Blame it on Karl Lagerfeld, for turning designers into auteurs. Season after season, the rockstar of modern chic creates theatrical sets of leviathan proportions for the iconic Chanel’s shows. There is a plotline, there are models to act out scenes, there are moods to convey the clothes’ essence, and of course, enough design to flaunt Karl’s creativity.
He began the year with his ideas blooming in a giant terrarium at Paris’ Grand Palais; while for the autumn/winter collection, he created a make-believe casino on the runway. Early this month, Karl’s imagination touched a new high, with the ramp transformed into a Chanel airport, complete with ‘departure’ and ‘arrival’ boards, waiting lounge and gate signs. Haute couture for him doesn’t stop with impeccable silhouettes; they need to be unveiled in innovative settings. And his constant effort to accomplish this has garnered him enough cheers globally.
In end-2014, at a show where he tried to blend fashion with women’s empowerment, Karl splendidly recreated a Paris Boulevard with every little detail, like carvings on the windows and balconies fenced with wrought iron. And then there was a faux street taken over by banner-waving and megaphone-wielding models (led by his favourite Cara Delevingne).
Designers have realised the need for edgy presentation and pack in enough surprises in the catwalk routine. Designer Hussein Chalayan, at his Spring show this season, made two models wearing soluble coats stand under a shower on the ramp. As their garments melted away, stunning Swarovski-encrusted cocktail dresses were revealed. In March, at the Tokyo Fashion Week, popular Thai label Sretsis displayed its fairytale-inspired collection, by converting the runway into a labyrinth filled with flowers, fruits and friendly monsters.
“It’s drama with a purpose,” laughs designer Rajesh Pratap Singh. “What better way to convey the leitmotif of your collection,” says this well-known minimalist of the Indian fashion industry. His collection ‘Because medicine is the best laughter’ at the Amazon India Fashion Week (A/W 2015-16) stood out not just for its clean surface textures, but for the ramp morphing into hospital beds covered in white linens with IV drips and strong surgical lights. Some models even wore black-and-white nurse caps.
This was Rajesh’s (he hails from a family of doctors) way of paying a tribute to those working in the field of healthcare. “A little humour is definitely not harmful,” he says. So the models carried first-aid boxes, walked with surgical masks, sometimes lay on the bed and at other times broke into an impromptu jig… “to show the different emotions they go through while on the job.”
Young designer Aneeth Arora feels it is important to appeal to all five senses of the audience. She says those who watch a live fashion show should be able to carry some memory. “So it’s imperative to think of fresh ways to bring out the inherent meaning of your line or collection. And when someone buys your clothes, they should relate to what they saw on the ramp.”
At her ‘Pajama Party’ at the AIFW recently, she let the models, clad in loose pants, shorts, separates, jackets and shift dresses, do what they would at such a party. With books in hand, hair rollers, head bands and foam slippers, they looked happy relaxing on the beds strewn all over the runway and throwing pillows at each other. It was the best way to introduce her brand Pero’s lounge wear.
The lively vibe continued at designer Ashish N Soni’s ‘Inner Child’ showcase that had models gliding down the ramp in skates, while some others enjoyed going down the bright slides even as the attendees were treated to lollipops and nursery rhymes played in the background. “The catwalk resembled a play area, since I wanted to celebrate the carefree, innocent childhood days. Fashion, after all, is not just about dressing up; like a true artiste, you need to have fun with colours, cuts, fabrics and the catwalk too,” sums up Ashish.
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