Innovation Meets Fashion: Chikankari Bridal Gown

by March 26, 2018 0 comments

Crafting high-end designer labels and beautiful wedding gowns, Parisian couturiers are utilizing Indian hand-woven material in an inventive manner, says Ramya Palisetty.

A white dress that fits you like a glove is the ethereal prerequisite for most brides-to-be. And when it comes to Parisian couturiers, the lace sleeves, dramatic veils, cascading trails and sheer backs define the personality of the bride. Now what if we told you that the white Western gown and trousseau by Vera Wang will have accents of chikankari, Banarasi and silver zardozi? And that the indigenisation is not being done at home but by French designers themselves?

Design house Ekaya, in collaboration with Fédération Française de la Création Couture Sur Mesure, collaborated for the project Cousu d’or to showcase an exhibition demonstrating how Indian fabrics can be a part of the French couture and wedding industry. “Modern meets traditional and a clever fusion of the past and the present is the best way to describe this collaboration. We specially created a capsule collection of luxurious ivory coloured hand-woven fabrics considering the theme, presenting a rich selection of our signature brocades along with silks, cotton, georgettes, chiffons, tussar, organza, mashru silks and chikankari hand-embroidery,” said organiser Palak Shah, who conceived the idea of creating a fabric archival destination in India during her MBA at Babson, Boston.

Designers from France, UAE, Germany, Italy and United States of America were given exquisite Indian fabrics which were transformed into wedding gowns. These were displayed against the backdrop of white-panelled walls and presented on pleated ivory paper shaped like a flower petal. Carrying the theme forward, the chandeliers with dim lighting also had the pleated paper forming the shape of a lotus which added to the decor of the room.

The gowns in shades of white, gold and silver were arranged across the room. Cinched bow belts, cape dresses, wild rustic neck pieces, balloon sleeves were some of the highlights of the designs exhibited. And there were some spectacular pieces. A white gown with an overflowing trail had golden bows on the waist to highlight the hour glass figure of a woman. The neckpiece had a tribal Indian look which complemented the elegance of the gown. Artificial brown feathers swirled around the neck as the tropical touch lent character to the lace and net off-shoulder gown.

But the showpiece was a sheer white full length dress with intricate chikankari embroidery, designed by the duo Letz- Martin, who demonstrated their signature sensibilities with a cleverly constructed gown from a chikankari three-piece suit material. The dress was cut in bias, a technique of cutting on the diagonal grain of the fabric which creates a sinuous and a close-fitted silhouette. It also hangs very delicately which makes it extremely comfortable to wear. Founded by designer duo Pierre Letz and Daniel Martin in 1989, Letz-Martin collaborates with Chanel, Ralph Lauren, Ralph Rucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Vera Wang. The label is known for its exquisite detailing and simple elegant forms. Pierre Letz, who has worked in the fashion industry for 30 years, was present at the event and looked dapper in a black tuxedo. He trained to be a doctor but fell in love with fashion and embarked on a different path. He has been working in high fashion with his partner, Daniel Martin for the past seven years. Said he, “We came to India two years ago and when I saw Indian textiles, I told my friend that one day we need to create something with these weaves and here we are. The textiles were so beautiful that the designing was easy. When I first laid my eyes on the chikankari material, I fell head over heels in love with it. India’s textile variety and tradition fascinate us. When we speak about India, people dream of it in Europe. I feel this collaboration is just the beginning of a new story. The fascinating part for us is that we will dig deeper into newer techniques and see what else can be done. I think Indian fabrics need a European eye to go to a new market. I am happy with the exhibit because it pays tribute to the French couture and Indian textiles.”

Sylvie Kameni’s design was an eye catcher because of the stiff white leather erected at the waist. The deep V-neck beige gown had golden embroidery on the white leather to draw the focus to the neck and the waist. A transparent sheer trail with lace work in the front defined the length of the gown flowed behind. With a modern take on Venetian style, her dress played with the natural sheerness of the chikankari fabric, which she cleverly finished with golden eyelash lace for a romantic look. White leather had been pressed and sculpted around the scooped back as well to add drama. Sylvie Kameni trained at Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Paris and the Yves Saint Laurent workshops. She is a crafts expert and stylist who specialises in designing custom-made wedding dresses and evening outfits. “I chose the fabric spontaneously when an array of swatches was sent to me. The fabric had a lot of intricate work with the kind of texture that felt delicate in my hands. I combined the flowing fabric with leather to balance the textile with the rigidity of leather and to add an element of contrast. The golden embroidery was added for a thematic experience. Though I have used Indian textiles before, the quality of the fabric this time was unlike any that I have used before. It is now that I understand the bad quality of textiles I have used for my clients earlier,” said she. Inspired immensely by the textile itself, she is very excited to do it all over again.

The gown designed by Isabelle Beaumenay Joannet was breathtaking. Maybe it was the unique colour unlike the usual wedding gowns or the smudged black on the pleats, it was perfect for brides with a rebellious streak. The uneven lengths of the corset gown with thin straps highlighted a woman’s femininity with elegance. Her structured gown made from hand-woven Banarasi metallic fabric had been beautifully constructed to make sure that the fabric was the hero of the creation. One of the most striking details was the row of fine pleats created by the designer. The hand-made pleats were made using moulds, which is a mechanical and labourious process of shaping and fusing the pleats together. The pleats were then spray-dyed for creating an effect. Isabelle created her own brand in Paris in 1995 after working as an assistant to Véronique Leroy. She is known for creating glamorous creations with a bit of quirk and plays with a lot of silks in her designs. Said she, “My inspiration for the design was the silver fabric which reminded me of the moonlight in Paris. As soon as I saw this fabric, I knew it was handcrafted for me. Immediately, I started sketching my design on paper. The black paint used was to create the shadow of the moonlight. All across the world, nobody has fused Indian textiles with French couture in this manner.”

A metallic pink gown with a huge bow on the side with a lot of lace work and a transparent  midriff was designed by Ali Thompson. She is one of the few designers who are unable to make a sketch without the material as she believes that you need to feel the fabric for amazing dresses to take shape. Said she, “I need to see how the fabric falls and how stiff or soft it is.” She is eager to take a lot of material back for her clients who have already started making demands for the golden fabric after seeing the exhibition in Paris. She emphasised how all colours came together beautifully in the exhibition, painting a lovely picture.

Writer: Ramya Palisetty

Courtesy: The Pioneer

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