By Hani Taha Salim Delhi
Weddings are a crucial aspect of the subcontinental social life and hence by default an important facet of fashion-perhaps the only genre of fashion that trickles down to all strata of society. In spite of the fact that Pakistan’s only award platform the Lux Style Awards have discarded the Bridal Couture category and inadvertently chosen form over embellishment as a discerning feature for designers, Bridal wear still remains huge in terms of the business and the social impact that it generates for the fashion industry as a whole. As India gears up for its annual bridal event in September, Instep Today speaks to Divya Kapoor Gurwara, the force behind the glittering and wedding extravaganza that is ‘Bridal Asia’ that serves as the most important benchmark for bridal wear designers in the region on how she manages to keep tradition and ritual alive in the face of contemporary fashion.
Instep Today: What was the impetus for starting ‘Bridal Asia’?
Divya Gurwara: There was a serious lacuna in the space of bridal and festive fashion in India and the subcontinent when we started 12 years back. Hence when the idea germinated, we initiated the concept of getting designers from across the borders on board with us and integrate them with the Indian designers and present them together in Bridal Asia. The concept and the event took off immediately. Besides the similarity that we share in terms of a common cultural heritage, weddings are important events in our lives. Designers from Pakistan and Bangladesh were welcome with open arms by a very receptive audience, and the formula has worked without a hitch over the years.
Instep Today: What’s the objective of the show?
DG: Bridal Asia is about bridal trends and fashion forecast on the ramp and off it. We have a wide participating base which extends from across the category from apparel, jewellery, gift wrapping, shoes & accessories to lingerie and chocolate. Each diverse, but yet relevant when it comes to weddings!
The main objective is to bring the “boutique” and premium concept closer to a very discerning audience. The same audience who knows their Vuittons from Bottegas, also know their Sabyasachi from Honey Waqar. My objective is to help bring the “designer” tag closer to my audience that comes from across the country.
Instep Today: How do you manage to keep the show exciting every year?
DG: We at Bridal Asia endeavour to add a new concept, a new element each year. From experimenting with the choreography on the two fashion days, having known personalities walk the ramp, or even have interesting names from across the borders to walk the ramp for us, there is always something to look forward to in our shows. In the exhibition we introduce and experiment with new categories, that would add to the entire “wedding shopping” boutique experience. So from chocolates (Chokola, Paatchi etc ) to linens, accessories and bags, silver gifts ( which are considered very auspicious in Indian weddings) we add a new feature every year. That’s one challenge I love to take up every year!!
Instep Today: What should one watch out for at this year’s Bridal Asia?
DG: Though these are still early days, this season I am most excited about a bunch of young designers making their forays into the festive/bridal line. Their work otherwise have been applauded at fashion weeks and various forums abroad. I am looking forward to their collection and the response they generate. ‘Shimmer’ from Bangalore is one such label. Besides I am also looking forward to Dev r Nil, Anupamaa, Nikasha, Jaya Rathore, Rahul and Gunjan, Ekru, and more. These are talented names who are making new forays. Besides we are doing few experiments on the ramp, which is still too early to talk, but you will get to know in due course!
Yes, also I must add, we are looking forward to Honey’s collection and the “drama” she will unfold on the ramp!
Instep Today: There’s always a section of fashion critics that are derisive of bridal couture and are more inclined towards structural pieces. How do you face such criticism?
DG: At the end of the day, I am Bridal Asia. I don’t fool myself as a platform for avant garde designs and ideas. I am about saleability, about the volume that moves, about the business that my designers/participants generate. That is of utmost concern to me. And honestly speaking so far none have criticised what they see. Maybe because names like Raghuvendra Rathore, Sabyasachi, Pallavi Jaikisan, Falguni and Shane Peacock , Rina Dhaka, etc are names associated with a certain image. Their body of work may be different but at Bridal Asia they are showing bridal fashion. Period. Yes critics are doing their job, but we don’t take it personally!
Instep Today: How much external/regional representation does ‘Bridal Asia’ have? Is there a quota for foreign designers participation?
DG: Bridal Asia started as a forum for designers from across the sub continent. Yes, over the years we have had participation from Bangladesh (Maheen Khan, Aneela Haque etc) and Sri Lanka too. However representation from Pakistan has been consistent, ever since we started rolling. From Faiza Samee, HSY, Karma, Nilofer Shahid, Rizwan Beyg, Maheen Khan, Sonya Battla, Honey Waqar and more, everyone has explored the Bridal Asia platform, and have been warmly received by a favourable media and audience. No, they are no quotas, we go purely by talent and availability.
Instep Today: Would you ever consider doing an Indo-Pak South Asian Bridal Asia show as an ‘Aman Ki Asha’ initiative?
DG: Bridal Asia has had a very successful showing in Pakistan few years back. We brought a contingent of our best names in India and had some great names from Pakistani fashion, share one ramp. You would remember what a rousing, warm welcome we got in Pakistan. We sincerely appreciate the effort put in by our partners and remeber and appreciate the warm hospitality. We would love to do an encore, if someone takes care of sorting the diplomatic and bureaucratic paperwork! There is so much common between the two countries in terms of culture, food and fashion that one can write volumes about it. Aman ki Asha is a great concept, and I can proudly say that we started it first, in our own small way !