The first two days of the PCJ Delhi Couture Week actually looked like couture’s looking beyond the bride

Designers like to emphasise that couture includes bridal, that couture is not synonymous with the latter but just encompasses it. The ongoing PCJ Delhi Couture Week in New Delhi threw up some predictable elements as well as things that make one lean forward for a better look. So though bridal reds featured in all the four shows that have taken place so far, a more pronounced leaning towards non-wedding bespoke might be a good sign.

While innerwear-as-outerwear has been a trend — albeit debatable — internationally, Varun Bahl, whose was the opening show of the Week, made the brassiere the focus of his line. It came under, and on, sheer tops, and, strangely, proved a foil to the diaphanous, often embellished, blouses. Bahl’s collection, called ‘India, Nouveau’, played around with basic Indian silhouettes. A sari pallu, for instance, trailed out of a sheer blouse. Another sari blouse came with a faux camisole underneath, and degradé anarkalis came with curly picot hems. Embellished peacocks came on sleeves and tops, and a deliberate emphasis on black (combined with a blue shade card) in the beginning of the collection, keep things interesting before the corals and reds walked in. The latter pretty no doubt — and one bear so drudges against red and family — but here the best came at the beginning. And velvet, Bahl’s favourite medium, saw a restricted presence, a noticeable departure from its dominance seen in the designer’s previous France and Russia-inspired couture showings.

JJ Valaya’s collection, in his own words, was a continuation of his Autumn/ Winter 2012-13 line that he showcased in the Capital in February. The colour palette was again a progression from monochrome to colour. ‘The Azrak Collection’ continued the Ottoman theme, with marble inlay work, Turkish miniatures (which came on the back of tunics) and Iznik ceramics. Huge embroidered macaws provided an element of fun on men’s sherwanis. With the red velvet piece that model Nayonika Chatterjee wore in the end a strong reminder of Kangana Ranut’s finale outfit from last time, Valaya finished with a shot of déjà vu.

Designers Ashima and Leena, showing their collection ‘Raag Rattan’, seemed to know who they were targeting — the traditional bride who might occasionally venture into ivory, coral and olive territory but is likely to retreat into fuchsia, red and gold. Gota was a running element, as were the precious rocks that beamed light from the clothes. There were the crowd pleasers — gold lamé saris, and lehengas that came with the gently bobbing of hoop skirts.

What, without doubt, will remain a highlight even when the event comes to a close tomorrow, will be the offsite show of designers Anamika Khanna and Gaurav Gupta hosted by Atul and Tina Malhotra at Evoluzione. A ramp was not needed, as the tables laid out with flowers and wine (with even the place mats cut in the Kila’s jaali motifs) become the front and only row, something akin to Karl Lagerfeld’s ‘Paris-Bombay’ pre-Fall show for Chanel last December, with models walking in the aisles in front of the tables.

Anamika Khanna, in her collection ‘A love Song to India’, showed clothes that didn’t look possible to execute within the time frame one’s allowed between seasons. Gota embroidery so fine that it looked like thoudans of tiny mirrors, tulle blurring the outlines of trousers underneath, this collection was about a lot of fine touches. Starting off with dull gold and black and slowly roping in royal blues and blood red, silhouettes included dhoti pants, embellished peplum tops, ponchos and coats, with mullet hems lending a feminine edge to long coats.

Gaurav Gupta, in his couture line, ‘The Sylph Aviary’, took what he does best, and made them better. The signature sari gowns were there, while the Mughal-meets-Rococo-meets-Art Nouveau theme manifested itself in the form of embroidery — this time best showcased on the sheer backs of the outfits. (The back remained the focus throughout). Shoulders were strong and powerful — like in the “sexy secretary” look he created for A/W 2012-13, but this was Gupta besting his best.