Gaurav Gupta, Tabu and Karan Johar during the finale (Dilip Kagda)
DESIGNER Gaurav Gupta knows a thing or two about setting the scene. He treats his collection presentations like theatrical stage shows with striking sets, larger-than-life dioramas, performances and visual projections. So, give him a venue like the Royal Opera House in Mumbai and you can expect nothing less than spectacular. On Tuesday night, at the opening show of the LFW Summer/Resort 2019 edition, Gupta didn’t disappoint on the dramatic index. His collection ‘(Un)Folding’ drew not only from theatre, but also from the designer’s own oeuvre, where origami folds and sculptural constructions form the crux of his design philosophy.
“I’m an ancient girl with a brand new heart,” chanted poetess and Gupta’s best friend Navkirat Sodhi, mounted atop a vertiginous set with a 20-foot skirt. She might as well have been talking about Gupta’s latest line. The designer, who is best known for bequeathing India with his sari and lehenga gown hybrids, took a lot of his old favourites, added some enticing flourishes with traditional crafts and served up a dish that can be best described as ‘déjà vu meets something new’.
The show was touted as one where Gupta would present his first-ever explorations of Lucknowi chikankari, zardozi and handwoven brocade textiles. And while the sculptural proportions, crisp lines and poetic undulations were all there, we wished we’d seen more of Gupta’s trademark bodacious interpretation of the crafts. The brocade story may have been re-spun by one too many designers in the past, but we would’ve liked to see more than one red Banarasi gown and a few Kinkhab jackets from Gupta. What we really loved was his innovative take on the ancient art of chikankari, where the intricate thread-work met gold and bugle bead embroidery and flyway feather and 3D floral accents for the women, and metallic spikes on lapels, shoulders and cuffs for the men.
Gupta presented iterations of the sari gown, sculptural jumpsuits, deconstructed sherwanis and zippered bombers and the on-trend ruffled sari made more than a few appearances — all with varying degrees of success. But we especially loved the poetic undulations of a yellow wave gown donned by the beauteous Sonalika Sahay and missed seeing some more of the sun-dipped hue that Gupta likes to call ‘basanti’.
In a show of mixed sentiments and interpretations, the nuanced met the loquacious, even in his choice of showstoppers. Tabu opened the show in a gorgeously understated 3-D flower bedecked steel grey gown and Karan Johar closed it with a flamboyant red velvet jacket with metallic spikes and a smirk to match. With his surprisingly incongruent pick of Johar as a showstopper, one wonders if Gupta has eyes on a new prize.