Little Shilpa illustration by Aniela Murphy
The first glorious day of sunshine in about a million years unavoidably lent itself to the presupposed exotic atmosphere conjured by Blow’s presentation of five young Indian fashion designers, but the fashion on show moved far and away beyond simply for the Indian consumer into an exhibition of creativity that was fresh, vibrant and visually nourishing.
Having taken our seats in the Royal Festival Hall, the show began with Little Shilpa and her surfeit of psychedelic accessories that due to their vastness were often threatening to topple off heads and shatter on the catwalk in a pile of plexiglass and glue, but thank goodness those vigilant models kept steady hands. As with like-minded Holly Fulton (where comparisons are inevitable) inspiration clearly came from Art Deco, with a rainbow- coloured New York City skyline perched like a merry hat, carried on like a runway train through the insect and animal kingdoms, plant life, sportswear and even some downright hazardous-looking propeller blade shoulder pads. Whilst enjoyably inventive they were set against a backdrop of miserable old white shirts, although when the only other option was a yellow lycra catsuit maybe it’s a safe bet. We look forward to seeing these in magazines rather than sitting behind somebody who’s wearing them in the cinema.
Following on was something entirely different in Saviojon, whose designs lacked the same reach of imagination but clearly was not aiming that way, with an altogether more wearable collection of ruched and pleated cotton sun dresses in warm colours. The common denominator, however, was strength in accessories with some beautifully embellished shoes and hand crafted jewellery.
Ankur Gupta illustration by Aniela Murphy
Ankur Gupta ramped it back up again, successfully creating a cultural dialogue which surely is a fertile ground as far as the arts are concerned – here we had racy hemlines and futuristic silhouettes combined with traditional Indian embroidery and beading in a stunning display of workmanship. The heavy, carpet-like textiles were stitched and worked meticulously until they resembled beautiful quilts telling stories of trips through the jungle on a magical mystery tour – literally evoked through the appearance of everybody’s favourite educational automobile, the Magic Schoolbus! With added opiates. The dresses were perfectly paired with sequined gladiator sandals in harlequin colours that were the best shoes of the evening – better, certainly, than Anuj Sharma, where poorly made footwear made for awkward times on the catwalk with models eventually ending up barefoot.
Varun Sardana illustration by Aniela Murphy
We returned to drama for the evening’s final (and already acclaimed) designer, Varun Sardana, a real favourite amongst the crowd and reminiscent of showstoppers from Viktor & Rolf and Yohji Yamamoto. With a palette of black the emphasis here was on the convolution of texture, combined with headpieces to create armour-like with an extraordinarily mythical quality, in a collection that included capes, unicorn horns and a final look that’s going to be killer for somebody on the red carpet. Darkness always wins, apparently – even in the sunshine.
Another treat from our friends at Blow, then. We then headed up onto the roof for a few drinks which was pretty bloody brilliant too.
Photographs by Yemisi Blake
Ankur Gupta, Anuj Sharma, Art Deco, Blow PR, Capes, Holly Fulton, Indian Designers, Little Shilpa, london, New York City, Royal Festival Hall, Saviojon, Sunshine, Texture, The Magic Schoolbus, Varun Sardana, Viktor & Rolf, Yohji Yamamoto
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