The 23rd edition of Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2014 saw the best of fashion, creativity and art in the country

Last week, the world inside Pragati Maidan’s Hall no. 18 was a rarefied, shiny bubble of silhouettes and biases, colours and fabrics, glamour and celebrity. The stalls were set up, the ramps put in place, and the designers, models and audience crowded in, taking a fashionable refuge from the increasingly scorching Sun outside. The 23rd edition of FDCI's Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2014 was an opportunity to gorge on latest trends, designs and prints. It was an opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the most creative minds in the Indian fashion industry and see them in their element.

Of course, the opening show set the note for the event, and amidst a few first day teething issues, designer Tarun Tahiliani presented his latest collection, one that did away with the distinction between clothes and jewellery. There were fluid structures and silhouettes, adorned by ornaments inspired by Indian heritage binding the outfits together. Tahiliani’s collection was an experiment in the making, giving new meaning to the need and form of jewellery that accompanies clothing. A reading from Rana Dasgupta’s new book, Capital, and a performance by musicians from Rajasthan kicked off the show, bringing together threads of other art forms and ending with a dose of Bollywood glamour as Shilpa Shetty walked the ramp as showstopper.

The rest of the day, packed with back-to-back shows saw both experimental and classic fashion, with designers seeking inspiration from a wide, varying range of sources. Anupamaa Dayal’s bridal collection, Kama, was her expression of Vatsayana’s Kamasutra, while Vineet Bahl played with the idea of celebrating everyday life, his collection ‘Utsav’ a classic and elegant expression in brocade, handloom fabric, mal-mal and tussar georgette. Raakesh Aggrawal’s collection, Seduce NOT Control, brought seductive and sensual bling on stage, using hand sewn embellishments on pieces ranging from boldly structured to free flowing. Accessories played an important role in Aggrawal’s collection, with thigh high boots, chain mail and neck braces summoning the picture of underworld and bondage.

It wasn’t just the first day that saw this curious mix of safe and experimental designs. The following four days, with a line up of both promising débuts and established names, saw some designers sticking to safe, tested spaces, catering to customer expectations, while others ventured into unexplored waters, creating avant garde pieces that were received with tentative appreciation. Perhaps Anand Bhushan’s collection, ‘Broken’, presented on the second day, best exemplifies the trend of pushing the envelope. A metaphorical expression of the cracks under shiny, happy veneers, Bhushan’s pieces used plastic, copper, leather and acrylic, with motifs DNA strains, chromosomes and molecular grouping.

Whether it was Malini Ramani’s ‘Glamourette’, with sequins, embroidery, shells and mirrors on a simple palette of black, white and gold, or Rahul Mishra’s International Woolmark prize winning collection, ‘The Lotus Effect’, and it’s interpretation of merino wool and delicate, ultra-soft pieces with intricate embroidery and tie and dye work, beauty reigned during Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2014. With all its interpretations, artistic expressions and perspectives, it made an appearance in each collection and each piece, effortlessly combining with technology, as in Rina Dhaka's collection inspired by Nokia Lumia 1520, or music, as seen in Anita Dongre's collection, “An Urban Folktale”.

The third day of the event also saw the Grand Finale of the 8th edition of ‘The Debut’, an initiative that seeks to recognise promising young designers. Gourav Goel from New Delhi's Pearl Academy was handpicked the winner and felicitated by actor Soha Ali Khan.

Concluding with a grand finale by Namrata Joshipura, Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2014 was an exhilarating joyride for the city's fashion lovers, and a lesson in the only partially tapped goldmine of creative potential that exists in the country today.