Lakmé Fashion Week: a showcase of India’s top designers who are turning heads around the world

The biggest event on India’s style calendar will run the gamut – from celebrity designer Manish Malhotra’s collaboration with Etihad Airways, to Anita Dongre, who caught the world’s attention when Kate Middleton wore one of the designer’s creations in April in India.

Indian designer Manish Malhotra, left, with models wearing his creations. AFP
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As Lakmé Fashion Week – one of the hottest events on India’s style calendar – returns to Mumbai on Wednesday, August 24, for its winter edition, demand for the country’s unique designs continues to soar internationally.

Celebrities, including Kate Moss and Kylie Minogue, have been seen wearing Indian designers, such as Manish Malhotra, while Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, brought to the world’s attention couturier-to-the-stars Anita Dongre, when she wore one of the designer’s creations during a visit to India in April.

But strongest, perhaps, is the appeal of Indian designers in the UAE and other Middle Eastern countries – a testament to the similarities in Indian and Arab fashion sensibilities. While preferred for its conservative outlines – including loose, flowing silhouettes, high necklines and low hems – Indian evening wear is also sought after for its heavy embroidery, beadwork and appliqué on luxurious fabrics such as hand­woven silk.

Growing global awareness of and demand for Indian trends and traditional handicraft is “leading to designers achieving international status and making inroads in the world market”, says Mumbai designer Kamaali Mehta, who will be showcasing her modern creations at Lakmé Fashion Week under her label, Kamaali Couture. “Our handicrafts and embroideries have forever been an area of interest for international labels – from Louis Vuitton to Coco Chanel.”

Mehta, whose brand is known for its bridal gowns, elegant saris and dresses, is hoping to expand to the Arabian Gulf.

“There are a lot of similarities in fashion between India and the Middle East,” she says, adding that beside cut, pattern and the preoccupation with heavy embellishments, the motifs and prints bear similarities, too.

It is no coincidence that Malhotra – whose Lakmé show is one of the most eagerly anticipated events – has collaborated with Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways to film the event in virtual reality.

“I love Abu Dhabi and Dubai, especially what both these cities have come to represent over the years,” says the 50-year-old. “Whenever I go back, I realise that nothing is impossible to achieve, and this pushes me to work harder. This is one of the major reasons I decided to partner with Etihad Airways.

“During the henna night at Arab weddings, for instance, female guests often prefer to wear ethnic-Indian outfits with old-world handicraft,” says the designer, who last October brought a special trunk show to Dubai, followed by a private catwalk event that featured Bollywood actor Arjun Kapoor as the showstopper.

Collections by such established designers are readily available in shops in the UAE, including at Dubai’s Studio 8 and Label 24.

Ritu Kumar, from New Delhi, has a boutique at BurJuman centre in Dubai that stocks her latest collections and special-occasion designs she creates for festivals such as Eid Al Fitr and Diwali.

“We have been dealing with a lot of demand from the Middle Eastern market,” says Diya Arora, a Mumbai designer, whose Lakmé show will be under the brand DiyaRajvvir. “In fact, we are stocking at VESIMI Dubai in Jumeirah. Our speciality is exquisite hand-painted and hand-embroidered techniques, which are in demand among customers looking for one-of-a-kind, opulent wear.”

Arora says her creations – “a hybrid of Indian and western sensibilities” – reflect a broader trend in Indian fashion of combining global and traditional elements.

“It is a melange of styles, including capes, kimono sleeves and culottes,” says the designer, whose silhouettes this season have been crafted with comfort in mind – a mix of sultry drapes and layering, with a hint of structure.

The highlights

Manish Malhotra and Etihad Airways

• Wednesday, August 24

A firm favourite among the Bollywood crowd, Manish Malhotra is partnering with Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways to present an eagerly anticipated show that will use digital technology to produce a virtual-reality video of the event for a special premiere, post-event. It will allow viewers to feel that they are actually attending the show, experiencing it from the front row, backstage and even at the after party.

It will use the same technology that Etihad employed for its virtual reality film, Reimagine, that featured Hollywood actress Nicole Kidman and offered viewers virtual access to the cabins of the Airbus A380.

Malhotra will showcase his signature embroidery work, including shimmering ensembles and handcrafted evening wear. The designer is known for his use of detailed embroidery and elegant silhouettes.


Sabyasachi Mukherjee – grand finale

• Sunday, August 28

Popular Kolkata designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee returns to Lakmé Fashion Week – the stage where he made his debut in 2002.

This year’s finale is expected to reflect India’s rich heritage, with the use of traditional Indian fabrics as well as a colour palette and regal silhouettes.

Mukherjee is a favourite among celebrities, and his clients include Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Kareena Kapoor, Renée Zellweger and Reese Witherspoon.

The designer says he always enjoys presenting his work at Lakmé.

“It has been 14 glorious years and I still get overwhelmed by the love and appreciation bestowed on me,” he says.

“Every time I have taken back memories that helped me weave inspirations into my garments.”

The show will be inspired by Lakmé’s Illuminate theme, which is the make-up brand’s season statement.

Taxi Fabric textiles

Wednesday, August 24

One of the quirkier elements of this season’s Lakmé Fashion Week is an installation by Taxi Fabric. This initiative turns seat covers in taxis into canvases for designers, who create contemporary and colourful designs based on themes ranging from Bollywood to Indian freedom fighters.

• Lakmé Fashion Week runs from Wednesday, August 24, until Sunday, August 28. For more details, visit