There was a time not too long ago when menswear designers were forced to make women’s clothes to stay afloat, when slim-fit shirts and pink wasn’t something “normal” men wore and when shopping for shirts and trousers was something mothers and wives did.
Now New Delhi, after only Paris and Milan, will have a dedicated menswear fashion week. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. Indian men have never been more experimental in their clothing choices, and designers and corporate firms are so confident about the high-end men’s fashion segment that a three-day event will be kicked off on 11 September. The Van Heusen India Mens Week (VHIMW) 2009 will feature 28 leading, upcoming, and debutant fashion designers who will showcase everything from sherwanis and bandhgalas, to skinny suits, blazers, sports jackets, slim trousers, shirts, bags and shoes.
Ravi Bajaj: Black textured jacket, approx. Rs15,000.
“Men are no longer satisfied with three trousers and six shirts. They want a complete wardrobe with separate clothes for work and parties. They want several pairs of sunglasses, shoes and watches,” says designer Ravi Bajaj, who is known for his classic-but-with-a-twist menswear designs. Bajaj’s collection at VHIMW will have colours such as black, aubergine, ivory and “camel gold” and will include crafted jamavar trousers, velvet shirts and jackets with in-built scarves.
“In recent years, there’s been a radical shift from the gender stereotyping that fashion is not male,” says designer David Abraham of the Abraham and Thakore label. “Earlier, men would ask for a white shirt, now they want a white slim-fit shirt with a dart in the back or pintucks,” he adds. Designer Narendra Kumar estimates that the big change in what men want in their wardrobes started about three years ago when the designer menswear market shifted from wedding purchases and occasion wear to shirts, jackets and trousers for work and evenings out. He says he has witnessed a four-fold increase in the sales of his menswear in the last few years. Most of Kumar’s shirts are cut slim, featuring interesting details and innovative snaps and hooks instead of buttons. “Earlier, men had settled into the baggy look and were not so easily acceptable of change. The slim fit took a while to catch on, but now that it has, there’s no stopping it.” For his upcoming collection, his sportswear-inspired aesthetic is still very much in place.
The changing dynamics of social interaction in cities has been one of the main factors for men wanting to expand the variety in their wardrobes. Dedicated men’s magazines, the entry of luxury and high street fashion brands and, more importantly, Bollywood also get credit.
Rahul Khanna, of the designer label Cue, calls the slim fit the biggest change and innovation in the menswear segment. And there’s no restrictions these days when it comes to choosing colours or fabrics. Khanna says purple was a big rage last winter and Cue sold men’s garments in every shade of purple. “Men are now wearing pink shirts even to office, which would have never happened even till recently,” he says. Cue, which will share the ramp for the finale at VHIMW with Ashish Soni, has designed shoes in bright colours. Also on the drawing board: suits with bold prints, dropped crotch pants in denim and canvas, “treggings”, which are a cross between trousers and leggings, and printed man bags. Colours will include bright red and green.
Delhi-based designer Rajvi Mohan’s line will have block-printed tees and bright fun colours such as purple, pink and yellow, while Nitin Bal Chauhan’s line will have fluorescent and glow-in-the-dark T-shirts, and batik prints on denim jeans. Gaurav Gupta, known for his draped designs in women’s wear, will show colours such as grey, blues and pinks, with neon green as a highlight; quirky prints featuring everyday objects will be seen, as well as a lot of panelling and draping in trousers and shirts. Gupta says trouser and jacket lengths will be shorter than normal.
However, for some, the road to change has been long. Ashish Soni, one of the few designers who started his career by designing only menswear, says it was a tough task trying to change mindsets in a market that had no concept of ready-made clothes for men. “Men bought branded fabric and took it to their tailors to turn into shirts, pants and suits,” he says. “Income levels were low, the market was limited and there was absolutely no way you could make money by being a menswear designer,” he says. As branded fabric makers (such as Raymond) moved to ready-made clothes, it gave a boost to designers like him. After a collection dominated by red, plum and gold at Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week in March, Soni’s collection at VHIMW is aimed at the young, fit Indian male, a B-school graduate who is climbing the corporate ladder. The line will feature skinny looks in shades of black and blue, but with bursts of colour.
(left)Fightercock: Purple felt multi-pocketed jacket, approx. Rs12,950. Manoj Verma / Mint. (right) Abraham and Thakore : Navy shirt with ikat embroidery, Rs5,500. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
Samant Chauhan, who debuted with an award-winning menswear collection in 2005, says it is only now that he has started receiving orders from designerwear retail stores for the collection he designed in 2005. A few years ago he was forced to design clothes for women because menswear was not profitable, but he now sells only menswear in India.
For VHIMW, his collection will feature innovations such as removable trim on shirts, trousers and jackets, detachable collars and cuffs, and denim-like twill fabric made on a handloom. Designer Manoviraj Khosla too has played up the lapels of jackets in his VHIMW collection. He says he has opened them out or made them stand up. There will be fitted short jackets with pleated and ruched textures and bags with prints matching the clothes.
As designer Rajesh Pratap Singh puts it, “Soon the man who’ll wear a classic pinstripe suit will become the minority.”
Ravi Bajaj, Fightercock and Abraham and Thakore’s garments, which have been created for VHIMW, will be available in stores in March. Ashish Soni’s garments will be available in stores from this month.