In India, weddings are akin to a festival. Once the dates are finalised, it becomes something of a frenzy, with family members feverishly rushing from one boutique to another, making sure their ensembles are ready, the bridal trousseau is decided and the groom’s garments are chosen.
This tornado has kept the country’s wedding industry buzzing for so many years now. And it will continue to thrive — pandemic and after.
And to make the process of planning a wedding more seamless — vis-à-vis having everything available on a platter — the Vogue Wedding Show 2021, a special virtual edition of the luxury wedding exhibition, has returned this year for its eighth edition. The exhibition, which concludes August 31, offers an exclusive opportunity to find the perfect bridal lehenga, jewellery, and decor.
Indianexpress.com got in touch with four designers who are presenting their collections this year, gathering insights into the process of creating them, the impact of the pandemic, and if they think weddings in India have scaled down.
Sustainability in weddings
Designer Rahul Mishra, whose “collection borrowed inspiration from the naturally occurring self-sustaining ecosystems, Mughal architecture and different ways in which nature is depicted in our local art forms”, said the pieces are aimed to be versatile and independent of trends, such that they last in someone’s wardrobe for seasons.
“While clothing is a substantial part of the Indian wedding market, the expenditure made on clothes was typically just 5-10 per cent of the entire cost of a wedding. Despite the events having to downsize and the guest lists being more exclusive, the desire to dress up remained unchanged. People were willing to invest in occasional wear, with a refreshed perspective towards sustainable fashion,” he said, adding that wedding festivities in India haven’t scaled down in emotion: “There is more inclination to support local businesses. It is the time for consumers to understand that an investment in clothing that holds values of sustainability and human touch will remain more relevant than what is dictated by short-lived trends.”
Agreed designer duo Shantanu & Nikhil. According to them, weddings have become more personal, as brides and grooms have had to curb their dreams in light of the current situation. “There is this natural urge to compensate for that through their ensembles. Be it the bride and groom or an attendee, they are all looking at timeless pieces with unique detailing and a sense of contemporary ease,” they said.
This year, the designers showcased their ‘Ceremonial Edit’ which incorporated “an ivory colour palette and asymmetrical drapes to make for the ideal all-day wedding ensembles”. “Ceremonial Couture featured our latest neo-bandhgalas, sherwanis, draped kurtas, lehengas and anarkali gowns reinterpreted in soft textures and modern silhouettes. The collection is a fitting portrayal of today’s millennial bride and groom — playful, spontaneous, composed and confident.”
Ace designer Tarun Tahiliani opined that brides, today, are looking at the quality of the craft, as there is no pressure of being up on a stage, and the ensembles are being viewed much more closely either by an intimate crowd or virtually on Zoom calls. “In India, couture has always been centred around weddings, and brides usually have two strong trends that have been prevalent over time: the traditional reds, and soft pastel hues. With the second wave of the pandemic, there is lesser importance of season-based collections,” he told indianexpress.com.
Tahiliani’s collections are designed keeping in mind both traditional as well as newer trends. “Persian jaali in monuments has always been of great inspiration to me, and I love to find ways to incorporate it into my design work. This season, I have used laser-cut jaalis in 3-4 tones on light silk, accentuated with Kasab and Kundan and the use of precisely-cut gota, not only to ensure the sumptuousness of these techniques, but also to maintain lightness in the final garment… For the day wedding and other functions, we’ve presented a fun range of pastels and metallics. The silhouettes that make up the collection include lightweight lehengas, shararas, peplum blouses, concept saris, newly-structured drapes and Anarkalis.
“Using a unique fusion of Ari and Kasab and Chikan on our signature, hand-painted prints, there is an infusion of handlooms such as Chanderi squares and stripes and unique Kanjivaram weaves along with Bandhani.”
According to Jade by Monica & Karishma, while the pandemic has changed the nature of weddings, “Indian weddings are beautiful and opulent by their very nature”. “Whether it’s a grand setting or an intimate affair. Even though intimate weddings are the norm now, they’re not any less beautiful, special and glamorous.”
The designers said when it comes to pandemic weddings and the trousseau, an ‘EkTaar lehenga’ is a must-have. “It’s so gorgeous, unique and versatile. We have had brides wear the same lehenga for different ceremonies, creating completely unique looks just by switching the blouse or styling. That’s the best way to keep your trousseau mindful and luxurious,” they shared.
Presenting couture on a virtual platform
Just like many other things, the pandemic has also taken away the intimacy of physically going to an exhibition and feeling a fabric before making the purchase. Does it bother the designers that families are missing out on this experience?
“Bridal shopping is such an intimate and emotional experience. It’s like a dream come true for the bride and her family. And the only limitation of going virtual has been this — that our clientele misses out in making these precious memories,” said designers Monica & Karishma.
Mishra agreed and said that while digital showcasing adds “a new dimension to the art of presenting a collection, and will definitely find relevance in a post-pandemic world”, it can’t replace physical fashion shows. “They have proven to be an effective replacement temporarily and do carry a certain lustre and glamour of the fashion week, I shall be eager to see how the digital showcasing evolves with time and perhaps continues to prevail alongside the physical fashion shows beyond the pandemic.”
Shantanu & Nikhil said there are always “two sides of a coin”. “Going digital democratises fashion because it is more engaging, and has a greater audience reach. But then, because of the new normal, we are dependent on technology. So all in all, it’s a fresh change of perspective but also pushes us to get out of our comfort zone.”
In this digital world, the “charm of seeing something in person” will be missed, said Tahiliani. “…from the intricacy of the craft to the look of the garment on the body… The world, however, is constantly evolving, and we will have to move with time. Digital is definitely the way forward and we are collectively working on how to offer a different experience through the various active platforms we have, like our website, Instagram or Facebook for that matter.”
As for the future of the Indian wedding market, designers Monica & Karishma said: “Brides are becoming more and more aware of what they want. The preference for unique ensembles that are modern, yet rooted in heritage is on the rise. We would love to see a growing love for traditionally-handcrafted modern ensembles!”