Besides her classic template, Ritu Kumar showcased some contemporary silhouettes at the launch of her new store in the city

Fashion seasons come and go. What's ‘in' today is ‘out' tomorrow. But Ritu Kumar, the prima donna of design, has persistently stuck to her classic narrative ever since she began her journey with two tables and four block printers in an inconspicuous suburb of Kolkata in the 1970s.

In Chennai for the launch of her (relocated) standalone store at Rutland Gate, she proves that she can re-jig her template to create a refreshing scene or two in her ongoing fashion script. She ‘Labels' these risk-taking departures for those who think fashion is for the daring, and not for the boring.

As the dichotomy in design unfolds on a white-planked ramp in the store, young fashionistas known for surreptitiously using their phones during such shows, remain focussed on the designer's work. On the one hand, Ritu's creations are about timelessness — celebrating traditional silhouettes and ethnic handwork. On the other hand, it's about timeliness — responding to today's fashion needs by fusing Western simplicity with a dash of ethnic ornamentation. And she seems to handle the challenge of achieving the classic-contemporary contrast with ease.

While Ritu's couture-diffusion brand believes in the prim and proper look, the pret “Label” is about vertiginous necklines, rising-and-falling hemlines and cuts that sculpt body curves. Risqué, Ritu Kumar loyalists might think. But it's the designer's way of reinventing herself to appeal to a new generation of Label loyalists. The fully embellished lyrical cream sari and the show-stopping drenched-in-detail lehenga were examples of Ritu's emphasis on workmanship and her inspiration (which has always been tradition). The chic black numbers that followed were a blatant nod to the West. Colour or cut, economy of fabric or budget embellishment, with Label, the designer tries to strike a balance between signature tag and affordability.

While the first half showcasing saris, salwars and lehengas — layered with a range of traditional embroidery — was like a fleeting fantasia that actually takes precision-seeking craftsmen hours of intense work, the second half, much like the barely-there fabrics used, was a breeze. In all, the design diva, who is surfing her sixties with trademark charm, proved she is an accomplished all-rounder whose idiom is as template as it is trendy.


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