Fashion

FDCI x LFW: Are we hugging yet?

Models at the second edition of FDCI x Lakmé Fashion Week  

The word ‘phygital’ (a coming together of the physical and digital worlds) was filed for copyright in 2013 by Momentum, an Australian ad agency, but 2020 saw it mentioned everywhere. That the fashion world would adapt to it has been a revelation.

Most recently, we had the FDCI x Lakmé Fashion Week — the first post-pandemic phygital show in India in the true sense of the word — featuring 11 on-ground physical shows (with online showcases), and digital previews. For those of us who find inspiration, freedom and livelihoods in the Indian fashion scene, this was good news.

Tarun Tahiliani’s set at FDCI x Lakmé Fashion Week, Jio World Convention Centre

Tarun Tahiliani’s set at FDCI x Lakmé Fashion Week, Jio World Convention Centre   | Photo Credit: Vaqaas Mansuri

A big new world

Jio Convention Centre was the venue (FDCI x LFW was held as a pre-launch event for the space). It looked larger as the crowd was miniscule. The usual drinks lounges, media centres, and cafeterias were not a part of the plan. And with its high ceilings and tech-driven security, it was the safest I’d felt in a public place in a while.

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There was a strict mask, RT-PCR, and vaccination protocol to enter shows, and Neeraj Gaba, the show director, said, “We were tested every day for 12 days, quarantined alone before the physical shows began, and maintained security bubbles.” The audience sat six feet apart, on individual chairs, in circles (gone are the days of fighting for a front row seat). But I missed the buzz of stylists, photographers, bloggers, editors and celebs hanging around shows and stalls.

Kareena Kapoor Khan and Gaurav Gupta at the FDCI x LFW finale — a drive-in show with an aquatic-themed set

Kareena Kapoor Khan and Gaurav Gupta at the FDCI x LFW finale — a drive-in show with an aquatic-themed set   | Photo Credit: Vaqaas Mansuri

Hello from the other side

Many of us were seeing our peers for the first time since the start of the pandemic. There was hilarious confusion before greeting anyone — ‘Are we hugging yet?’ — and air kisses are now a proper fashion joke.

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As I walked out of a show, Mitali Rannorey, a model I’ve styled several times, texted me: “So glad to see you in the audience today! I can’t come closer because we are in a bubble!” When I asked her how the 2021 experience was, she replied, “Walking on the ramp feels the same — the blinding lights and music make everything else disappear. But I miss the people.”

The Reunion

While not officially on the FDCI x LFW roster, Vaishali S’ bridal line, Shakuntala, was the first physical show I attended in 18 months, a day before fashion week officially began. At the Taj Mahal Palace hotel ballroom, it was Shadunglae’s first outing in India after her Paris Couture Week debut in July. It featured signature cording technique on lehengas and fusion ensembles. Her commitment to indigenous weaves was commendable, but for some looks it did not translate well.

Tarun Tahiliani with the models before his show

Tarun Tahiliani with the models before his show  

In stark contrast — for the first day, first show — veteran couturier Tarun Tahiliani opened the calendar with a mind-boggling 78-ensemble show (with mini capsules of crafts). “Community is of paramount importance; it became essential that we support, help, and guide each other,” said Tahiliani, as he put a celebration of Indian karigari on full display.

“Both FDCI and Lakmé Fashion Week share a long-standing relationship with Tarun. It only felt natural to have him preview ‘The Reunion’, as both platforms returned to a joint phygital showcase,” said Sunil Sethi, chairman of FDCI. There was so much to take in, but for me his chikankari expertise stood out. It was good to see some familiar faces on the catwalk, but sadly, yet again, I noticed only one plus-size model. The scene stealer across all the shows I watched was non-binary, queer model Tarun (from Mumbai-based FEAT agency). He has previously walked for Marni internationally, and flits easily between menswear and womenswear looks.

A model at the R | Elan x Abraham & thakore show

A model at the R | Elan x Abraham & thakore show   | Photo Credit: Vaqaas Mansuri

Sustainability is as sustainability does

Abraham and Thakore showcased their new line in collaboration with R|Elan, a mindful fabric company by Reliance. The fabrics are recycled (from PET bottles), but are still polyester. Are they ‘sustainable’, I wondered? “Sustainability cannot be looked at only from a yarn and fabric perspective,” David Abraham told me over a call from Bengaluru. “If we are able to reuse existing material to remake something, to be used over a period of time, it fits in the circular fashion promise and is far more sustainable than creating something entirely new.”

Coasters from Green Sutra

Coasters from Green Sutra  

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Another ‘Sustainable Day’ venture: Green Sutra. Sustainability consultants, they coach clients in rainwater harvesting, recycling materials effectively, among others. FDCI X LFW partnered with them to collect used and discarded PET bottles, plastic packets, etc, and recycled them at the venue, before creating rustic but on-trend coasters and earrings for guests to take home. The organisers hinted at this being a long-term association, with a plan in place to record and implement the learnings.

Show and tell

“There is no virtual medium that can replace the human experience, the jamming of people at actual events,” Nishant Gadhok of Gently Altered — a company that elevates event experience via sound and light design — told me as he closed the finale. But he acknowledged that the time away from physical events has helped him realign his visual language. And that is something we need.

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Internationally, fashion weeks that returned to physical shows this season have shown a lot of creativity. For instance, earlier this month, Balenciaga’s Spring Summer 2022 show in Paris took an innovative turn. Creative director Demna Gvasalia had guests, models and celebs walk the red carpet, and then watch a brand new Simpsons episode — where the characters walked as models and made jibes about how expensive the clothes were. An immersive experience where the audience became a part of the show.

Yes, making fashion weeks go live once again in India is step one, but fashioning them to be more creative will help bring some fun in step two.


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Printable version | Dec 5, 2021 11:31:37 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/fashion/are-we-hugging-yet-fdci-lakme-fashion-week-jio-convention-centre-phygital-personal-notes/article37005111.ece

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