Had Fabels been a Westernwear collection from any other lifestyle retailer, it could have been sized up simply by saying it is good in parts—some finely tailored men’s shirts and jackets in linen or Khadi (menswear clearly scores here), a few attractive womenswear pieces and printed tie-up sandals do make a point.

But Fabels is from Fabindia, one of the first (established in 1960) market endeavours to revitalize handmade that would go on to create lifestyle solutions inspired from the Indian way of life. Anything new from Fabindia needs directional interventions that stand out as well as enhance its own story. Launched earlier this week, Fabels, which includes structured jackets, crop tops, palazzos, trousers, shirts, skirts, dresses, bags, beaded shoes, scarves and jewellery, falls short in that sense.

In process, provenance, use of fabrics and a purist ideology, it is uniquely positioned compared to other mass retailers that also offer Westernwear. But when compared to the work of some younger Indian designers re-exploring and innovating within the handmade, handwoven vocabulary for Western garments—Fabels may find itself challenged.

So when the collection’s designer Alistair Blair, clutching a Chikankari white shirt, confessed how overwhelmed he was by multiple block-printing and weaving, saying that “India should be proud of this…," it was like a storyteller claiming that the Panchatantra was new.

The good stuff

Black and white printed Chanderi sari shirts using the interface between a sari field and its pallu are nice, as are the three-button gauze linen jackets for men. We loved a floral red-orange-beige Khadi jacket for women with Kantha work. Fabels is a structurally easy and clean line. It resists overt decoration, emphasizing content and the way clothes are made.

The not-so-good

The jewellery is unexceptional, as are the canvas and leather shoes. The accessories need a refreshing approach. The shorter black skirts for women too seemed odd in silhouette, prompting the question: Who will wear these?

Talk plastic

Priced at 990-5,990, Fabels will be retailed through shop-in-shop models at 10 Fabindia stores in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai, followed by Pune, Chandigarh and Goa later in the year. The collection will be replenished every six weeks or so.

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