Intricate beading and embroidery on display at the Kartikeya exhibit during the FAD x Vogue Talents Scouting for India event in Mumbai, India - June 23, 2018

There’s more to it than just the clothes —
which are extraordinary.

With contemporary Indian fashion, there’s a lot to love both in terms of the apparel being made and the stories behind it. Highlighted in Mumbai this June 22nd and 23rd by Vogue Talents in collaboration with FAD International Academy, the finalists of Vogue Italia’s most recent competition are a who’s who list of the emerging Indian designers you should know about, if you haven’t heard their names already.

The two-day scouting mission brought together eleven Indian labels at the Palladium Mall. Wares on display ran the gamut from incredibly ornate, traditional textiles to futuristic garb. Whether your taste leans more toward familiar staples or sci-fi inventions, there were irresistible pieces to be found here.

Featured designers all have one thing in common: their nationality. Whether based in India or not, each participant has direct ties to the country. Beyond that, many share values — a commitment to environmental sustainability, for example — which set them apart from their competitors in the initial selection phase last autumn.

For all, craftsmanship and quality are paramount. A few also have uniquely Indian causes at their core, such as Ara Lumiere, a collective of designers that creates empowering headdresses inspired by women who have been victims of acid attacks.

Overall, the group of finalists was a well-travelled bunch. Many have globalized outlooks based on first-hand experiences picked up all around the world. Unsurprisingly, this international perspective translates to the clothing. Crosscurrents between cultures formed a common thread, especially for labels Archana Rao and HUEMN.

Another major theme was sustainability. Many of the highlighted artists make transparency and environmental conservation a priority, including Bav Tailor, who uses eco-sustainable materials and technology, as well as Shift by Nimish Shah, which rigorously minimizes waste at every stage of production for their long-lasting wardrobe staples. N&S Gaia likewise is dedicated to up-cycling and the use of eco-friendly fabrics.

Indigenous textiles and traditional Indian techniques play a prominent part in brands like Bodice by Ruchika Sachdeva. India has an incredibly rich history of embroideries, patterns, colors, and materials going back thousands of years. It was interesting to see how modern labels interact with this foundation, whether embracing it, rejecting it, or both. Urvashi Kaur, for one, uses the hybrid phrase “glocal” to define their aesthetic as global and “defiantly Indian” at the same time. Sidharth Sinha’s N&S Gaia started in a remote village in northeast India and has mastered dakmanda, a form of hand weaving developed by the Garo Tribe. 

Other labels such as Dhruv Kapoor deliberately play with Indian tradition, resulting in a forward-oriented aesthetic that’s more difficult to pin down in the space-time continuum, but no less delightful. New Delhi-based Kartikeya India describes itself as “a fleeting play on past eras,” while lighthearted Saaksha & Kinni balances the concept of “paying our respects to the past” with “discovering the present” in their intricate embroideries.

Of the eleven contestants favored by the jury, HUEMN was the one selected to present at Milan Fashion Week this September. Watch for them during the Vogue Talents showcase — and keep an eye out for all of the Mumbai finalists in the future.

As the globetrotting efforts of Vogue Talents continually make clear, the international fashion industry can be a beast, and in India it can be very difficult for aspiring designers to make a name for themselves. This supremely luxurious clothing speaks for itself, and when you get to know the stories behind each individual designer, it will be very hard to resist turning to them for your next wardrobe addition. — jas