Wrap-around skirts, accessorized with an off-shoulder top and bead jewellery, may still be a ‘fashion statement’ and a ‘sign of the rebel’ in many parts of India but for the people of North East India, these items have formed a part of their traditional wardrobe since ages. The modern day wrap-around skirt draws its inspiration from, among other sources, the traditional costumes of women of various tribes in the region. Beads and other funky jewellery were traditionally used by the people living even in the remote hills of the region.
And today, even in the modern fashion scenario the North East is making news. So, what explains that the region is seeing a ‘fashion boom’ only now? Dipankar Dutta, of CEC? However, begs to differ, “Shillong was adjusted the second most fashionable city in the country 15 years ago by India Today magazine survey. International bands like ‘Michael Learns to Rock’, ‘Air Supply’ and ‘Scorpions’ give many metros the miss to perform in Shillong. It’s just that the region is more visible in the conventional sense now.”
He should know. For he was behind the successful Assam Bangkok Fashion Week, ‘Parampara’, held in 2006, the Thai capital to showcase the fabrics and designs of the region. His group has been organising ‘Assam Fashion Week’ annually. The enthusiastic response the event has been generating speaks volumes for popularity of fashion-related shows in Assam. As Dutta points out, “We can now watch a fashion show in Paris or Milan live sitting in our homes. Similarly, activities in the fashion industry in the region are also getting reported more widely.”
On the experience of the fashion show in Bangkok, Dutta recalls, “The show was a major success as the designers of the region mixed home-grown fabrics and patterns with westernised cuts and designs.” Though the show was on a non-commercial basis and no sale was undertaken, it fetched a few orders for the Assamese fabrics from the Thai audience. “The commercial aspect has to be dealt at the official level; our aim was to showcase the fabric, pattern and design of the region in accordance with global demand,” he says.
Accommodating the new age look in exclusive fabrics of the region, with its indigenous patterns and designs, seems to be the new formula for hitting the bull’s eye in the fashion market of the designers of the region. Be it the ‘gamocha’ (traditional towel) featured as a skirt on a leading magazine’s cover or the models flaunting western dresses with North Eastern fabrics in Bangkok, the North East is in the news.
Young designer Debajyoti Sharma adds, “We are getting more openings now. The people in other parts of the country used to associate the North East with jungles, rhinos and Mongoloid featured looks. But perceptions are changing fast for the better.” Dutta’s wife Arunima, a ‘Mrs India World’ runner up, affirms that the fashion industry in the metros had wrong notions about the North East till a few years back.
From Monikangkana Dutta walking the international ramp to other beauties winning top honours in model hunts, the region features in the fashion map of the country. Old favourites like Dipannita Sharma and Tora Khasgir continue to inspire new generations. While Dipannita became a popular name with her stint on the small as well as silver screen, a former Gladrags mega model Tora went on to win the Best Asian-Model of the World, 2002, title at an international beauty pageant in Beirut. She also played striking cameo roles in movies like Pyar Mein Kabhi Kabhi and Dillagi.
Photographer Manoj Deka, associated with the field for more than a decade, observes a sea change in confidence of the local girls while facing the camera. “Earlier, girls preferred traditional attires and a subdued look. Today they are at ease posing in bold western outfits. Even the traditional dresses are worn in newer way.”
Not just the youth, the region now has a number of popular annual contests for married couples and women. Even the make-up and hair dressing competitions are tremendously popular as winning one easy recognition to the new entrants.
This year in 4th Assam Fashion Week’2008 there was much more opportunities to new and talented Fashion Designers of this region because the CEC have invited Garments Buyers from all over the country and made interactive sessions followed by many Seminars in Beauty, Makeup, Modeling, Fashion Entrepreneurship and competition in various fields including “Designers Contest” in the theme of Global Warming.
This was also a good move by CEC because we people should know to make utilized the big make in Fashion Industry.