Fashion event India Couture Week ended last week. The show, which took place in New Dehli, showcased innovative and creative collections from Indian fashion designers at a time when India is making its mark in the global fashion market.
The 16th annual edition of India Couture Week showcased 16 skilful Indian designers. They highlighted India's impressive craftsmanship with a modern twist. Traditional Indian attire was reimagined to fit with modern trends and with today's call for sustainability in mind.
India's fashion market is fast evolving. According to The Times of India, the market is set to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11%-12% to reach between €104 billion and €114 billion ($115bn-125bn) by 2025.
Here are four designers who are contributing to that growth by using their innovation and creativity to pull focus on larger social and environmental issues.
Gaurav Gupta is an Indian Fashion Designer who studied his craft at the National Institute of Fashion Technology in India and London's Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design. He founded his own brand in 2005, to which he gave his name.
His style combines traditional Indian construction and techniques with a modern view of the future.
This collection intertwines birth and living with the cosmos, calling for everyone to embrace their inner light. The looks include the physical interpretation of the universe's five elements: Prithvi (earth), Jal (water), Agni (fire), Vayu (air) and Akasha (space) bringing the world's creation to the forefront.
The designer brings his concept to life through related colours, intricate embroidery and sculpturesque silhouettes.
The collection ends with Indian actress Janhvi Kapoor wearing a midnight blue sparkling matching set, an intended show-stopper.
"I think it's not about genderless fashion," said the designer about his approach to gender in an interview with culture website Lifestyle Asia. "For me, it's exciting to see how gender itself is becoming less and less important."
It's an attitude shared with fellow Indian Couture Week designers Rauhit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna, who have stated that gender rules have become fluid.
Gupta's collection can be interpreted as an invitation to empowerment, an expression of genderless fashion and a much-needed ode to the universe.
Award-winning Indian fashion designer Rimzim Dadu is mostly known for her creative experimental skills.
On her website, she's described as a "progressive texturist." She pushes against the common use of materials by deconstructing, modifying and reassembling them into new and innovative forms. A signature design of hers involves taking small details and enlarging them into oversized proportions or making three-dimensional surfaces from prints.
Captivated by the ever-changing nature of water, her India Couture collection 'Hydrochromic' draws inspiration from ocean tides. She skilfully reinterprets the beauty of water through her sculpture-like garments with the use of glimmering metallics.
Her collection symbolises the flow and rhythmic motion of the ocean.
In an interview with lifestyle magazine Grazia, Dadu opened up about the important message behind this year's collection. She says her team is using water as a metaphor to draw attention to climate change, stressing the need to protect nature. Her aim is to make people think.
Another element of her designs is a desire to convey feminine power. Through her use this year of lace and mesh, she symbolises a balance between feminine elegance, beauty and power that she describes as "not concealed but not in your face either."
Though an innovative and modern collection, Dadu makes references to traditional Indian attire. Imitations of ikats, a type of textile with a complex design pattern, can be seen on various garments including the traditional long shirt called a kameez. Gold recurs throughout the show, reminiscent of India. And the traditional festive lehenga, an ankle-length skirt, sees adaptations.
Winner of the 21st Century Icon Award, Isha Rajpal is the founder of Rose Room Couture.
Placing women at the heart of her brand, her aim is to create custom-made pieces that make them feel at their very best.
She has stated in Vogue India that her label is "an ode to the ideal woman, who is confident, self-assured, fun, sexy yet elegant." Her India Couture collection 'Romantic Reverie' is a vision of elegance where the French Riviera meets the Victorian Era.
Rajpal has said that the enduring charm of the Victorian era with its emphasis on grace, femininity and poise, is an integral element in her creations. Her collections are known to be designed with women in mind but this one especially hits the mark. In her quest to empower women with confidence and fierceness, each item of clothing is painstakingly crafted to radiate power and assurance, as well as capture a woman's inner strength.
Her collection blends Indian crafts and techniques with a European aesthetic. As such, this collection is also an ode to Indian craftsmanship.
The collection features a reimagined modern version of the intricate embroidery techniques known as Chikankari as well as complex beadwork and hand-applied crystal.
The show closed with Indian actress Vaani Kapoor dressed in an embellished red lace lehenga, a deep-v bralette-style blouse and a dupatta (a long piece of cloth traditionally worn over the head, neck and shoulders) to match.
Originally from the small Indian village of Malhausi, Rahul Mishra is a fashion designer whose core values lie in sustainability, his respect for the origin of his materials and his dedication to the preservation of India's traditional craftsmanship.
His India Couture collection 'We, The People' is devoted to sustainability and aims to draw attention to and empower the local craft community in India.
The collection, made up of glamour and botanical references, is an amalgam of hand-woven and hand-embroidered pieces. According to his website, this slower production process helps to provide work and a livelihood for more than 1,000 artisans. Also pinpointed is Mishra's design principle of the three E's: Environment, Employment and Empowerment. He creates fair, honest and environmentally conscious work from conception to production.
During the show, craftspeople worked on embroidered pieces in real-time as the models walked the catwalk, manifesting the behind-the-scenes hard work.
Looks that graced the runway included sheer, shimmery pieces, sequin-adorned garments and complex yet fascinating embroideries.
Indian actress Shraddha Kapoor closed the show in a glistening sliver lehenga which incorporated intricate floral motifs paired with a matching blouse and layered with a short beaded cape.
India's influence on the global fashion industry
Sustainability is an important factor in Indian fashion and is one of the features underpinning its predicted growth. Designers such as Mishra are changing their approach when it comes to the production of their design: placing workers and the preservation of the environment as key values to stand by. This new way of minimising harm could be raising demand.
The industry's digitalisation brands are also securing more of an online presence. They are able to reach wider audiences through social media and websites. Digitalisation is a growing concept with more technologies being developed every day, another factor in India's fashion market advance.
Inclusivity is also important. Brands are reaching out to larger audiences by breaking set beauty standards. As a desire for fair representation grows globally, Indian designers, through their designs, campaigns and communication, are embracing diversity. This was very present during the India Couture Week 2023.
India also has export potential, particularly with its growing interest in sustainability. However, in some cases, brands need to work on the quality of design and innovation to place themselves on an even footing with international standards.
According to The Times of India, the e-commerce market in India is growing rapidly with a projected CAGR of 20% to reach approximately €90bn ($99 billion) by 2024, providing a huge opportunity for India's fashion market.