Live music, drama ramping up entertainment quotient in fashion shows | The Financial Express

Live music, drama ramping up entertainment quotient in fashion shows

The ramp has also become a theatrical set and designers are capitalising on live music and costumes that follow a strong narrative.

Live music, drama ramping up entertainment quotient in fashion shows
Siddartha Tytler’s show at India Couture Week had an oriental inspiration, with dragons, clowns and landscaping from China

A bizarre costume or dramatic makeup is not the only thing accentuating a fashion show these days. Be it elaborate set designs, art installations, live music or entertainment, fashion designers are breaking out of their mould and getting innovative with their shows.

Today, fashion shows are bolder and experimental in design and execution. The ramp has also become a theatrical set and designers are capitalising on live music and costumes that follow a strong narrative. The more intense the music and design philosophy, the better it resonates with the audience and the designer’s story around his or her collection.

Music to the rescue

For pianist Sahil Vasudeva, live music is like a film which has to be in sync with the concept and direction, the highs and lows, the crescendo and tension points of a show. “Live music can infuse energy in a fashion show and connect with the audience. It works like a soul in an act which recorded sound cannot replace,” says Vasudeva, who caresses the keys of his piano for shows to bring Indian and western tunes alive.

Vasudeva, who played at JJ Valaya’s show at the India Couture Week earlier in July, synced melodious music with the origin of the designer’s embroidered sarees and belted sherwanis. Keeping in mind Valaya’s season collection ‘Alma’, which means ‘soul’ in Spanish, the story behind every piece was an overlaying inspiration of Spain in traditional motifs, floral hair buns, costumes of the matadors in short jackets, the motifs on the manton shawl or the patterns of the hand fan called pericon dramatically interwoven with Indian craft and embroidery techniques. For this rendition, Vasudeva transcribed the scores of Spanish virtuoso pianist, composer Isaac Manuel Francisco Albéniz y Pascual, one of the foremost composers of the post-Romantic era, best known for his piano works based on Spanish folk music idioms.

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Designer Dolly J, who introduced live jazz singer Shreya Bhattacharya, dressed in a customised gown and red lips, much to complement her design philosophy in rich western silhouettes and Indian embroideries, also feels fashion shows are a visual narrative of the aesthetics and ideology of a brand. The setup at the show was all in red and dramatic, and had tables set up like a Parisian café. “Live singing sets the mood, and music has the power to transport the audience into a different era in time. Our singer provided the authentic experience of a 90’s New York jazz bar, a complete immersion into the glamorous nostalgia of the time. The music accentuates the walk it accompanies, it ebbs and flows with every movement, and in doing so it brings out the intricacies of the garment. We wanted to highlight the beauty of the show and collective experience with our set and sound for the evening,” says Dolly J.

All set for more

The entertainment quotient goes a notch high with art and enthralling set designs. Puma returned to New York Fashion Week in September this year with a ‘Futrograde’ show that combines fashion, music and sports. The show looked at the brand’s heritage blending 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 significant for us because we knew we needed the right combination of factors to be present. With an emphasis on digital, a great line-up of ambassadors and an amazing creative partner in June Ambrose, the foundation and creativity for a great show are there. And we’re excited that this can be the moment for us to bring it to life,” says Adam Petrick, chief brand officer of Puma.

On an average, all the glitz and glamour, over 30-50 ensembles, music and ramp design can cost from `30 lakh to `1 crore depending on the designers’ budget. However, a set design is like an artwork that can transform the space into something immersive and beautiful. It can be employed to elicit a mood, an illusion, or a thought. Runway set design can be as creative as the designers want it to be.

“It can be one who strives to imagine settings or bring someone else’s philosophy to life and apply it. Scenic, theatrical, and stage design are all different terms used to describe set design. But what is most important is it should be functional for the purpose it serves. These days set designers use technology like lights, graphics, multimedia effects,” says Mahesh Kumar Sharma, who has designed sets for the last 20 years for designer like Sabyasachi, JJ Valaya, Tarun Tahiliani, Suneet Varma, Anju Modi, Manish Malhotra, Anamika Khanna and more.

