There were embroideries that etched out scenes from the Mughal dynasty, dragons with their long tails curled up along hemlines, palm trees, caravans, whimsical florals and kamdani and sequins twinkling along the entire lengths of dupattas.
The collection was called a 'Message From the East’ and there were so many messages that it delivered on the glossy black catwalk: of Sana Safinaz’s ability to pull in the punches, of their clout to draw in a crowd teeming with the city’s glitterati and of the many nuances that embody their brand as it has evolved and changed with the times.
One thing, however, that has remained the same since the inception of the brand three odd decades ago, is the sartorially savvy woman that it aims to define. The Sana Safinaz woman has a certain chutzpah even when she’s laden with a heavy duty bridal or an embellished lawn suit or a risqué couture gown. Laid-back glamour comes easily to her as she dabbles with accessories and styles. She turns heads and the ethos has worked well for the brand’s aspirational image – what woman doesn’t want to turn heads when she dresses up for the night?
Painting a Mughal world
The first quarter of the show certainly turned heads. In a splash of multicolours, the embroideries ran in swirls and floral patterns and chalked Mughal scenes on to exaggerated sleeves, pants, coats and tunics. Tiny details were added on with fringes, laces, swathes of crinkly silk and ribbon sashes.
These were clothes that were very evidently meant for Sana Safinaz’s pret line, machine-embroidered and trendy but affordable enough to be bought straight off the rack. The easy breezy modern silhouettes often made me think ‘destination wedding’ – lightweight enough to carry in a suitcase to another part of the world and easily standing out at a party.
What also caught the eye was the styling: the girls wore sunshades and their long hair swung loose from printed bandannas, reminiscent of so many recent Sana Safinaz fashion shoots. It was boho but elegant and I am hoping that it acts as a bellwether for ushering a more unique sense of dressing. We definitely need less cookie-cutter lookalikes and more quirky accessorising and individuality!
The parade progressed onwards, towards heavier made-to-order bridal-wear: cut-work, pearls, crystals, tassels and a mix of hand and machine embroideries played out on traditional silhouettes with details added in. There were dupattas splattered with the daintiest kamdani, layers of tulle and ethereal tissue trails bordered with florals. Occasionally, the silhouette wavered towards trendier cuts – exaggerated blouses, off-shoulders, capes and boleros.
There was also some very heavy layering: dupattas overlapping multiple tiered skirts, trails, ribbon sashes and a mix of textured fabric. Perhaps a bit too tedious for the average wedding-goer to wear but heavy enough to appeal to the bride.
It was all very pretty and yet, the palette was one that had been seen before, dominated by pastel grey, pink and silver. I am told that these classic colors are the most popular amongst Sana Safinaz’s clientele and they are bound to haul in business. Nevertheless, what I enjoyed more were the innovations: a dash of lemon yellow or crimson peeping through the silver sequins, the deep reds and the nets printed with florals. The skirt with multiple tiers of colourful embroidery, paired with an off shoulder bustier was a refreshing break from the procession of pastels; a fresher, younger take on wedding-wear.
Also scattered amongst the panoply of womenswear were a few menswear options: elegantly tailored waistcoats and sherwanis, set off by a stoles and shawls in Oriental prints.
Better fitting within the womenswear as well could have helped the collection along. Quite a few new models were seen in the show – some who were yet to master how to walk down the runway – and they very evidently were unable to carry off their clothes. Could the clothes have been tweaked to fit them better? An armhole tucked in or a pant altered to their size? Or should the fashion council keep a more stringent eye on their selection of models? We do need to give new talent a chance but we can’t allow them to bring down the quality of a show.
But these were minor glitches. A ‘Message to the East’ was not wholeheartedly revolutionary. It, instead, sought to set small trends in motion while sticking to a beautiful, elegant ethos. In a largely conventional market for bridal wear, perhaps that’s the usual way to go: one small tweak at a time, one small revolution at a time.