Weddings in the time of COVID-19: Ritu Kumar, Sanjay Garg and others talk about bridal trends
During a normal year, there are myriad ways to describe the quintessential Indian wedding — extravagant, vibrant, lavish, over the top. In fact, as the driving force behind an estimated $50 billion luxury industry, the title ‘the big fat Indian wedding’ is not without reason.
But, as we well know by now, 2020 is no normal year!
The global pandemic and social-distancing policies have effectively ruled out large gatherings — and with it the terms ‘big’ and ‘fat’. And yet, as it turns out, couples who are intent on saying “I do” are finding a way and weddings are still happening — just in a more intimate and, dare we say, more meaningful way. So while small, low-key and even virtual ceremonies might seem especially appealing now, a bride still needs her trousseau. To get you started on your journey and help you find your ‘something new’ we’ve got everyone from Ritu Kumar to Shivan & Narresh — fashion’s A-list couturiers — to talk to us about what’s trending this wedding season.
The veteran designer believes that the pandemic has caused a shift in priorities, not just because of financial constraints, but also owing to the re-evaluation of what truly matters. “Simple but beautiful, value-for-money, elegant and classic clothes that you can leave to the next generation is the new mantra for the brides-to-be,” says Ritu, adding, “People and memories are more important than fashion right now.” Her own collection for the season features garments inspired by inlay work from the Mughal-era, which is executed with ari and zardosi hand embroidery. “The pine cones, which depict enlightenment and have been used throughout history, are placed creatively and enhanced further. Our signature colourful embroideries are revived from Indian mythology and the rabari work of Kutch. The most unique feature is the mix of the traditionally inspired work with fresher cuts keeping in mind the millennial brides who are looking for lighter and trendier garments during this pandemic,” she explains.
Silhouettes that are hot: Traditional lehengas styled with modern corsets and saris paired with frill blouses and belts will add a modern touch. Also, one-shoulder cocktail dresses and cold shoulder blouses paired with printed skirts will add a fun element to destination weddings.
Shivan & Narresh
With the spotlight on handloom textiles and traditional crafts, there’s no better way to celebrate being #VocalforLocal than picking out a creation that is locally-handcrafted and produced, say the designer duo, Shivan & Narresh. Head designer at the label, Shivan Bhatiya tells us that the millennial bride has a keen-eye for handcrafted and artisanal construction — and most of their customisation requests are directed at creating intricate, yet ornate design detailing that celebrates the bride-to-be’s heritage. With floral patterns and vibrant filigreed motifs defining the mood board for the brand, creative director, Narresh Kukreja reckons that the 2020 trend falls in tow with the need to lighten up and imbue some festive cheer into an otherwise sombre season. “The spring/summer wave continues to flow into the following season, with a rise of botanical and printed detailing,” he says, adding that the colour to bet on for the season is hibiscus pink. Take cues from the home weddings and smaller ceremonies, and
swap out the heavy fabrics for satin silk or viscose crepe. “Comfort and lightness of the outfit and simple silhouettes are where it is at, right now!” shares Narresh.
Non-negotiables in a bride’s wardrobe: Apart from her traditional wedding add-ons, a silk slip-on dress, a printed swimsuit and a breezy paneyo (sarong) to go into her holiday trunk!
SVA by Sonam & Paras Modi
Wedding wear has long been associated with the single auspicious hue of red. But, designers Sonam and Paras Modi of SVA believe that you don’t need to go with the hue if it does not resonate with you. “The new-age bride is looking for something that brings out her personality to the fullest,” says Paras. Unconventional shades like bright pink, midnight blue, and deep purple are among the most popular and are set to become the new wedding signatures for the label this season. In step with the needs of the millennial bride — who views her trousseau as a future investment in her occasionwear wardrobe — classic lehengas and kurtas that can be styled as separates or worn together are on the wedding wear roster for SVA. Negotiating between modernity and tradition, the couple explains, “There are several ways to breathe new life into traditional outfits, from the fabric used to even the placement of the motifs. One does not have to completely abandon cultural customs to create something that is modern.” SVA’s latestcollection of lehengas and saris make extensive use of traditional silks, brocades and woven jacquard. Also, in this edit, heavy embellishments give way to interesting fabric textures and prints, while the sta-ple blouse is replaced with asymmetric peplum jackets and corsets.
