Archana Rao’s ‘Sun and Moon’ with a hint of floral at Lakme Fashion Week

Hyderabad designer Archana Rao discusses her Lakme Fashion Week spring-summer 2024 collection,her diverse portfolio and why florals are significant in her work

March 22, 2024 04:13 pm | Updated 04:13 pm IST

Archana Rao (centre) with models showcasing her creations at Lakme Fashion Week 2024

Archana Rao (centre) with models showcasing her creations at Lakme Fashion Week 2024 | Photo Credit: FDCI x Lakme Fashion Week

At designer Archana Rao’s studio in Banjara Hills, Hyderabad, a marigold yellow gown with floral surface details and a voluminous trail draws attention. This satin-organza gown is from her Frou Frou Bride collection. In contrast to this are a few black and white separates, with silhouettes inspired by power dressing, from her Sun and Moon collection showcased at Lakme Fashion Week (LFW) Spring-Summer, in collaboration with Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI). A few feet away is a showcase of frocks for young girls. The display gives visitors an idea of the fashion label’s diverse collection.

The Sun and Moon collection marked her return to LFW after three years. The absence was due to her studio commitments as well as designing costumes for director Nag Ashwin’s science fiction Telugu film, Kalki 2898 AD. “This year I was determined to showcase at LFW; the concept was ready ahead of time and we pulled it off in between all our commitments,” says Archana.

Make way for black

Models sport Archana Rao’s Sun and Moon collection

Models sport Archana Rao’s Sun and Moon collection | Photo Credit: FDCI X Lakme Fashion Week

As always, Archana opened her showcase at LFW with a white ensemble before moving on to pastels and finally, blacks. Though Archana has a fondness towards wearing black, this is the first time she designed ensembles in black for the fashion week.

Her collections are season neutral in terms of the use of fabrics and the colour palette. Blacks, which used to be associated with cooler months, are no longer frowned upon by the fashion fraternity and designers experiment with lighter fabrics. Archana designed the black ensembles using lightweight leather and silks to make them breathable. The padded shoulders give a structured silhouette and accentuate the power dressing quotient. 

Archana’s signature style of floral embellishments vary in form aligning with the sun and moon inspirations. She also uses large pearls for some of the collars. “Using a hint of bling in structured silhouettes helped to tone them down,” she explains.

Designing for cinema
Some of the films Archana has designed for: Costumes for Samantha Ruth Prabhu, Dulquer Salmaan and Vijay Deverakonda in Mahanati; a few saris for Mrunal Thakur in Sita Ramam; for Shruti Haasan in the short film directed by Nag Ashwin in the anthology Pitta Kathalu.
Forthcoming films: Kalki 2898 AD (director Nag Ashwin’s film starring Prabhas, Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan and Kamal Haasan), Lucky Bhaskar (headlined by Dulquer Salmaan)

All the flowers

Her fascination for flowers goes back to childhood when she used to pick fallen flowers from her aunt’s garden. “I would use the flowers for colouring and the pigments would give different textures. I would also have flowers placed between books. Pressed flowers and 3D floral surface details became my signature style when I began designing.”

Archana debuted at LFW in the Gen Next category in 2012 and got noticed for her feminine ensembles in contemporary Indo-western silhouettes, primarily catering to a young clientele. She gradually extended her focus to saris (in collaboration with Ekaya and eventually through her own label), bridal wear and kids’ wear. “With age and maturity, I began designing for women of all age groups,” she adds. Some of her saris cater to younger women who are not habitual sari wearers. Think pre-draped saris and zippered saris.

Making it official

Sun and Moon showcase also included a few ensembles for men. This officially marked her first menswear collection at the fashion week, though she has been designing for men for years. “I began my career at a menswear company when I returned to India (Archana is an alumni of Parsons School of Design, New York). We do a lot of custom-design menswear at the studio but I have never shot a lookbook or showcased this aspect of my work at fashion week.” It began when female clients learnt that she also designs for men and wanted something for their spouses. 

She explains how she incorporated some of the learnings from designing menswear into her collections for women as well. “In menswear, the detailing is mostly subtle. You may not even notice a French cuff, for example. Menswear also has flawless finish, which I incorporated into womenswear.”

As for the women, though Archana is known for her pastel pinks, off whites, mauves and mint greens, she found women requesting her to replicate the designs and silhouettes in wine reds, midnight blues or mustard yellows for weddings. “Unless there is a European-themed wedding or a destination wedding, Hyderabad clientele prefers deeper colours. Sometimes, the choice comes from the need to match their jewellery.”

Hence the Frou Frou Bride collection that has crop tops with large bows combined with flowy pants, a leotard-like fitted double net sheer top with a long skirt, or pre-draped saris, all in colours ranging from ivory whites and pale pinks to teal blue-greens and hibiscus reds.

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