Recession isn’t hip, but it is happening. And if there is one thing that is on top of the designers’ minds, it is the slide in the US economy. Not just in New York, but in faraway Milan and Paris, designers have focused on the essential rather than the extravagant. While baroque splendour is out, simple yet exciting collections like Raf Simons for Jil Sanders have earned applause for their socially relevant work.
That might be a reason why, when designer Rajesh Pratap Singh took his latest spring-summer 2009 collection to the runway at the Paris Fashion Week on Sunday, the simplicity and the easy charm of it worked on the Parisians. “This was our second show at Paris and we had decided to keep things as minimal as possible. We had concentrated on making the clothes wearable and when the show ended, the reaction was spontaneous,” says Sapna Mehra, Pratap’s business partner and sister-in-law, who has just got back to India after the show. The designer, who is still in Paris for the sales session, is equally happy with the way things have shaped up. “I have always believed in making clothes which are not loud or in your face. Like always, I concentrated on the structure, but I deliberately kept the clothes simple. I wasn’t sure if the audience would get it, but the response has made me happy. Considering that business is slow this year, the orders have been good,” he says.
The focus of Singh’s collection has been a play on fabrics such as cotton and organza. “The whole onus has been on making a contrast between sheerness and opacity. He has worked with counts of cotton which he used to construct drapes that emphasise the difference,” says Mehra. Singh’s palette, too, has shown a marked departure from his usual pastels or, more recently, reds. For his Paris showing, Singh has worked with bright corals, deep pinks, fuchsias, graphite greys, even ecrus. One of the highlights of this year’s collection is the way Singh has blended in seemingly obsequious tailoring elements like seams into embellishments. He has also done his own range of accessories that include chunky jewellery that highlight the tonal contrasts and shoes in transparent leather and acrylic. “Though we sell the shoes, I wasn’t planning on marketing the jewellery. But it seems to have gone down well with the buyers because we have received several queries. I think we might sell it now,” says Singh.
Singh’s show was attended by his regular international clients like Maria Luisa and his newfound admirers, Armand and Michael Hadida of the Tranoi Fair, where he will be participating next. From India, those present included Aman Nath and Francis Wacziarg of Neemrana and fashion stylist, Sujata Assomull.