The essence of the recently-concluded Pearls Infrastructure Delhi Couture Week

A few days ago, when someone, in what's now a small moment of regret, questioned Manav Gangwani about the price range of his blinding crystal-studded couture range, he replied, “My clothes are for those who don't ask a garment's price before they buy it.” Snobbish? Yes. But isn't that what couture is about? High-end made-to-order stuff that seldom demands reining in any form, whatsoever! It's exclusivity over accessibility, ostentatious over efficient basic.

After five fashion-filled days, the Pearls Infrastructure Delhi Couture Week recently concluded at The Grand, Vasant Kunj.

Sabyasachi Mukherjee kicked off the event. In ‘Aparajito', the Kolkata-based designer paid tribute to the invincibility of textiles and indigenous craft. Khadi played the dominant fabric (comprising 80 per cent of those used). Platformed men's shoes formed the welcome quirk in Sabyasachi's show.

Vidya Balan and Rani Mukerji applauded from the front row, while the fact that Rani wore a Halston jumpsuit instead of Sabyasachi made many headlines.

Manish Malhotra, who followed later in the day, put up a non-Bollywood show (yes, he did), with a collection of Spain-inspired pop red-carpet wear. Pretty, if not memorable.

Rohit Bal was the only designer to hold an off-site show, at Aman hotel. While the sight of delectable clothes (in an ivory palette) in the pool made for a pretty swan-like sight, the show ended up splitting the audience for Gaurav Gupta's show, which preceded his.

Manav Gangwani's ‘An Affaire to Remember' was a good couture show — a lot of drama, big-on-volume, larger-than-life red-carpet clothes, almost avant garde, though frequently garish.

Anamika Khanna, who seldom disappoints, continued the tradition in a range of beautiful embellished jackets with bold shoulders (a recurring trend throughout the week), bodysuits under maharaja robes, net lehengas and fishnet stockings.

The most notable introduction in JJ Valaya's line was the ‘Alika jacket', a simple, short, closed-neck jacket (what he calls a cross between a shirt and jacket) in gold lame with a slight structured shoulder and piping, which came again and again with embellished lehengas of varying hues and motifs. “This is just the signature jacket with a detailed cut, which is going to be reinvented every season,” said Valaya at the end of the show. So expect more in the future.

Varun Bahl, who had promised an Indo-Russian feast, didn't disappoint in ‘Anastasia Found'. Read clothes that the czars and czarinas would have worn if they had craftsmen trained in Indian garment-making. Faux fur characterised many an outfit, be it as trims on velvet jackets and net sleeves or as shrugs on embroidered corsets. Other common denominators were velvet and the Fabergé egg, the latter everywhere from saris to lehengas to brooches on faux fur shrugs.

Making his couture debut was NIFT graduate Raakesh Agarvwal. Singer Anushka Manchanda, wearing a champagne sequined dress with an acrylic belt studded with crystal, singing ‘Diamonds Are Forever', ushered in a collection where acrylic and Swarovski elements, if not diamonds, reigned. ‘Premiere Classe' saw a lot of goddess dresses, sequined corsets on layered chiffon skirts, saris draped on churidars, and pant suits. “That's just my style,” Agarvwal replied when asked about the extensive use of Perspex.

Agarvwal, along with his couture line, also debuted his jewellery line Jewels by Raakesh Agarvwal, with crystal and acrylic forming the focal point, with metallic belts and neckpieces lending a rock edge to goddess dresses.

While her last couture showcase saw Rina Dhaka indulge in the traditional reds, magentas and oranges, this year was the turn of pastels. “I feel overwhelmed when I use a lot of shimmer,” explained the designer. Pearls were the chief embellishment and the cobweb the recurring motif.

Grand finale

Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla, showcased on the ramp after a four-year gap, with a collection titled ‘Almost 24', signifying that many years in the fashion industry.

Consisting chiefly of ranges like Sonaar, Aabaan and Shabb, the couture line that showcased was a mix of sequinned dresses with drama collars, saris with ruffled edges, the trademark crushed silk pyjamas, kaftans with multicolour thread embroidery, ribboned dresses and embroidered frocks with neon lining that revealed itself on movement. Also net lehengas edged with rosettes, saris with cloth fans along the edges and panelled pallus.

Lady Gaga, Madonna and Kylie Minogue blared away in the background, while male dancers in sequinned briefs, lying all over the ramp and even dancing on planks erected against the backdrop, formed part of the set.

One, however, felt for the models, who tried their best to snake their way to the end of the ramp and back without looking down directly and still ensuring their metallic stilettos didn't pin some poor guy's head.

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