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Classic Creations


Indian women are becoming more conscious of the designer labels and fashion designing is becoming a big time business. Featured here are two leading fashion designers from Bombay.

The image of haute couture garments has taken on a different dimension on the fashion charts in India with the emergence of the new breed of fashion designer expertly qualified from reputed fashion institutions in India and abroad. A garment is not only judged by its creativity but by the designer label at the nape of the neck. The opening of high fashion houses like Ensemble and Glitterati with their own exclusive stable of reputed designers have given a fresh impetus to the trade, moving fashion designing from a ‘weekend’ pastime for board housewives to a multi-million rupee business. Seasonal ranges of garments are presented by designers to exhibit their designing prowess. Fortunately the Indian designer moves along his own personal dictates quite oblivious to fashion trends worldwide. With the competition hitting up every season, as new names enter the field, the section of buyers that is eagerly wooed is the upper class who ignores the price tag but is concerned about the designer label. Besides making vigorous attempts to attract the right type of clientele for their garments. Fashion shows which had hitherto been the prerogative of established mills and commercial houses are now held in India and abroad by individual designers at considerable expense with top flight models. The roster of Indian fashion designers of the ethnic and western genre has names that command a lot of respect. Prominent among them are Shahab Durazi and Wendell Rodricks, two names that have made a considerable mark on the fashion scene with their own distinctive styles.

The Durazi-Rodricks creation can be termed as haute couture by western standards and can compete with the best in the world. In line and form both designers are past masters in the art of styling and can e credited with giving fashion designing in India the direction it so desperately requires.

No longer do the fashion conscious in the country long for Parsian, American or English designer labels. In fact, Durazi and Rodricks both have legions of foreign clients as well as the very fashionable NRIs not to mention of course the upper strata of Indian society.

Within a short span of one and a half years Shahab Durazi, designer par excellence, has carved an enviable niche for himself in the world of Indian fashion. To convince the otherwise flamboyantly over-dressed Indian woman to opt for classic, elegantly tailored suits has been Durazi’s biggest coup. The very mention of the name Durazi either evokes sighs of admiration or spontaneous applause from fashion show audiences even before the unveiling of his collections. A tribute no doubt to his designing skills.

The Durazi design story has been quite simple and straight forward like his creations. A commerce graduate, his first love was always fashion designing and after applying to three institutions in the U.S.A., Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), Parson’s School of Design and Pratt Institute and getting admission in all three, he opted for FIT, the most suitable for his concept of designing. One of the most talented Indian students to have graduated from FIT, his creativity at the time of graduation (with an associate degree in fashion designing) was further endorsed with the Bill Blass Award for the Most Outstanding Fashion Student and the garment award from the critic of the Industry- Harve Bernard for the Best Garment Design in the tailored section. Rightly termed in India as the master of cut, style and finish Durazi’s definition of fashion in his own words is “I favour the simple, timeless clean lines, perfectly streamlined styles that balance a cautious play of colour and texture to give the garments a formal elegance and a season less edge.”

His treatment of fabrics like wool crepe, pure wool, linen and silk in traditional pattern like hounds tooth, plaid stripes, herringbone and checks is totally unconventional. Favourite colours are black, white, ivory, beige, brown and for sheer drama-red.

Daurzi on arrival in India in 1988 admits he was a little apprehensive when he showed his two samples of classically tailored woolen suits to Glitterati. “But I wanted to give it a try and I ended up selling woolen suits in May!”

Durazi’s current collection of black,, white, ivory, red and brown is moulded on softer lines “ yet the silhouette is similar-boxy yet not severe.” Durazi accentates the shoulders in his garments as “It makes the Indian women look less hippy.” As a specialist in tailored suits Durazi’s obvious choice of an idol is Gioria Armani. Favouring fabrics with body and weight. “I have not worked with softer fabrics for the actual garment, though I do use skills and organizes to accessorize them.” The designer who specialized in tailored designs at FIT feels that for his concept of garments wool, linen, rayon and crepe are ideal choices. “Pure cotton is not the perfect choice for my clothes. Jackets, skirts, blouses, coats, Bermudas and trousers in structured lines are Durazi’s forte.

