Mythology, theatre and fashion came together in Ritu Kumar's couture show, 'Panchvastra'
In the increasingly absorbent world of fashion, lines will be blurred. At Ritu Kumar's couture presentation, ‘Panchvastra', held at The Aman in New Delhi recently, artistes from Neelam Mansingh's The Company ushered in each of the five sequences in the fashion show, each based on one powerful female character from the Mahabharata, each serving as a clever platform to cater to a wide range of tastes in terms of colour palette and silhouette.
Anita Ratnam opened the sequence based on ‘Ganga', with its symbolism of purity. Gota work, seen throughout the collection, here made an appearance on floating anarkalis, gararas and elaborate dupattas, with monochrome gently giving way to shades of peach. Broderie anglaise made an appearance on white lehengas featuring subtle zardozi embroidery, while flower garlands as necklaces and bracelets were the only other ornamentation, Kolhapuri chappals being the footwear of choice.
Clothes took on a more fiery hue with the next sequence based on Draupadi and the theme of seduction. Shades of saffron and red combined with black, with transparency in the form of net providing a subtle window to the embroidery on fabrics underneath. One anarkali, modelled by Sapna Kumar, came with an ikat bodice with the net zardozi embroidered skirt trailing off to a gota hem only a couple of inches from the floor and the model's bare feet. Chunky metallic neckpieces and red bindis comprised the accessories. Dia Mirza, here, made an appearance in an embellished burgundy tunic that came paired in a welcome combination with a grey lehenga.
Playing hide-and-seek among mirrors with an actor from The Company, Kirron Kher represented ‘Kunti'. With a focus on heavy-duty bridal, fabrics had as much embellishment as they could take. Lehengas came in combinations of jade and coral, fuchsia and turquoise. Velvet was used too (a case in point being a velvet choli with choker-like embroidery with Swarovski), while on one occasion a quilted jacket came paired with a lehenga.
Dragging a wooden chest across the ramp, Seema Biswas ushered in the round inspired by Amba, the “relentless traveller”. Phulkari here had its moment. In a departure from the more colour-heavy specimens one is accustomed to when we speak of phulkari, here it came in single and bi-colour motifs, lending the art form a subtlety it's rarely known for but retaining its inherent 3D charm. As a representation of Amba's journey through the forests, beaded animal motifs found a place on hems of lehengas, while ghungroos were stitched on cholis and anarkalis.
Gandhari was represented by something as literal as net blindfolds on models' eyes. (They could, of course, see ahead, as we could their smoky eyes.) The waning moon and the resultant darkness were represented in a palette of black, gold and indigo, with antique metallic embellished embroidery. One black dupatta came lined with red brocade, while a flowing anarkali with the golden gota on the layer underneath showing depending on the dress' movement was as adherent to the theme as something could be. The piece de resistance came on Sushmita Sen, who took the ramp in a panelled anarkali, the heaviness of the velvet offset by embroidered net sleeves and back.
The whole collection, according to Ritu Kumar, took five to six years in the making.
The show, conceived and directed by Vidyun Singh and Amrish Kumar, was produced by Asha Kochhar, while the video that kept the story going was created by Babel Press.
Several designers are now slowly turning to performance artistes to open shows. “I don't know if it's a trend. We just felt that it was a better medium to throw light through theatre on an ethic relationship between fashion and the subject at hand,” said Ritu.