Fashion Week: A splash of Kumbh on the runway

March 14, 2013

While millions washed away a lifetime of sins in the Ganges, some people brought back interesting things from the largest religious congregation on earth – the Maha Kumbh Mela. Designer Tarun Tahiliani brought back ideas for his latest collection.

More than 2,000 years old, the festival is a meeting point for Hindu sadhus, some of whom live in the forest or in Himalayan caves. The sadhus at the Kumbh can be quite a spectacle – some are ash-smeared, some naked, sporting dreadlocks and beads, while some wrap themselves in saffron clothing.

On the second day of the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week, Tahiliani showcased his “Coombhack Collection”, an interpretation of sadhu wear. Tahiliani gave the traditional drapes a modern and structured outlook in contemporary clothing.

“We went and we photographed thousands of people… and it is spectacular,” Tahiliani said. “The colours, the draping, just the way everyone drapes fabric in the most simplest way.”

The collection featured dresses with interesting drapes and folds, cashmere wraps worn over lehengas, saris wrapped in unique styles, palazzo pants with dupatta-like wraps, kalidar kurtas, draped jersey skirts and jackets. There were dhotis for men worn with jackets, kurtas and dupattas. The collection was in black, saffron, marigold, aubergine, orange, red and pink.

It’s not the first time that faith, religion, festivals and spirituality have surfaced in pop fashion culture. Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto interpreted clergyman’s clothing for one of his collections. He recreated the loose pants and jacket, with watch chains fastened on to waistcoats for the runway.

Dolce and Gabbana have used ecclesiastical-style embroidery on their clothes. For Pre-Fall 2013, Alexander McQueen’s Sarah Burton designed women’s clothes inspired by nuns’ habits and high-ranking clergy in the Catholic Church. Hoods with a clerical vibe have been spotted on fashion runways in New York and Paris.

Models at the Tahiliani show walked to the beat of a live drum, sported rudraksh beads, wore long braids, had marigold-like hair accessories and wore dupattas. A couturier, Tahiliani is known for his exquisite wedding saris and lehengas. He has, however, kept his clothing contemporary and appeals to the modern woman.

“I don’t think intelligent women need to look like they are in a costume … I am not interested in costume I am not interested in going back, I am not interested in reinventing costumes of royal India … fashion has to address our time and our lives,” said Tahiliani. “I like the reality.”

The “Coombhack” clothes had zardozi, applique, bandhani and tie-dye work. Tahiliani used silk, cotton, ajarakh, cotton silk, velvet tapes and cashmere. But despite the traditional elements the garments had a contemporary look.

Indian styles must become contemporary too, he said. “Otherwise it’s just something you wear to a wedding”.

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