Misha Lakhani’s debut last evening was quite the talk of the town; it had fashionistas buzzing with excitement on several accounts of the Lakhani name stepping into fashion, competition for several other high society designers who have been around for years, etc. After spending time with the designer, seeing her vision unravel from a concept store to a professional launch, I have to say that while Misha Lakhani may be privileged to have the financial backing to afford a Central Saint Martins education, a high end boutique (in central Clifton on the same road as Ensemble and Xander’s Café) and a professional debut, she is certainly not looking at fashion as a superficial time-pass. At least it doesn’t seem so by the way she has launched her brand.
After interning with Bunto Kazmi for several months, it was inevitable that tradition would find it’s way into the DNA of this young brand, but in no way does it look inspired. Misha Lakhani does appear to have a passion for tradition – it comes across in the shadow work and taarkashi, the mokash and wasli work, the hand crafted embroideries that she has incorporated in most of her designs – but it does not reflect influences of Bunto Kazmi, Sana Safinaz or any of fashion icons that she is unfairly being compared to.
Misha Lakhani’s first look – and it can’t be called a collection as it’s simply a body of work that she has been assimilating – is contemporary traditional. It starts with very basic (yet precious for the hours spent on hand embroidery) kurtas designed as occasion wear. The hemlines do not skim the floor, the silhouettes are not flaring, which is refreshing. The kurtas are classic and they reveal the brand’s ethos by way of traditional craft paired with a young and fresh perspective.
I do feel that few pieces did look jaded. A fully worked cotton kurta that incorporates several unique stitches and tips over a hefty Rs 30,000, for example, may not be appreciated in today’s ready to wear climate. The anarkali silhouette, no matter how finely made, seems out of sync with modern styles.
What’s exciting about her work – that is already showing signs of developing a signature – is the passion with which she’s re-thinking luxury pret. A column dress with a delicately embellished dupatta wrap, the digital prints that she’s developing in-house, the attention to detailing of finish, motif placement. She’s creating separates that can be linked for unique looks, encouraging the fashion follower to think. That model has been made and practiced in ready to wear but scarcely in luxury/occasion wear where designers prefer to offer ‘set combos’.
But speaking of ready to wear, I do feel that Misha needs to work on a slightly more affordable range. Women looking for occasion wear – and who are already shopping at multi-label boutiques as well as designer-owned stores like Sonya Battla, Sania Maskatiya and Body Focus – expect to find something within the 12,000 rupee price bracket. And they’ll be disappointed to see the prices in this store. If it were an exclusive studio one would understand the philosophy of catering only to a rich clientele but a high street store in a central locale will attract all sorts of buyers and thus needs to cater to all sorts of pockets.
This is a promising beginning for a young designer: a well designed store, an integrated signature running through well-stocked racks, a professional debut organized by a professional agency such as Catwalk and it takes off.
Now, to launch is step one. What one needs to observe with time is a) sustainability: how well stocked the store stays on auto, and b) consequential brand building: how frequent will Misha Lakhani be in participating in fashion weeks, fashion editorials and the brouhaha that is essential to fashion marketing etc? Time will certainly tell where this brand goes but it certainly has taken off in the right direction.
The young designer – with her high end product – does qualify to be ranked amongst other coveted luxury pret designers in the country but time will prove whether she can stay in the ranks or not.