Live music, theater increasing the entertainment quotient in fashion shows
A bizarre costume or dramatic makeup isn’t the only thing accenting a fashion show these days. Whether it’s elaborate stage designs, art installations, live music or entertainment, fashion designers are breaking out of their mold and getting innovative with their shows.
Fashion shows today are more daring and experimental in design and execution. The ramp has also become a theatrical setting, and designers are banking on live music and costumes that follow a strong narrative. The more intense the philosophy of music and design, the better it resonates with the audience and the designer’s story around his collection.
Music to the rescue
For pianist Sahil Vasudeva, live music is like a movie that needs to be in tune with the concept and the staging, the ups and downs, the crescendos and the tension points of a show. “Live music can infuse energy into a fashion show and connect with the audience. It works like a soul in an act that recorded sound cannot replace,” says Vasudeva, who caresses the keys of her piano to performances bringing Indian and Western tunes to life.
Vasudeva, who performed at JJ Valaya’s India Couture Week show earlier in July, synced melodious music to the origin of the designer’s embroidered sarees and belted sherwanis. Keeping in mind Valaya’s seasonal collection ‘Alma’, which means ‘soul’ in Spanish, the story behind each piece was layered inspiration from Spain in traditional patterns, floral chignons, matador costumes in short jackets, the patterns on the shawl manton or the patterns of the hand fan called pericon intertwine dramatically with Indian handicraft and embroidery techniques. For this interpretation, Vasudeva transcribed the scores of Spanish virtuoso pianist, composer Isaac Manuel Francisco Albéniz y Pascual, one of the greatest composers of the post-Romantic era, best known for his piano works based on the idioms of Spanish folk music.
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Designer Dolly J, who featured jazz singer Shreya Bhattacharya wearing a custom dress and red lips, well to complement her design ethos in rich Western silhouettes and Indian embroidery, also believes that the fashion shows are a visual narrative of a brand’s aesthetic and ideology. The living room setup was all red and dramatic, and had tables set up like a Parisian cafe. “Live singing sets the mood and the music has the power to transport the audience to another era. Our singer offered the authentic experience of a New York jazz bar from the 90s, a complete immersion in the glamorous nostalgia of the era. The music accentuates the march it accompanies, it goes up and down with each movement, and in doing so it brings out the subtleties of the garment. We wanted to highlight the beauty of the show and the collective experience with our decor and sound for the evening,” says Dolly J.
Everything is ready for more
The entertainment quotient kicks it up a notch with art and exciting set designs. Puma returned to New York Fashion Week in September this year with a “Futrograde” show mixing fashion, music and sport. The show examined the brand’s heritage by mixing physical and digital elements and showcasing the Puma family through collaborations and special appearances.
“Returning to fashion week for the first time in several years is important to us because we knew we needed the right combination of factors to be there. With a focus on digital, a great range of ambassadors and an incredible creative partner in June Ambrose, the foundation and creativity for a great show is here, and we’re thrilled that now is the time for us to bring it to life,” says Puma Brand Director Adam Petrick.
On average, all the glitz and glamour, more than 30 to 50 sets, music and ramp design can cost between 30 lakh to 1 crore depending on the budget of the designers. However, a set design is like a work of art that can transform the space into something immersive and beautiful. It can be used to evoke a mood, illusion or thought. The design of the runway sets can be as creative as the designers want.
“It could be someone trying to imagine sets or bringing someone else’s philosophy to life and applying it. Scenic, theatrical and scenographic design are all different terms used to describe scenography. But what is most important is that it must be functional for the purpose for which it is used. Set designers these days are using technologies like lights, graphics, multimedia effects,” says Mahesh Kumar Sharma, who has designed sets for the past 20 years for designers like Sabyasachi, JJ Valaya, Tarun Tahiliani, Suneet Varma, Anju Modi, Manish Malhotra, Anamika. Khanna and more.