Beyond runways

Designers are now taking their shows to locations beyond runways to give an extra edge and oomph. In the past, US fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff has had stellar performances making her shows look like gigs. Janelle Monae, Wild Cub and Little Daylight are among a few artistes who have taken the makeshift stage. But the first, back in 2012, is still the best to date—American rapper Theophilus London performed his hit I Stand Alone while models tried —and endearingly failed—to resist the urge to dance.

Similarly, in May, Chanel’s Cruise 2023 show was organised on a beach in Monte Carlo to present the season’s cruise collection with models walking in Chanel’s monogrammed heels on sand. The look was inspired by the cosmopolitan beach lifestyle of Monaco and Chanel’s history in silhouettes with swimsuits, sequins, and ensembles.

Some of the best breakout performances have stood the test of time by performing live and walking the catwalk. Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, and Christy Turlington Burns together at Versace’s Fall 1991 catwalked and grooved to George Michael’s Freedom! ’90. Pop star Dua Lipa walked at Versace’s fall 2021 besides other celebrity faces like Madonna, Elton John, and Lady Gaga.

From designer Jeremy Scott, creative director for Moschino presenting his spring/summer 2021 collection in a puppet show format, to Dolce & Gabbana’s Alta Moda show that marks the 10th anniversary of Alta Moda this year, ramp shows are also bringing a narrative. The Sicily show of Dolce & Gabbana was a tell-tale of an ancient Greek theatre staged with Italian composer Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, a 19th-century one act opera.

Meanwhile, designer Rahul Mishra’s explicit wearable art couture in 3D embroidery on billowing silhouettes not only makes him a champion of slow fashion with traditional Indian crafts but the first Indian designer to showcase at the Paris Haute Couture Week in 2020. His interpretations are large and monumental sculptural silhouettes. The Shape of Air, a collection at Couture Fall 2021/22, is a recreation of couture showing the Aegean Sea, blue sky through the streets of Santorini. Also, the cityscape, the architecture that is unique to the city, rendered in silken threads like Lego blocks fixed atop a volcanic rock in his design sense and creative show.

A fabulous spectacle that was worth watching was by designer Amit Aggarwal, who chose to convert an auditorium inside Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium into a fashion runway for his show at FDCI’s India Couture Week 2022. His show had the audience sit around the stage and models moved down the aisle on lingering music sounds.

Similarly, Varun Bahl’s show titled ‘New Leaf’ was literally a nature walk with décor and dress taking elements from the wilderness of the forests—floral embroideries, rich fabrics, and classic upcycled patchwork.

Another one was a potpourri of Indian culture by designer Anju Modi in her bling and floral designs. But this time it brought an innovation. The show was a walk-in ramp for audience and models, where all four sides of the room were used in the backdrop for a screen presentation of different travel destinations in India. There was no chair to sit down on. The audience walked along the ramp covered with rocks, pine trees and running videos of Kashmir Valley, mountains on screen with models who looked like an art installation inside the room.

For designers, 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 over 30 million followers on social media, industry experts are capitalising on the new-age showstoppers for the season.

Post-pandemic scene

Such acts have now become a common feature of fashion shows, especially since the pandemic, as fashion houses think of more ways to be creative. Storytelling is another technique that encompasses set design, couture, and models. Designer duo Falguni and Shane Peacock have collections influenced by the rich French tapestries and artworks from the Renaissance period. So, the colour palette of the collection ranges from champagne ivory, pale blush, pink parfait, old rose to metallic stone green, gilded gold, and opal whites. Embellished face veils have made women models turn like dolls dressed up in opera-and-fairy-like-gowns.

Blame the pandemic for keeping us away from engrossing and live gigs in the last two years, physical fashion shows are now a welcome change for the fraternity, upping the fun and glamour quotient and moreover, restoring buyer confidence. “It’s true that we have been away from physical shows for more than two years. But live acts are always welcoming. With emotion, creativity and 

experimentation — all on runways, the touch and feel of the product is necessary which gives designers a push to create more and in return the buyers are also happy,” says Sunil Sethi, chairman of the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI), a non-profit independent association of fashion designers.

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First published on: 06-11-2022 at 01:15 IST