Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Out of India

I've recently come back from India's fashion weeks. The thing about fashion week in developing counries is that most of the showcased design is just that—still developing. But, sometimes you find some truly wonderful designers who are incredibly innovative and make you desperately want them to succeed (and, maybe, start a style precedent for less fringe and sequins). There were a couple of truly standout designers in India – including Ashish N Soni and Rajesh Pratap Singh, two names to definitely watch – but the two that really stood out for me were both Kolkata-based lines: Ana Mika and Sabyasachi.

Sabyasachi showed in Mumbai, and his amazing, voluminous, earthy collection left members in the audience both breathless (me) and cheering (a lot of big-time buyers). The designer himself is sweetly soft-spoken but extremely business-savvy, and it shows in the growing about of recognition he's getting. I was so consumed by the runway collection that I thought I might actually cry mid-show (instead, I sucked it up and began mentally shopping). When I looked back over the runway photos, I realized that many of the pieces – plucky maroon plaids, voluminous sequin dresses – aren't very me, but I also realize that a truly great designer will move you no matter your personal style preferences. I expect great things—and so do stores like Browns, who bought Sabyasachi's collection for the third season in a row.

The second designer who had me breathless was Anamika Khanna, and that was no easy feat: Anamika wasn't showing on the runway this year, so she had to wow everyone from her makeshift, cramped buyer's booth. The first time I passed her booth, I poked my head in and saw a terrifying crowd. Also an extremely amazing coat. I vowed to go back—and I did, again and again, to an embarrassing extent. I loved the line even before Khanna pointed out the details in the hallmark of her collection—her completely original fabrics, created by hand and cut into beautiful, simple styles. One coat could have a hundred different colors, but it's all done so subtly that it is never overwhelming. I would've bought the entire collection if I could have, in any possible way, justified all those beautiful coats. Instead, I stuck to one—a silk trench with jewel-toned teardrop appliqués. I think Miuccia Prada, for starters, would approve.

Other highlights from India (scroll over photo for designer name/description):