Millennium Post

Cotton designerwear: look cool beyond hot summers!

It's true that crispy cotton and sultry summers make a perfect pair, but top fashion designers of the city recently thought of breaking stereotypes to launch brand new collections in cotton, which can be won easily when the temperature has dipped slightly in autumn and spring, even in winter.

To prove a point, Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals, Kolkata, and The Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry came together recently to create the first edition of a theme based fashion show, The Bengal Fashion Expo 2017, or "Walk the Winter in cotton."

The show presented a whole new look for the season, moving away from the traditional thought of stepping out only in silks in winter. The show was crafted by some of the best designers of Eastern India, a region renowned for its creative use of the natural fabric, cotton.

The brainchild of Dr Rupali Basu, President and CEO ER, Apollo Hospitals Group and Director, The Bengal Fashion Expo,the event showcased the latest creations of seven top designers of the city, Shamlu Dudeja, Sharbari Datta, Nandita Raja, Agnimitra Paul, Sayantan Sarkar, Pranay Baidya and Abhishek Ray.

Choreographed by ex-model Pinky Kenworthy, and makeup by Abhijit Chanda, the ramp-line included renowned names like Sneha Ghosh, Runa Laha, Ishika, Sonal, Shubhonita, Jessica Aaron, Tamori, Ruchira, Akbar Hasan, Sumit, Samrat and Satyabrata.

The two-hour long event saw over 600 guests in attendance including the glitterati of the city. "The Bengal Fashion Expo represents our innate belief in the potential of the cotton textile and apparels industry in Eastern India – which has been the traditional mainstay of millions of artisans and craftsmen of the region over the ages.

Our idea is to create a platform for showcasing the best designs of Eastern India based on the theme of cotton as a fabric of choice in winter," said Dr Basu.

Sutanu Ghosh, President, The Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said, "The Bengal Fashion Expo – Walk the Winter in Cotton focuses on developing textiles with a special focus on fabrics like cotton.

The event stands to showcase the textile industry, enriching the business ecology it inhabits, and is bringing forward gaps and trying to tap emergent opportunities in the field of cotton textiles." Here's what each designer had to show in their cotton line for all seasons collection:
Shamlu Dudeja.

With 250 artisans across Bengal working for this designer, Shamlu Dudeja is a name synonymous with the Kantha, a beautiful rural craft originating in Bengal. Dudeja has revitalized and reinvented the Kantha from a poor man's quilting stitch, to become one of the most revered styles of embellishment for textiles, both in India and abroad.

"My new cotton collection of Kantha takes us back to the original form of layering the cotton fabric, used to make quilts. All outfits have a minimum of 2 layers of fabric. Ponchos, shawls, long dresses, jackets, and even saris have all been crafted from two or more layers of cotton fabric.

The challenge lies in converting these two-layered quilts into beautiful outfits, which are popular with the younger generation," says Dudeja. Cheaper than silks, chiffon and crepe, the cottonwear is also a tribute to the women of rural Bengal, who sit in their mud-huts, meticulously embroidering fine textiles at home.Sharbari Datta

A three-day workshop was held in 1991 at the Conclave, by the name Purono Kolkata, meaning 'Old Kolkata', introducing colour and creativity to the otherwise dull and much neglected industry of ethnic menswear. Sharbari Datta became an overnight sensation in the world of men's fashion by introducing a volcanic eruption of colour, threads, art and textiles in menswear. Dhotis, achkans, angrakhas, kurtas made it to the wardrobes of celebrities from India and the world.

For the first time in this show, the designer has worked with cotton. Renowned for her rich occasion wear, Datta takes a break from silks to weave a story in cotton using bright colours and her quintessential embroidery work in traditional wear and Indo Western silhouettes.

Nandita Raja/ Kanishka'sFounded by Dilip & Nandita Raja, Kanishka's Kolkata is a pioneer of contemporary hand block printing and handloom weaving in India for over five decades. Kanishka's, founded in 1970, is known for its use of unique traditional techniques of producing handloom and block printed saris and textiles. Every process in the making of its products is completely manual using skilled craftsmen.

Raja presented a new line of unique cotton and handwoven saris from Bengal and rare Orissa woven saris that reflect a classy aesthetic for all seasons.

Combined with the saris, a specific collection of layered and textured jackets, structured silhouettes inspired by Japanese architectural forms complement each other for the winter season. In addition, a new line of textile jewellery was created. Agnimitra Paul
Agnimitra Paul is a designer with a difference.

All her personal shows are for a noble cause. Agnimitra says, "In my country where more than half the population is below the poverty line, making bridal lehengas for two lakhs and more sounds frivolous. So I want to take fashion to a different level … fashion for a cause, fashion for the people." In her latest collection, the designer presented a series of cotton jackets that highlight her love for Madhubani paintings.

Her colour palette comprises off white, orange, yellow, magenta and grey. The jackets are teamed up with skirts, loose pants and saris.
Sayantan Sarkar, a design graduate from NIFT Kolkata presented a Boho-chic collection of layered separates in vibrant hues of mustard, pale blue, pink with tones of browns and indigo blue. It reflects a paradigm shift from the normal when checks and denims, known to be apt for structured clothing gives way to enormous fluid and draped silhouettes.

PranayBaidya armed with a degree in Fashion Design from the Design & Arts College of NZ, presented a winter festive collection inspired by the rich heritage of cotton of Bengal, showcasing jacket dresses, dhoti pants, jacket blouses, sarees, lehengas and menswear. Bengal cotton, cotton muslin and cotton matka in delicate hues of dust pink,peach, grey, brown and rich blue come to life in contemporary digital and block prints. Intricate embroidery adds a couture flavour.

The star showstoppers for The Bengal Fashion Expo 2017 included super model Nayanika Chatterjee for Shamlu Dudeja, percussionist Bickram Ghosh and wife Jaya Seal for Nandita Raja, actor Mumtaz Sorcar for Pranay Baidya and four acid attack victims for Agnimitra Paul. And with everybody celebrating cotton, the textile looks all set to find more space in the world of designer wear in the months to come.
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