Photo Courtesy: Renu Tendon

Boundaries are fast melting and one often finds varied cultural flavours and inspirations doing the rounds on our runways. Kunal Majumder takes a close took at designers who have merged cultural identities and have drawn inspiration from Islamic patterns.

More than global, Indian fashion designers are making an effort to glocalise their fashion stance. The current Indian fashion scene is redefining boundaries by borrowing from national as well as international cultures. One such borrowing trend recently spotted on the runways finds its roots in Islamic culture. There are designers in both India and abroad who are infusing Islamic nuances in their creations. For instance, British designer Sophia Kara made an outfit composed of a hooded abaya with a matching niqab (face veil) in shocking pink over a salwar as part of her Imaan collection. That’s not all, high-end designer labels such as Hermès and Gucci are picking Muslim trends by doing a range of scarves and a number of other garments. But let’s just put aside international design trends and take a look at the Indian fashion industry. Islamic influences can be spotted in our part of the world in elegant kaftans, toga dresses and zuave pants. One is now able to see a lot of cultural exchange on the globe. Here's one such positive influence.

The underlying thought in Islamic fashion is that of modesty. Hence, while picking Islamic influences, designers have to make sure that they create clothes that don't violate the Islamic dress code. Kaftans, ponchos, zuave pants and different version of culottes, all find their roots in Islamic fashion. The perfect example of this can be Kareena Kapoor’s kaftan look in the chartbuster Mauja hi mauja from the movie Jab We Met. Headscarves are an important component of Islamic ensemble and Renu Tandon is probably one of the few Indian designers to experiment with this accessory the most. Many Indian designers use Islamic silhouettes on Indian ramps – Malini Ramani, who has a major customer base in the Middle East, is one such designer. Other than her, designers like Rohit Bal, Zubair Kirmani and Monapali have drawn heavily from Islamic architecture and art forms.

Motifs and Designs
Middle Eastern and Turkish motifs and silhouettes are the new rage on the Indian runways. In the floral family flowered stems, jasmine, rose, and lotus motifs are the most
popular. Geometrical designs inspired from various Turkish and Mughal monuments can be found sitting on a number of dresses and famous Mughal jaalis have found an expression in many a designers’ works.

Ritu Kumar, Meera Muzaffar Ali and Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla use traditional embroideries like chikankari and zardozi, which originated from Persia (Iran). A wedding trousseau by Tahiliani or saris by Kumar are unimaginable without zardozi, intricate
patterns in gold and silver studded with pearls and precious stones.

Zubair Kirmani, who hails from Kashmir, has successfully used the famous Kashmiri kashida work on his clothes. Kashida is a form of embroidery that draws inspiration from flowers, creepers, chinar leaves and mango motifs. Here’s a lowdown:

Rohit Bal
Rohit Bal is famous for his geometrical motifs that he picks from various Islamic structures. He claims that his latest collection – Siyaahi – was inspired from the ancient city of Constantinople. “The intrinsic inspiration is the art of the Iznik tiles of ancient Turkey. Their heritage of distinct deep blue and meticulous, intricate glazing evokes whispers of Mughal influence,” says Gudda.

The collection comprised a range of voluminous evening gowns, arabesque motifs in all shades of turquoise, blue and silver. The entire collection was full of pleated outfits, cone-shaped skirts, over-dimensional puff sleeves and ballet inspired tutus. Huge leafy creepers in silver ran across voluminous long skirts; long elegant overcoats and vests came in elaborate jacquards and rich embroidered silks.

Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla
Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla can be easily crowned the royal Mughal couturiers. Their work has always involved revival of heritage crafts. Chikankari, zardozi, sequins and beadwork are highlights of any Abu Sandeep creation. The designer
duo claims to have given zardozi a modern dimension by reworking it on different materials and colours. They started using sequins and beadwork way back in 1989 by applying this embroidery technique on black and white chuddars carried
with plain crep-de-chine outfits.

Renu Tandon
Renu Tandon seems to have specialised in Middle Eastern fashion. Her last collection at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week was targeted at customers from that region. “I maybe targeting customers from the Middle East but my dresses will also appeal to the Indian market because a lot is common in both the cultures,” says Renu. Her collection named Mystic included a lot of tunics and kaftans. The collection also included scarves designed to match the dresses. In terms of motifs, she used the classic Islamic floral designs and colours in hues of black and violet.

Pali Sachdeva of Monapali insists that her inspiration is not just Islamic. She calls it an “amalgamation of forms, arts and mediums”. “A Monapali ensemble could be hand painted or could have a Mughal motif set in a western silhouette,” says Pali. Her last collection reflected this quite clearly. Although her design and motifs were not Islamic, her silhouettes were. Loose toga dresses, long kaftans and Islamic
drapes were prominent in her collection.

Zubair Kirmani
Zubair Kirmani is another designer who is influenced by the Islamic way of life. His latest collection was all about tones of blue, maroon and copper with some black. “My collections are influenced by movements like Sufism. I also use a lot of geometry in design,” says Zubair. His work is intricate. He uses a lot of appliqué work and kashida. There is a refreshing use of muted hues and shades of white. Zubair uses a mix of traditional Islamic and modern silhouettes.

Meera and Muzaffar Ali
Sufism is intrinsic to all Meera and Muzaffar Ali creations. Everything – right from their silhouettes to designs – is inspired by the Islamic culture. Their label called Kotwara uses traditional hand embroideries and places them on modern silhouettes. Zardozi and chikankari are essential to Kotwara's couture. The most unique part of their collections is the use of khatati and Urdu calligraphy. The designer couple is credited with experimenting with traditional Islamic silhouettes like toga and kaftans and making it contemporary and modern.