Fashion is style, something that speaks your personality forthright but most importantly fashion is who you are. There isn’t any style you can carry better than your own personal aura and that perhaps is the most defining aspect of fashion. Yet even as fashion sensibilities differ so vastly and in such uniquely minute manifestations, one thing is for certain- fashion is never static. Evolution comes as naturally to fashion as the rest of the aspects of human existence and within such dynamism, fashion harbours an innate decorum- of being presentable but not showy, of being glamourous yet not overpowering.
Fashion though is influenced by a wide range of factors, ranging from culture to geography, cultures and traditions to notions and well, inhibitions. Fashion is as persistent as life itself. No wonder, fashion evolves in relation to the evolving conscience of society.
Fashion in India through the ages
In its many encompassments, the Indian fashion industry has to be one of the most vibrant heralders of style and tradition but nevertheless not one immune to change. Style in the country is multi dimensional- indeed, with its diversity and inclusivity one can hardly expect a lone fashion consciousness defining the entire country. But what is most striking is that even in its traditional attire, the country is a wonderful mix of colors and patterns that which seems to draw upon trends that are very contemporary, yet deep rooted in traditional history.
Fashion in India hadn’t always been striking. It has always been something demure and subtle. Clothing sensibilities in the country weren’t so much a matter of presentation as of dignity, intended as something to shield attention rather than inviting it. This may not sound like a stark diversion from what shapes the fashion scene of today but the evolution herein is apparent and even dominantly outspoken. Today, fashion is a very conscious choice, one that is very much a marker of your identity and that which you would like to be recognised by.
The Indian fashion industry today is an amalgamation of ideas and influences, a conglomeration of trends and traditions that come to life in breathtaking interpretations and inspirations. The very essential Indian elements of style still command attention- the iconic saree retains its grace and the flamboyant kurta- pajama enjoys presence in comfort. Retention however isn’t the only mainstay of the present day fashion assertions. Fusions and derivations mark their ground equally well in the fashion consciousness prevailing in the modern day.
The style of Indian royalty and the ancientries
Ancient Indian sartorial style, that of the Rajas and Ranis were very prominently all things opulent. Intricate embroidery and striking weavery dominated the richest of fabrics with precious metals and stones further enhancing the rampancy of royalty. Over time, embroideries toned down or were done up as per prevailing whims but the fabrics were always the finest- exquisitely suited to the royal air doing the rounds.
As the opulence of royalty gave way to the class of the Sahibs, fashion pronunciations became increasingly diversified. Western influences made headway into the country with skirts and trousers characterising the upper-class fashion in society. Even the traditional saree-choli underwent drastic transformation, with the glamour of materials like georgette and chiffon overtaking the comfort of cotton and the indigenous khadi.
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Brighter embroideries and quirky detailings started peeking in through the many diversions that this era ushered in to the fashion scene in the country. Yet, this wasn’t the time when the fashion scene of India could be collectively clubbed as an industry.
Dawn of the era of the Indian fashion industry
The transition became more distinctly apparent only in the post independence era after the British were rid away from the country but their fashion influences stayed, manifesting in newer interpretations. The Indian fashion industry as we know it today is a derivation and upgradation of the fashion culture that emerged mid last century when the new found era of independence spelled freedom in many aspects for the people. Liberated and unbounded, the fashion savvy common folks began to assert more of their personal preference in the fashion they exhibit through the style they began wearing.
The saree continued to dictate elegance even for the modern Indian woman, albeit in styles and cuts that were more contemporary and diversified. Significantly, the trend of sporting the far more convenient pairing of salwar- kameez began to take centre stage, specially by the younger women.
Skirts and blouses or tops and trousers continued doing the rounds of the fashion scene with other traditional dresses like lehengas and churidaars maintaining the Indian fashion parlance that has emerged as distinct from the rest of the world. Sherwanis and kurta- pajamas, dhotis and lungis continued to define the common Indian man while the very English, very dapper suits were reserved for special occasions. Even in its very evident western influences, the Indian style scene still held its own.
The Indian fashion industry, courtesy Bollywood
Fashion became more a matter of essence rather than mere necessity once mainstream Bollywood had come to fore. In fact the Hindi film industry has been far more instrumental in shaping the Indian fashion industry than any other external influence. Styles sported by the Bollywood stars, who were considered no less than demi- Gods and Godesses, began making such deep inroads in the collective psyche that the on- screen style was attempted to be translated into real life fashion by the masses. In fact Bollywood continues to be no less than an influence now than what it used to be on the Indian fashion industry when it was just in its nascency. It would not perhaps be wrong to say that the stages of evolution of Indian fashion are very much the stages of evolution of style in Bollywood as well.