Beyond the tracks
Designers are now taking their shows to places beyond the runways to provide extra edge and punch. In the past, American fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff has had stellar performances making her shows gigs. Janelle Monae, Wild Cub and Little Daylight are among the few performers who have taken the makeshift stage. But the first, in 2012, is still the best to date: American rapper Theophilus London performed his hit I Stand Alone as models tried – and endearingly failed – to resist the urge to dance.
Similarly, in May, Chanel’s Cruise 2023 show was held on a beach in Monte Carlo to showcase the season’s cruise collection with models walking in Chanel monogrammed heels on sand. The look was inspired by Monaco’s cosmopolitan beach lifestyle and Chanel’s history in silhouettes with swimwear, sequins and ensembles.
Some of the best breakout performances have stood the test of time performing live and walking the podium. Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington Burns together in Versace’s Fall 1991 parade and dance to George Michael’s Freedom! ’90. Pop star Dua Lipa walked in Versace Fall 2021 alongside other celebrities like Madonna, Elton John and Lady Gaga.
From designer Jeremy Scott, Creative Director of Moschino presenting his Spring/Summer 2021 collection as a puppet show, to Dolce & Gabbana’s Alta Moda show which marks Alta Moda’s 10th anniversary this year, ramp shows also bring storytelling . The Dolce & Gabbana show in Sicily was a revealer of ancient Greek theater staged with Italian composer Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, a 19th-century one-act opera.
Meanwhile, designer Rahul Mishra’s explicit wearable art stitching in 3D embroidery on puffy silhouettes not only makes him a champion of slow fashion with traditional Indian craftsmanship, but the first Indian designer to feature at the Week. of Paris Haute Couture in 2020. His interpretations are grand and monumental. sculptural silhouettes. The Shape of Air, a Couture Fall 2021/22 collection, is a recreation of couture showing the Aegean Sea, blue skies across the streets of Santorini. Also, the cityscape, the architecture that is unique to the city, rendered in silken threads like Lego blocks fixed on top of volcanic rock in its sense of design and creative spectacle.
One fabulous show worth watching was that of designer Amit Aggarwal, who chose to convert an auditorium inside Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium into a fashion show for his runway show at Indian Tailoring Week 2022 of the FDCI. Her show had the audience seated around the stage and the models moved down the aisle to the lingering sounds of music.
Similarly, Varun Bahl’s show titled “New Leaf” was literally a walk in nature with decor and clothing taking on elements of the forest wilderness – floral embroidery, rich fabrics and classic upcycled patchwork.
Another was a potpourri of Indian culture by designer Anju Modi in its bling and floral designs. But this time he brought an innovation. The show was an on-ramp for the audience and the models, where the four sides of the room were used as a backdrop for an on-screen presentation of different travel destinations in India. There was no chair to sit on. The audience walked along the ramp covered with boulders, pine trees and running videos of the Kashmir Valley, mountains on display with models that looked like an art installation inside the Hall.
For creators, the choice of celebrities has also changed. From actor Rajkummar Rao and singer Guru Randhawa to actor-director Farhan Akhtar and actress Rashmika Mandana, who alone has more than 30 million social media followers, industry experts are capitalizing on new age stars for the season.
Such acts have now become a common feature of fashion shows, especially since the pandemic, as fashion houses think of other ways to be creative. Storytelling is another technique that encompasses set design, tailoring, and models. Designer duo Falguni and Shane Peacock have collections influenced by the rich French tapestries and artwork of the Renaissance period. Thus, the color palette of the collection ranges from champagne ivory, pale blush, perfect pink, dusty rose to metallic stone green, golden gold and opal whites. Embellished face veils made female models transform into dolls dressed in opera dresses and fairies.
Blame the pandemic for keeping us away from engaging, live concerts for the past two years, physical fashion shows are now a welcome change for the fraternity, upping the fun and glam quotient and, moreover, restoring shoppers’ confidence. . “It’s true that we have been away from physical performances for more than two years. But the live acts are always welcoming. With emotion, creativity and
experimentation – all on the catwalks, the touch and feel of the product is needed, which drives designers to create more and in return, buyers are also happy,” says Sunil Sethi, Chairman of the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI), an independent non-profit association of fashion designers.