtas, choli capes, coats and skirts in organza brocade, tulle brocade, moonga silk brocade and sheer silk, tulle and novelty crinkle. The collection also features accessories, bags, shoes and belts.

The focus is on hand-craftsmanship and a continuation of Tahiliani’s 25 years of work with the country’s artisans. In the Rangrez capsule, thousands of meters of woven brocade strips are cut out and applied on different forms. The Bridal collection is presented in traditional bridal reds as well as pastels and beiges. The Pichwai collection takes inspiration from the ancient Indian lyrical paintings from Rajasthan that depict big monochromatic scenes of the Raasleela and traditional motifs of peacocks, cows and lotuses. While the collection’s Chikankari capsule is reminiscent of the tomb of I'timād-ud-Daulah in Agra. The heritage structure’s latticed carvings and inlay work form the basis of the collection’s Chikankari motifs.

The designer has played with different shapes and cuts of blouses that feature embellishments and textures in mirror jadau work, jaalis or dori, gota patti, pearls, sequins, cut dana and lifted resham flowers, along with embroideries such as aari, zardosi and dori embroidery.

Oasis by Shantanu & Nikhil


Like a shimmering oasis, which defies the withering heat of the desert, Shantanu & Nikhil’s Ceremonial Couture collection Oasis is the designers’ response to the need of our times—beauty for those deprived of it, glamour for those missing it, power for those feeling helpless. The line-up, mostly menswear, has draped, silk kurtas in kaleidoscopic prints.

These are paired with armour-like bundis and military-inspired short bandhgalas in black.

The new Shantanu & Nikhil cowl trousers update the dhoti silhouette that is paired with both shorter jackets and longer sherwanis, all topped with jewelled brooches and accessories.

For women, the designers blur the boundaries between ball gowns and lehengas, creating hybrid styles that can be worn anywhere from New York to New Delhi. Voluminous drapes meet expertly constructed bodices, embellished with exquisite hand embroideries.

kam-ḵẖāb by Rahul Mishra


‘Kam’ translates to ‘less’ and ‘khaab’ refers to a ‘nap’—‘kam-ḵẖāb’ is a sequence of dreams woven together like a garland of artistic musings and emotions, designer Rahul Mishra said in a press release.

The kam-ḵẖāb collection was developed at Mishra’s atelier during two lockdowns, when often work would have to be stopped abruptly, and then, when it would resume, it would, sometimes take a different shape and a different look.

The ensemble is articulated with age-old techniques of hand embroidery, lightweight fabrics such as silk organza, georgette, crêpe and tissue along with Banarasi cutwork and Chanderi silk textiles. “While enabling our community of craftsmen and weavers from across the country, kam-ḵẖāb represents luxury that is produced to address demand, and not pursue consumption,” states the brand in a press release.

Afterglow by Pankaj & Nidhi


With renewed hope and energy after the lockdown, husband and wife Pankaj and Nidhi Ahuja presented their new couture collection Afterglow, which symbolises a new dawn with a longing for a bright future. The collection uses techniques such as origami folding, handcrafted appliqués and latticework on trailing jackets and capes, flowing skirts with blouses in chromatic gold, pearl pinks, dove greys and ruby reds—inspired by the afterglow of a sunset lingering on the horizon.

Universal Love by Gaurav Gupta


Gaurav Gupta’s collection of big ball gowns, slim gowns, short party dresses, lehengas, sari gowns, tuxedos, bandhgalas, jackets and flared trousers, is, says the designer, inspired by the universe, drawing from the expanse of the cosmos, stars, planets, meteoric showers and racing comets. In the collection, which is glittering and glamorous, a gown in Neptune blue has embroidery strokes that look like comets flying. A concept lehenga is sculpted in cosmic grey, embellished with sprinkles of shaded glass in blue and gunmetal. A hybrid Indian gown in asteroid pink has a large multi-layered skirt and rain shower-patterned embroidery.

A cosmic violet gown with fan-like structures gives a sense of movement and rhythm.
Gupta’s collection for men is in stark black and white, night teal and Neptune blue, where the lines running across jackets look like they are forming new constellations.

Noor by Suneet Verma


Suneet Verma’s collection is an ode to young, blooming love, that exciting, new rush of romance and the importance of celebrations in life, especially after several lockdowns.
The collection has outfits for pre-wedding functions and for the marriage ceremony. Those for the pre-wedding functions are in mint, ice-blue, blush, and yellow with tone-on-tone embroidery in delicate glass beads, crystals, and threadwork in ultra-feminine, soft, flowy silhouettes, with sheer sleeves, off-shoulder necklines, and deep scalloped backs that are apt for a day-time function. For the groom there are pastel-coloured sherwanis with thread embroidery.

The wedding collection is in shades of ruby, sindhoor (vermilion) and red. The heavier embroidery is in gold zari threadwork with silver zardosi on 16 kali skirts in silk tanchoi with long trails, sheer veils in tulle and sharara sets in silk georgette.

Nooraniyat – The Bridal Edit by Manish Malhotra


Manish Malhotra’s Nooraniyat–The Bridal Edit brought back in vogue the big, fat Indian wedding and the quintessential Indian bride, dressed in all her glory.

The collection in sacred reds, plush peaches and scintillating golds has Malhotra’s signature trails, sheer veils and layering drapes in age-old zardosi, badla, and sequins.

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