Inspirations are arrived at from fabric selections. “Combinations are thrown together but no sketches are made “the finished sketch is at the end of the garment after drafting of the pattern which is followed by a very detailed specification sheet giving minute instructions for the garment construction.” All master patterns are cut by Durazi in muslin. The Durazi collection since April 1989 at Glitterati have grown in numbers from a mere 12 garments to his current line which has 40 styles for morning and evening wear. There is a marked influence of the 50s in all his styles “when the silhouette was tailored to feminine perfection but not mannish.”

“My aim is to make clothes as simple as possible. Women do not have the time for fussy wear.” Each Durazi creation can either be worn on its own or co-ordinated with other items. Accessories for his garments vary from buttons, collars, scarves, corded braids, tassels to crests. “It is a timeless fashion line that I aim to create, that is not boaring but with enough details to become memorable.”

Unfortunately, there were no design schools in India when Wendell Rodricks decided to become a fashion designer. So the climb up to achieve his ambition was hard and slow via a hotel and catering management course that landed him a job at the Royal Oman Police Officer’s Club, Sultanate of Oman, to work as assistant director and gather enough funds for admission to the American College for Applied Arts, Los Angles where he topped his class when he walked out with an associate degree in fashion designing. Still unsatisfied, the next stop was the Paris American Academy in France where he trained under Rose Giret, renowned fashion journalist and designer. “America is more commercial but less creative and Paris is a city of contacts where discrimination is quite rampant. “But back in India he was snapped up by the Premlila Vithaldas Polytechnic, SNDT Women’s University as a teacher for their dress designing course and by Garden-Vareli Ltd. To head their design cell that creates the Miss.Vareli line. Early this year Rodricks launched his own personal label with a certain amount of hesitation but no regrets, at Glitterati. Entering an over-saturated Indian fashion scene Rodricks comments “the selling factor is emphasized far too much which at times dilutes designs to achieving acceptance.”

Rodricks, a versatile yet very unconventional designer is never discouraged by critics as he adds “creating a style or line that is later street translated into a different version is my aim. Sometimes that enables a wearer to adapt design directions into actual applications. The Rodricks collection was launched with diaphanous organza overshirts followed by an African line and ends with his current range for the 16-20 years old girl “who need not look older than her age and yet not be robbed of her youth.” Inspired by Picasso’s creations at a ceramic museum, he has created a luxurious international teen look in chiffon and silk in mix-n-match fluorescent colours that are very eye-catching. His lavish use of tassels, beads and gold hand painted motifs are because “tassels and beads move very well with the body and the hand-painted gold motifs add the right touch of glimmer.” Minute detailing like pleats and enveloping large trapeze shapes for the cape-a-la-Matador which are huggable over revealing clothes add the right touch. There is a great dearth of young fashion wear that Rodricks hopes to fill. Basically a designer in the western genre, Rodricks wants to experiment with his roots. ‘the ultimate aim of Indian designers should be neither to ape the west nor become clones of the ethnic style but to evolve a distinct Indian look that can be immediately identified with the country as is the case right now Japanese, Italian, French and American designers. Indian fabrics given a characteristic western treatment will give Indian fashion the exposure and recognition it so badly needs.” This is evident in his Chanderi Kameez churidaar collection and the designer saris. “For the former I have used jewel-toned Chanderi in strong colours in flowing shapes with wide necklines to allow the use of jewellery. “For the sari which is for the older woman he prefers to stay within acceptable parameters” you can play with a sari only that much and a lady wouldn’t like to make too strong a fashion statement in one.” Tassels and hand painted gold motifs inspired from the wall paintings in Gujarat are the only form of embellishment. Although the garments are created from India fabrics they would not look out of place in western surroundings.

Besides having a list of private clients which include many foreigners for whom he creates exclusive designs, Rodricks design adaptability is put to the test for Garden-Vareli’s ready-to-wear simplified styles, or wedding gowns or tailored suits. To keep in touch with western trends Rodricks quarterly visits abroad not only aid him in selling many of his creations but also to soak in the latest developments.

Although the average Indian’s fashion sense has increased it could be due to an enhanced economic condition. Rodricks concept of fashion designing means “a continuous process of evolution and creativity that should always be present in all garments. Only then can a designer have truly arrived. To pander to popular demands is to take the easy way out.”