During the August edition of Lakmé Fashion Week’s (LFW) Winter/Festive 2018 edition, held in Mumbai, Rajesh Pratap Singh showcased his line Welcome to the Jungle, with models wearing zipped angrakhas with pants and statement jackets over salwar-kurtas. Eka showcased handloom dresses and trench coats layered over loose bottoms while emerging labels such as Indigene, Amrich: and THREE Clothing Studio showcased anti-fit kurtas paired with pants and overlayers of varying lengths. Salwar-kameez -the three-piece garment has over the years undergone many design alterations. The salwar has evolved into slim fit trousers, palazzos and other variations; the kameez has changed from short, fit to ankle-length and loose-fit garments.
Offering greater fluidity in the garments
The early 2000s ushered the unfortunate trend of street cotton-and-Lycra churidars. While it eliminated excess fabric and drawstring detail of the traditional churidar, the skin-tight tailoring was low on aesthetic appeal. Fortunately, the trend has once again taken a turn towards loose pyjamas and cropped pants. And the infusion of new-age fabrics has helped the kurta, be it viscose and Lycra or Liva and Tencel, making room for greater fluidity in the silhouettes. Even Fabindia, once synonymous with handlooms, is experimenting with silk-viscose kurtas.
The most visible sign of the changing salwar-kameez, is the conspicuously absent dupatta. Customers at Fabindia had begun to eschew the dupatta as early as 2010, leaning towards scarves and stoles.
Challenging boundaries between heritage, western fashion
In the last five years retail brands have adopted newer silhouettes in tandem with runway trends. In 2016, women’s wear label W for Woman launched its Unethnicals collection, with marked similarity to runway styles—palazzo pants and trousers in lieu of the salwar, kurtas in varying lengths, layers and asymmetric hemlines and overlayers to complete the ensemble.
The key ensemble in the new festive collection from Biba, a big brand known for Indian wear, is the multi-layered toga kurta. Online brands like Jaypore, Ajio and others too have approached Indian wear with a similar East meets West lens, mainstreaming many trends earlier seen only on the ramp or actors. Koovs, an e-commerce store that specialises in Western wear with an eye on global influences, has a new collaborative capsule with menswear designer Kunal Rawal that showcases this mix. The collection features long-line shirts and baggy breech trousers that challenge the boundaries between heritage and young western fashion.
The changing trends haven’t deterred salwar kameez from drawing from historical silhouettes. Palazzo and straight-cut pants draw from the old-school dheela (loose) pajamas. Kalidar kurtas and angrakhas are reinvented in new styles and the trend of layering jackets atop the kurta bears a resemblance to the choga.
Good Earth, which launched its clothing line, Sustain, in 2010, it aimed to popularise Indian wear in a contemporary manner. The brand’s design team found its inspiration in the Awadhi farshis. It added embroidery and lace to the farshi and combined it with different kinds of kurtas. A product of cultural confluences, the salwar kameez brings together the craft and costume traditions with the contemporary desire for functionality and style. As Indian fashion takes steps towards a global sensibility, the salwar-kameez is poised to be a timeless emblem of androgynous styles.