The many eras in Indian fashion have stemmed from the many eras that have marked Bollywood over the years. Be it the trend of polka dotted blouses with bell bottoms, the flashy bralette- pants pairing, the disco era of glimmer and shine, the flamboyance of heavy anarkali- dupattas, the sportiness of fashion as embraced by athleisure, the gorgeousness of statement sarees and the glam of cocktail dresses, the many cuts and sleeve styles of blouses, the appeal of sheer dresses or the prettiness of floral ones, common folk embraced Bollywood fashion with enthusiasm and as much elan as did the top Bollywood stars of the times. There has been no style so exclusive to the glamour world that did not catch the fancy of the fashion conscious people.
Experimentation as the key to fashion in India
Experimentation is as much the essence of fashion as is the confidence to carry off every style with equal ease. No wonder clothes have embraced as many cuts and styles, and prints and patterns as conceivable. Halter neck dresses and crop tops, mirror- embedded blouses and sheer sarees, capes over gowns, frills with dresses- there hasn’t been any pursuit that has been far removed from the purview of fashion. Even colors have oscillated between extremes- bright reds and dull beiges, pretty pinks and sexy blacks, off whites and lime yellows, mauves and pastels, the Indian fashion industry has evolved from one to the other, reverting with as much ease with which they had moved on. Fashion in India has been basic and extravagant in equal measure-traditional motifs brightening up otherwise dreary pieces or western hues bringing in that iota of refreshing glamour to make Indian style sync with the world.
Fabrics also have moved swiftly from one to the other and then back again. Denim shirts or leather jackets, chiffon sarees or crepe kurtis, laced satin dresses or frilled synthetic tops, fashion has seen far more interpretations in India than what it has in the rest of the world. Even comfort has made seamless transitions- heavy sarees giving way to casual, quirkier ones while reserving the exclusive wardrobe pieces for the rompers on the ramp, voluminous anarkalis making way for fuss free kurtis, polos and tees have moulded into ruffled tops and pleated shirts that work as much on the look as on the functionality.
The progressing nature of the Indian fashion industry
Fashion has gone even more progressive since the beginning of the second decade of the millennium ever since access to the web has widened like never before. With fashion becoming more accessible and affordable, it’s only natural that the fashion conciousness has also been significantly heightened. Throw into the mix ample nonchalance and generous amounts of liberty along with more than marginal changes in mindset and you see how fashion has become more of a lifestyle choice overriding just style.
Adapting foreign influences also is relatively easier now. With eyebrows being more trimmed and lesser raised, with lips pouting more than gossiping, the Indian fashion industry has had breaths of fresh air. Indian fashion designers also have laid their claim to both national and international fame, all while bequesting the rich influence of the country and working on it to come up with ingenious, spunky creations that appeal with their aesthetic and design.
Indian fashion industry: where the east meets the west
Traditional artistic touches of opulence embossed on western silhouettes or parallely, very western patterns laid down upon strikingly Indian clothes- boho chic elements on ghagras or fringed detailings on blouses finds expression in the creations rendered very enticingly by the designers of the country to come up with fashion pieces that strike a chord with fashionistas all over the world.
Perhaps it is the versatility of elements that have shaped Indian fashion for long that allows even myriad interpretations to be classic as well as commonplace, timeless and soothing, yet bold and striking in the present times. The nuances of style have been intriguingly dealt with over this whole stage of evolution, to deliver style that rules and returns to rule throughout years in the future.
Fusion wear characterises the present day commonplace Indian style tremendously. Whether it be kurtis with collars or shirts that go flared, spaghetti kurtas or maxi tunic dresses, summer ready outfits as kurta jumpsuits or sarees with crop tops, there really is no dearth of imagination when you have to make Indian wear work for every season and reason.
The brand names at play
It is also the brand appeal that has further lent steam to the fashion scene in India. The Indian fashion industry today is indigenous and commercialised in equal measure. While Make In India and traditional handiworked clothes are rampantly creating waves, many reputed national and international brands have also been aiding the fashion scene gain prominence. Brands like Global Desi, Arvind, Raymonds and a lot more reinstate the Indian fashion essence with their ethnic wear or fusion flamboyance, while a host of international brands are now as common a presence in the contemporary fashion circuit.
Equally emerging has been reputed designer names as very much the staple of wardrobes of even the middle class folks. Everyone dreams of a Ritu Kumar label to flaunt in the festive season or an Anita Dongre ensemble for the next wedding in the family. For those who are even more enticed by the bandwagon of star studded fashionistas, they have a Sabyasachi lehenga on their minds to shine like a star on the most important day of their lives. Pulling off a designer dress is also as conceivable a style statement now, given how how affordably designers have moulded their offerings to be.
No longer is the exquisite gown by Manish Malhotra or the couture collection of Tarun Tahiliani out of bounds for the upper echelons of society. Naturally, everyone wants to pull off a Deepika Padukone or do an Alia Bhatt or even a suave Virat Kohli for that matter. And this changing consciousness, this out-with-the-inhibition attitude to make fashion all the more encompassing has been another very important characteristic of the evolving Indian fashion industry.