The clink of glasses and the buzz of chatter accompany the muted tones of Indian-Western fusion music as the Singapore gathering eagerly anticipates the unveiling of the fabulous new collections of the top Indian designers in bridal couture at Bridal Mantra 2012.

Bridal it may be, but nothing about the setting for the show is traditional, except for the gleaming buntings in traditional Indian emeralds and mustards, stretching ceiling to floor, along the red-carpeted walkway at the entrance.

The funky, split-level Powerhouse at St. James Power Station, with its 10,000 sq ft of party space, black walled interiors and ceiling strung with silver stars has been host to a multitude of shows - but none like the Bridal Mantra fashion show.

In one bold move, brand Bridal Mantra has commandeered a completely non-traditional venue and turned it into a bridal show with a difference.

The catwalk sits at a height of four feet, much higher than a traditional walkway and is also much shorter than a normal catwalk. Scattered all around the unconventional platform are barstools, rather than chairs, for the audience to sit.

Working the venue’s differential features to their advantage are show choreographers Bruhi Pant and Shy Kalra. With a 100 shows under their belt, this duo is excited to be doing Bridal Mantra in Singapore. “It’s been a challenging and interesting experience, to be in a nightclub and doing bridal couture. The catwalk has been built over what is actually a bar!” says Shy, “and that calls for a lot of ‘space craft’ - how to use the given space creatively.”

“The lighting, acoustics and stage dynamics, were also challenging,” adds Bruhi.

But the fact that this party space has been designed for the best acoustic experience becomes obvious as the smooth soundtrack begins to play. The music for the show, jointly compiled by the choreographers, the designers and DJ Martin is a rich blend of Indian and Western elements, filled with the deep throbbing beat of drums, setting the pace for a fabulous show.

Walking the ramp were catwalk veterans like Nayanika Chatterjee, Shonali Rozario, Shruti Agarwal, Aanchal Kumar and Sonalika Sahay, amongst other newer faces and even some local talent. On the models - who were predominantly Indian - hair and makeup designer Gopika Pillai kept lips looking natural; skin smooth and eyes darkly contoured. The hair was swept into twisted chignons that were accentuated by interesting hair accessories and unconventional maang tikkas.

The bridal lines showcased at Bridal Mantra 2012 veered from the classic to the more experimental. Designers like Falguni and Shane Peacock’s collections were distinctly different from the bright kanjeevarams and crystal embellished sarees of Pothys and Nalli.

The Peacocks’ exploratory style was peppered with pastels and neutrals in creams and beiges, the soft colours offset by fun details like crystal embroidery, pleated net trains, and feather trims. Fitted bodices and bold red motifs parading down beige net were all part of this surprising bridal line.

Nalli’s collection, whose highlight was its colours, was a delightful mix of traditional silks and crystal embellishments while Pothys showcased the best of their line, in which South Indian; pure silk sarees were embellished with hand embroidery from the North. The most eye-catching in this collection were the rich kanjeevarams in bright bands of colour.

Designers Shantanu and Nikhil had a very different approach to bridal couture. Their opening collection was all about volume in deep hues. Abundantly pleated, thick, floor sweeping skirts and bold ruffles graced every piece. As the lighter fabrics were held in place by rich gold and silver embroidery work, the heavy but fluid, silk skirts swung softly. The clothes played with each other, dark grey lame’ slipping and sliding over net and chiffon, while duller fabrics like tweed were lifted to a brighter place by buttery velvets and rich gold embroidery work. On the ramp, a Queen Elizabeth ruff jostled for space with an adorned, fitted, velvet jacket that was worn over a saree. Overall, the line was a elegantly fun, swiftly turning bridal into beautiful.

Designer Nikasha, who is fast gaining popularity on the international scene, showed her veni flower collection at Bridal Mantra, inspired by the poem written by Kalidasa. Opening her show with light fabrics in peach and pink pastels, the line steadily began to take on deeper hues. At first, it was only a touch of lime green here, or tangerine there, but as more models appeared, the colours brightened to include rich mustards and corals. Light, girly flounces kissed the hemlines, while the cuts stayed simple and eminently wearable. The happy colours of turquoise, pistachio green, lotus pink and touches of emerald green splashed throughout the collection were a celebration of the joy of marriage.

Also shining on the ramp was a precious collection of bridal jewellery from GRT jewellers, Jewel Box and Sugal and Damani. GRT Jewellery’s Classic Collection was filled with traditional armlets and gold studded waist-belts for women, but the heavy necklaces with large, intricately worked pendants for men were a delightful surprise.

Raghavendra Rathore, a designer who also focussed much of his new line on men, drew attention to the beautifully handcrafted cuts of his fitted coats in red, black and demure creams with brocades. In his collection, stark monochrome tunics were as visible as the rich purples and plums, and the line was peppered with classic touches like a wine coloured silk handkerchief against a rich grey tunic and a velvet topee worn at a jaunty angle.

Although slightly late to start, the entire show breezed by without a hitch. And all the little touches, like free flowing alcohol, the small slice of smooth jazz played effortlessly by saxophonist Jeff, and the relaxed atmosphere of the bar all went a long way in making the evening an impressive and memorable experience.

The audience that dispersed at the end of the evening was a happy crowd, many eager to visit the designer and retailer stalls at Marina Bay Sands tomorrow.

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