It was the launch of BBar. And what better way to celebrate it than a fashion show by Prabha Narasimhan?

Bars have become hot destinations for haute shows. With its well-planned floor space, unobtrusive lighting and notice-worthy menu, BBar at Somerset, MRC Nagar, is the latest on the pub-hoppers' list of to-be-seen-in places in the city.

BBar (think Burgundy restaurant) opened its doors to the public with panache recently. Prabha Narasimhan, who is known for her snug-fitting blouses, presented a line that went beyond her usually-traditional aesthetic.

Despite it being a pub, Prabha's first sequence was in essence a capsule of her decade-long engagement with design — something she turned to after a successful stint in the airlines industry. The opening sequence featured beautiful saris in a range of fabrics and hues. Antique borders lent a rare charm to contemporary fabrics and the work-intensive accents gave the saris their signature appeal. Surprisingly, the designer's cocktail recipe was not about sheer fabrics or sun glasses-demanding bling. Instead, she proved how tradition can be classy and timeless. As if saris weren't enough, she also displayed a couple of thavanis!

To Prabha, design is about restoring and lending freshness to old workmanship. Imagine a reversible sari, one side with gold and the other with silver antique borders, taken off saris that are about six decades old! The intricate Ashoka Chakra motifs enhanced their vintage appeal.

From multi-yard mystique, she shifted focus to contemporary Western styles. Knee-length dresses in streamlined silhouettes marked a distinct departure in the next round. Having crossed the ten-year milestone in her career, it looked like the designer was sending out a clear message — that she is open to experimenting with Western styles, swapping simplicity for heavy detailing when required and proving her prowess with cuts, even while indulging in the unstitched tradition of drapes.

A denim skirt with a huge Kalamkari applique might sound like a fashion incongruity. But Prabha made it work rather effortlessly in a formal-casual crossover skirt.

The models for the day were the designer's clients who carried off the clothes with quiet grace. Pulling off a sartorial stunt was the designer herself who made her appearance in a trouser-thavani-choli ensemble! And guess what, the thavani sported a four-decade old badla border! The showstopper for the evening was dancer Anita Ratnam. Her white-and-gold ensemble created with three saris from three generations (her grandmother, mother and herself) displayed youthfulness balanced with lady-like sophistication. Glamour was tempered with discretion for the finale in which the dancer came draped in a sari with rich, tapestry-like Kashmiri embroidery. No bling, no gilded touches. Only gentle needlework that whispered the grandeur of the workmanship.

Between sequences, choreographer Karun Raman took over, encouraging Chennai's swish set to “suggest a cocktail recipe and give it a name.” As the party continued, Prabha said, “The past ten years have been quite a journey for my label Amrita. I don't want to restrict my work only to traditional attire. I want to give my stamp to Western styles. Another interest has been creating statement jewellery. But despite all these fresh interests, I still love restoring old saris. There's something about antique fabrics and borders. I instantly gravitate towards them. And design just flows…”

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Krithika ReddyMay 11, 2012