One tip while shopping for your trousseau: The world is going to be different post-COVID, so create a practical trousseau — outfits that are sustainable, support local artisans and can be re-worn.
As per Rahul Mishra, who showcased for the first time at Paris Couture Fashion Week in January this year, artisanal pieces with a focus on craftsmanship is at the forefront of bridal fashion this season. “Brides today are learning to seek more value in a product in terms of craftsmanship, tradition, emotion and cultural reference,” says Rahul, whose Fall 20/21 collection, Butterfly People, is an attempt at answering the question, “what is the relevance of couture in such times?” Featuring gowns, capes and skirts in Rahul’s signature 3D embroidery on gossamer fabric, the colour palette shifts from icy blue to blush pink, aqua and celadon green. “Another trend I’ve noticed is that brides are looking to invest in pieces that will last for generations to come — clothes that are independent of trends and seasons,” he adds.
How to stand out: An ensemble taken straight from the runway doesn’t do justice to a bride’s personality. Small styling elements, such as an unusual piece of jewellery or a jacket instead of a blouse, allow the bride to make the look her own.
JADE by Monica & Karishma
Turning traditional Indian crafts and textiles into the season’s latest trends has been JADE by Monica & Karishma’s forte. But when it comes to bridal couture, the duo prefers to keep their edits timeless. While ‘the feeling of comfort’ may be the biggest bridal trend of the season, Monica Shah urges every bride to express her individuality with personalised details and bespoke designs. “Brides aren’t afraid to reinvent classic elements anymore. Strike a balance with traditional motifs used on contemporary cuts,” she shares. The designer recommends a glamourous breezy lehenga, which allows plenty of room for movement, paired with a chic button-down blouse — as a reimagination of a classic style. “I also adore the chic elegance of our EkTaar jackets. It’s equal parts traditional and modern and offers countless styling options,” shares Monica, adding that some of her trousseau non-negotiables include a Chantilly lace sari and a silk blouse. With individuality being at the core of their latest offering, one can expect gowns, lehengas, experimental blouses, skirts, saris and jackets in a colour palette of champagne, gold, red wine, copper, midnight blue and a range of metallic shades.
Fabrics to bet on: Soft and comforting textiles like silk, chiffon and satin.
Hyderabad-based designer Sailesh Singhania, known for creating exquisite bridal saris agrees that video consultations have become the norm with parts of the country still in lockdown. He says, “In order to provide a bespoke experience, we have a team of dedicated designers who provide online consultations and take our clients through the entire design process, from measurements to fabric selection and detailed embroidery samples before the final garment is created.” With weddings getting smaller, he says brides still want to look their best but are ready to steer clear of ostentatious garments and are opting for elegant and sustainable heirloom saris. “The classic Kanjeevarams and luxurious silk Banarasis are both rising in popularity with the 2020 bride,” he says, adding that there is an increasing demand for hand-woven silk fabrics in luxurious and vibrant colours such as emerald green, ruby pink,
vermilion red and mustard yellow with delicate Meenakari motifs, intricate zari work and zardosi designs. He thinks that the auspicious shade of vermillion is a classic but jewel colours like emerald green, ruby pink and yellow will remain popular.
Styling tip: Deep necks are trending this season and add a non-traditional element that will beautifully complement lehengas and saris.
