The Changing Face of Indian Fashion Show Stars, Beyond Bollywood

The first physical edition of FDCI x Lakmé Fashion Week since 2019 recently concluded with actor Ananya Panday hurtling down the ramp in Falguni Shane Peacockcreation. While the energy and excitement of returning to the physical ramp was palpable in every aspect – from exhibit themes to collections – nothing else felt different. Except for the pitfalls.

It is an Indian fashion week norm that a Bollywood celebrity closes the show; at least that of established designers in the industry. The showstopper is kept secret, and as we receive in our PR emails, “embargoed”, to ensure a sense of surprise. There are many reasons why Bollywood celebrities as stars are a sure-fire formula for fashion shows – they enhance the glamor factor of the show, attract wider media coverage and tap into the star’s fanbase who does not necessarily know the brand. Other celebrity stars this season included Janhvi Kapoor for Punit Balana, Kangana Ranaut for Khadi India, Kriti Sanon for Tarun Tahiliani, and Mrunal Thakur for JJ Valaya, among others.

But this year’s surprise wasn’t so much which celebrity will end their show, it was more about spotting known and lesser-known faces as the stars of creative talent. PAA leader Raghav Chadha, art curator Shalini Passi, singer Manasi Scott, influencers Masoom Minawala and Sakshi Sindwani, and even talent designer Rohit Bal have become stars, tipping the scales towards non-normative stars during fashion weeks Indian. While some attribute this to repetitiveness and the need for inclusivity, some believe it was unavoidable in the post-pandemic world.

Domination of social media

As the tide gradually turns towards social media, attention also continues to shift towards influencers and digital content creators who promise visibility, millennial appeal and, of course, access to their millions of followers. In reality, Masoom Minawala, one of India’s largest luxury and fashion content creators, thinks “this is a revolutionary step. For years we had stars and the title was exclusively reserved for the 1% of people who fit societal standards of “beauty”. When influencers walk the ramp for world-famous designers, it resonates with communities. Being a show stopper is no longer an unattainable dream, it’s becoming a reality. Coexisting with Bollywood celebrities as show stoppers is definitely the future for a more inclusive environment.

This season of LFW, Masoom has become the star attraction for designer Varun Bahl. She also had closed the show for Vaishali S at Milan Fashion Week this year, being the first Indian content creator to do so. Speaking from experience, Masoom says, “There is unparalleled solace in fighting for one’s own country. When I walked the ramp for Varun Bahl, the comfort and support from the audience was just heartwarming.

She also thinks that designers making influencers their muse is “a great way to recognize the contributions of influencers who have a mission to promote the magnificence of Indian fashion and it becomes a symbiotic relationship. From my observations, the vision of Indian fashion weeks is organized around building a community, whether it’s laying the groundwork for budding local designers or strengthening bonds within the fashion fraternity. as show stoppers is a way to connect with different masses and cover a wide target group.

The designer, too, seems to agree. “I think it was the right thing to do,” Varun Bahl says without hesitation. “She made us very proud, she’s so pretty, confident and so fashionable. It made absolute sense. But everyone was so surprised! Bahl also attributed the ‘repetitiveness’ and the need for ‘unpredictability’ when it came to choosing stars, acknowledging that “of course Bollywood is Bollywood”.

Relevance rather than popularity

For Vaishali S, who recently became the first Indian designer to be featured at Milan Fashion Week, choosing art and design collector Shalini Passi, too, “made absolute sense”. Shalini is a longtime patron and supporter of the brand. “I truly believe in Vaishali’s designs and have worn and supported them for years now. Her clothes are artistic and beautifully designed. Therefore, it was an absolute pleasure and honor to be the star for her. The dress was specifically designed with me in mind and was truly flawless,” says Passi.

Shalini Passi’s final outfit was designed with her in mind. (Photo: Shalini Passi)

She also asks a sobering question when it comes to whether this change of showstopper is a seasonal “trend”, or here to stay: “Bollywood celebrities as showstoppers have lost the novelty for some, but there are others who are still quite enamored by Bollywood Surely it hits a lot of eyeballs but are those eyeballs relevant in today’s times, that is the question. further: “Since the whole purpose of fashion is inclusiveness and not a targeted audience, it’s refreshing to see people from other walks of life as stars. The era (of Bollywood celebrities) is not over, I think, but there is room for positive and inclusive change.

“Fashion belongs to fashion”

On the last day of LFW, one fashion week constant went for another. As designer Rohit Bal made her runway debut, after years of presenting her collection at LFW, as the star of Abhishek Sharma. The decision was emotionally driven, Sharma shares, given that he is Bal’s protege and has worked under him for a decade. “I decided it could only be him. And Rohit also immediately accepted. Bal, too, praised Sharma and his “really, really special talent” in a exclusive interaction with Chef Suvir Saran for post the show.

Sharma also says that the public is much more aware of the fashion industry beyond its contours, and that “it doesn’t make sense to do something for the sake of it. Fashion belongs to fashion. Having masters in their own fields gives your work a stamp of approval adds credibility to the whole thing.

While the motivation and inspiration for choosing their muse differs for each designer and collection, Varun Bahl’s concluding statement seems to ring true for this changing form of Indian Fashion Weeks showstoppers: “Change is going to be the only constant now. People will come up with new and more innovative ideas. Otherwise, everything will be so banal and predictable.

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