TRENDs Now in the realms of sportswear and trophy jackets, brocade's out of the wraps

For centuries, brocade has been the fabric equivalent of fine jewellery. The Nanjing brocade dating back to the China's Sung Dynasty, after all, had gold thread woven with the weft. (The obi belts on kimonos are still made of brocade, though one's not so sure about the gold content there anymore.) In India, the Moghul era in the 14th Century would see silver and gold threading their way into cloth woven in Banaras, a city which was to later become synonymous with the most opulent form of Indian brocade.

Over the years, brocade has been an integral part of ceremonial occasions here, with many a wedded woman having one ‘Banarasi' sari from her trousseau carefully wrapped in sheets of muslin or butter paper — to be looked at with pride once a year and petted like an “exotic animal” — British author Sue Townsend's description of a beautiful but impractical piece of clothing — but scarcely worn again. Eighteenth-century Europe saw brocade entering wardrobes, first in relatively inconspicuous uses, as in court shoes, and later going on to ball gowns. Etymologically, brocade's supposed to be derived from the Italian word ‘broccato', which translates to ‘embossed fabric'.

The Fall/ Winter 2012-13 runways have thrown up rather interesting and contemporary uses of brocade. When a designer with a strong sportswear aesthetic like Stella McCartney puts brilliant blue brocade in a collection with tweed and faux crocodile, one knows brocade will never be relegated into the realm of the beautiful and the damned (only the former).

The very young Olivier Rousteing at Balmain, besides tweaking the silhouette on the label's trophy jackets, used brocade in a pearly palette, a departure from brocade's more popular jewel tones. One could rob a bank or steal a dress there — real pearls, gems, gold, et al. This was a collection more chic than rich biker chick.

At Jonathan Saunders, brocade came on copper-toned jackets and skirts. The most unabashed use of brocade, however, was seen at Osman in London. From the spot use of brocade to head-to-heel brocade pieces that also ticked the print-on-print trend box, this one was brocade screaming out aloud.

SHALINI SHAH

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