Ritu Kumar's Panchvastra show combined theatre and fashion on mythological lines to showcase a synthesis of craft and inspiration.

She thinks of it as doing what she does best and believes has moved away from. Ritu Kumar made her bold move to prove that when it comes to heritage and textiles, she knew it all only too well. And that fashion in India cannot be delinked from the traditions that created it. “Reality is far away from the ramps of Paris, and most Indian fashion today is not connected in any way with the Indian lifestyle,” Ritu said. “This was my way of re-connecting, and create a mood that is in tune with what is around us. Panchvastra is a collection with a rare synthesis of fashion, craft and inspiration. The costumes have a rich feel, which emanate from India's oldest and richest crafts researched over the last 45 years.”

Just when fashion watchers were on the verge of labelling her a doyenne whose day was done, Ritu Kumar set out to prove that when it comes to Indian silhouettes and craftsmanship, her knowledge was deep enough to add new dimensions to age old themes.

The Panchvastra show she put up at Aman resorts Delhi, as a stand-alone extravaganza was “because one cannot quite do this at Fashion Week, and it needed to be done”.

Delving to the root of traditional crafts, her show was a layered presentation of crafts, colours, silhouettes and music and movement, as well as a celebration of Indian womanhood through mythology, created as an organic whole.

Thus she could showcase not just the garments in all their spectrum of colours, but bring to the stage her own love of the traditional rustic and classical music as well as create a platform to exploit the colours and textures of crafts like phulkari, zardosi as well as the sparkle of crystals.

Vintage collection

“It was a non fashion attitude to a vintage collection,” the designer said, adding that she elaborated on a concept visualised by her son Amrish Kumar, who handles the label line. Conceived and directed by Vidyun Singh and Amrish Kumar, the event was produced by Asha Kochhar.

The Panchavastra show used the personalities of five iconic women to showcase symbolic lines. Thus mythology came alive as Ganga, Draupadi, Kunti, Amba and Gandhari, walked the stage, and the theatre artistes portrayed their persona and stories in mime and song.

“To symbolise the purity of Ganga, we used water, in visual and in sound,” says Ramanji Kaur, who was part of the theatrical exposition that dovetailed the fashion. Using indigenous Indian instruments like water bowls, tumbi, gong, drum, manjira, bells, wind chimes, chimta, the performers recreated the breaking free of the Ganga, by allowing the performer to tear through a plastic wrap, while the undulating movements of birth were mimicked in dance.

Similarly, for Amba — the wanderer... the performer held three white cloth bundles on her head, shoulder and in her arm as she wandered about to a background of a dance of birds.

As purity, seduction, swayamvar, exile and darkness were the predominant themes running through this collection, the colours of the clothes also ranged from peach and white to orange gold and fuscia.

The last sequence, where Gandhari was portrayed, and the theme was darkness, black, indigo and gold symbolised the mood of royal sorrow. Neelam Man Singh who visualised the dramatic element, worked the sequences out in conjunction with video mapping and projections. Thus creating a truly multi-dimensional show.

Five facets

Adding to the element of spectacle were the five “real women” Anita Ratnam, Dia Mirza, Kirron Kher, Seema Biswas and Sushmita Sen who portrayed the five facets of the mythological women on stage.

Ensuring that the clothes would not lose their connect with the modern woman, Ritu Kumar added that she had ensured the clothes were also available in a more contemporary interpretation that was created by son Amrish Kumar. “This takes the collection from vintage costume to an aspirational younger offering giving it a rare synergy recreated for a newer generation,” she said.

Coming as it did as a precursor to the two main fashion weeks in Delhi and Mumbai, Ritu Kumar's show was a reminder to all the younger lot of designers who would be on ramp through the 10 days, that when it comes to colour, texture and many faceted personality, nothing quite beats the richness India has to offer.

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PersonalitiesMay 14, 2012