That moment, when lights flood the ramp and the first model steps out, the music soars and all eyes are on the drama about to unfold. The anticipation of a story well told: It is an addiction for those of us in the business of fashion. One that is driven by a peculiar calendar that confounds math with a five-day week—and it happens twice a year at least, and in the four best cities of the world: New York, Paris, Milan, London.
The glamour goes in tandem with the bottomline. A trend presentation starts as the ultimate showcase of a designer’s creativity but ends as a retail look book; a guide for buyers to determine how much you will be spending next season—by deciding what you will be wearing. And before you interject… no, you never wear a look off the ramp on the street. The only time it is okay is at the show, at the behest of the designer. Otherwise, your instincts are right when you laugh at the idea of stepping out in that.
Now I have a reverential view of fashion. A show, to me, compares to a cinematic experience. And there are those who recognise it—and celebrate it—better than most.
In India, no one gets it better than Sabyasachi Mukherjee. I remember his debut in 2002. The fraternity realised at the outset that a star had been born. Since then, his every showing has had a wow factor. But this year he topped it by displaying so much diversity that you felt, perhaps, there were two entirely different people designing under one label. In March, he took over the iconic Richardson & Cruddas Mills in Mumbai to create a 60-metre long ramp to send over 62 models in 105 outfits. Titled ‘Big Love’, he used drones and disco music to showcase his version of power dressing in the ’70s.
In July, it was the turn of couture to take centrestage. A set designed to resemble an abandoned mansion was the backdrop to the sexiest clothes the designer has ever sent down the ramp. The sensuality was tightly controlled. And elegantly enhanced by red soles. He had pulled off a coup and collaborated with Christian Louboutin. It was so much Sabya’s show that headlines didn’t give the Parisian shoe designer equal billing. Instead they referred to him as Sabya’s showstopper.
There were many beautiful shows at the Amazon India Couture Week, but it is likely that people will only remember this one. That is what Sabya is a past master at. He understands the importance of occupying a permanent place in memory. Of creating a powerful visual image that resides within. Detractors call him clever and manipulative. I think these are compliments. Artistes must be remembered.
Think John Galliano.
Elevating shows to an art form is something the older European fashion houses do instinctively. The shows in Paris and Milan are so incredible, so reflective, of a brand’s DNA, that you almost always miss the effort behind it. One of my defining moments as an editor was the House of Dior’s haute couture Autumn/Winter 2007-2008 presentation. Held at the Palace of Versailles, the setting was apt for grand theatre—and theatrics. The brand was celebrating its 60th anniversary and a decade of Galliano at its helm—I still remember thinking I will never see anything this perfect, ever again. Or this extravagant.
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(This story appears in the Sept-Oct 2015 issue of ForbesLife India. To visit our Archives, click here.)