Sep 30, 2009
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'Hint of India' comes to Milan catwalk

Sep 30, 2009

MILAN, Italy, Sept 30, 2009 (AFP) - A "subtle hint of India" whispered down a catwalk here on Wednesday 30 September as collections by Indian designers Azara and Atsu were showcased in Milan Fashion Week's "new upcoming designers" section.

Photo: AFP/Giuseppe Cacace

Alpana Chauhan, who launched the Azara line with her husband Neeraj in 2004, said her "fusion" styles "maintain a subtle hint of India in clothes that you can wear without feeling too ethnic."

Both Azara and Atsu propose Indian fabrics and techniques -- tie dye, batik, embroidery, intricate beading -- adapted to a global market.

"It's a matter of keeping the Indianness in terms of treatment... but in terms of wear, we keep it global," said Chauhan, 30, noting that the collection's traditional bridal kundan jewellery ornaments provide "just subtle bursts of colour."

Atsu Sekhose agrees: "The silhouettes are adaptations, to make them more modern, more comfortable."

Thus loose pants based on the dhoti zip closed instead of using the traditional string tie; a dress with draping like that of a sari is "not over the top," says Sekhose, 32.

Chauhan and her husband, who met while studying at the National Institute of Fashion Technology in their native New Delhi, began with wedding dresses and party gowns before branching out to casual outfits.

The collection they unveiled Wednesday 30 September included a babydoll dress printed with a stylised Jodhpur bird and a neckline recalling a Maharajah's jacket in broad strokes.

"We keep it fresh and soft, breezy," she said.

Asked about providing the market with more revealing clothes than traditionally found in India, Chauhan said: "There's a thin line between something being sensual or vulgar. We do have plunging necklines, but they're not screaming for attention."

Both designers vary their styles for particular markets.

"The Middle East market wants longer lengths, for example," said Sekhose, also a product of the NIFT.

He launched Atsu in 2007 for the domestic Indian market -- where he has also had to cater for different tastes.

"In India there are lots of diverse tastes," said Sekhose, 32, who comes from India's remote northeastern Nagaland hill state.

"Delhi is a showoff city, they like to wear bling; Bombay is more Western, more revealing; down south in Chennai (or) Bangalore it's a different market."

Overall, though, "Fashion is really booming in India," he said. "Fashion is new to us."by Gina Doggett

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