Designer Sanjay Garg has never been one to focus on trends, but he agrees that the current crisis has prompted brides to rethink long-held practices when it comes to bridal wear. “Our focus has never been to seek or predict trends. However, I do believe that given the current situation, not just the wedding shopping calendar, but the entire seasonality within fashion cycles has been disrupted. But I feel that this is a welcome change, and that should be embraced as this gives us an opportunity to edit our collections and focus on smaller numbers, quality and craftsmanship,” says Sanjay. The designer’s latest offering Between, is an ode to the striking blue Kurinji flower, which blooms once every 12 years. It includes high-slit kurtas, short anarkalis and saris in a riot of soft pink, peach, angoori, white, vermillion, ‘Neelkurinji’ blue and Rama green. Talking about what he wants to change about bridal fashion, Sanjay says, “Now more than ever, I would hope that brides or clients are more conscious of what/how they celebrate: emphasis on quality, design, local craftsmanship and a focus on creating a sustainable ecosystem for all. I think it’s possible to have a ceremony that is rich and beautiful without all the fuss or ostentatiousness.”
Word of advice: People today know only one kind of wedding or festivities in India. It would be nice to break away from this stereotype and revisit something that is equally our own.
According to Palak Shah of Ekaya Banaras, the pandemic may have altered the scale of bridal shopping and the grandeur of the clothes, but the overall trends remain the same. “Brides are increasingly looking for pieces that they can wear again and again. Yes, budgets have been tweaked, but colours like red, maroon, yellow and pink continue to be popular. Also weddings have now become intimate afternoon affairs, so everyone is dressing accordingly,” shares Palak. Earlier this year, she launched her Spring Summer ’20 collection, Heavenly Creatures, a stunning range of Banarasi saris and lehengas in shades of pink, red and blue. And while florals feature in a small way, Palak incorporated innovative motifs such as crescents, stars and clouds into the designs, for the modern bride.
Expert opinion: I would like to see more brides experimenting with their outfits, taking risks and being creative... even something as simple as, wearing saris instead of lehengas, or lehengas instead of saris.
Renowned for their ornate and contrasting borders made with pure silver and gold zari, Kanakavalli’s Kanjeevaram silk saris are truly an investment. “While remaining symbols of timeless heritage, our bridal collection draws a parallel to contemporary trends,” says Ahalya S, creative designer of the Chennai-based brand. The brand’s Valli Muhurtam or wedding edit includes contemporary pastels in pinks, greens, and blues, setting it apart from traditional wedding collections that sport the staple deep pinks and red hues. However, if the textile enthusiast in you is all about preserving legacy and tradition, Ahalya suggests a Korvai Kanchi pattu. “Korvai is a prized weaving technique that is slowly fading to obscurity. It is a three-shuttle process where the borders and pallu are woven separately and then attached,” she explains.
Must-have Kanjeevaram colour palette: The Araku pink-red, black-mustard and bottle green-mustard.
The growing need for pared down and understated garments has put AM:PM, known for their elegant and classic anarkalis and kurtas, in the spotlight. Designer Priyanka Modi says, “In my opinion, the current bride is a more conscious one. She seeks silhouettes with a timeless aesthetic and mindful details. She will choose discreet glamour that leaves a lasting impression.” Priyanka also believes that the consequence of
weddings becoming smaller is brides repurposing heirloom textiles and reusing pre-owned couture pieces. “I have always subscribed to the idea of ‘less in more’ and I truly believe that sartorial simplicity can be equally, if not more, impactful,” she shares.
Tips for trousseau shopping: I think brides should start giving both ethics and aesthetics an equally prominent place while shopping for their trousseau.
For brides who want a versatile trousseau with pieces they can mix and match even after the wedding, designer Payal Khandwala’s lehengas might be a great bet. “Although it might not change much for those brides who have always had a fairytale wedding ensemble in mind, there are certainly those who want to think on more pragmatic lines,” says the designer. They can take a cue from Payal’s wedding trousseau which she put together herself. “It featured a vintage brocade lehenga that I have worn many times after my wedding instead of keeping it locked in my cupboard and never seeing it again,” says Payal. Her signature brocade lehengas with contrasting borders make it a practical choice for weddings or cocktail functions that lead up to the main event.
Mix and match: Lehengas can be paired with a well-tailored blouse or a silk shirt, depending on if you want to go for classical or an avant-garde look.
With inputs from Paulami Sen and Sharmistha Ghosal