Paris in India and India in Paris

Untitled design-22

If designers are philosophers then the humble fabric and the extraordinary craftsmanship on it can be considered fine art. After all, there’s something more than imagination that is woven on couture which is the ultimate art of handmade luxury. You find hundreds of unspoken stories and narratives beneath the embroideries that foreground Indian fashion. When Bridelan, a luxury wedding styling service based in Mumbai, decided to collaborate with House on the Clouds, among India’s finest wedding photographers and filmmakers, they found creative expression in Indian couture, whose exquisite texture, themes and storytelling and exceptional stylistic innovations is pushing the boundaries of what it means to be fashion-forward.

Photographed by Siddharth Sharma and Vivek Kashyap of the luxury wedding photography brand House On the Clouds

“I’m an observer of fashion and I am always curious to know how designers think and the way they bring certain collections to life. Recently, haute couture has touched a very fascinating core of designers attempting to give the creators, artisans and embroideries their place of pride — whether it is Maison Schiaparelli’s Haute Couture fall winter 2023 collection or India’s very own Rahul Mishra. It is an admirable gesture on the part of these great designers to acknowledge the under-appreciated talents of our highly skilled artisans,” says Nisha Kundnani, founder of the bridal styling service that has been working to elevate Indian fashion at a global stage for more than a decade.

Styling and Creative Direction by Bridelan with team, senior stylist Soraya D’Souza and stylist Aditi Abhijit

“We, the people” — the Rahul Mishra Couture Fall 2023 collection unveiled at Paris Haute Couture Week last year — was a love letter to the efforts of his karigars and creators. We are even more excited to see what he’s up to this year at Paris Fashion Week. As Mishra, who has been conferred with the prestigious Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, put it at that time, “The finest creator, God must be an embroiderer.” Reverie Francaise, as the collaboration between Bridelan and House on the Clouds is titled, showcases one of Rahul Mishra’s most sumptuous pieces — what the designer has called ‘Noir Karigar’ from We, The People collection. “We wanted to keep the mood easy and effortless, almost like a second skin. But the extra edge was coming in from the craft of the clothes. Bridelan and we have a similar sense of fashion aesthetic and I was deeply involved in curating the looks. The Rahul Mishra look really did it for me,” says Siddharth Sharma, founder of House on the Clouds.

Talent: Ilona Van Den Arend with Debora Wagatsuma from agency Mademoiselle, Paris

Reverie Francaise also features Anamika Khanna’s handmade designs, Lebanese fashion designer Georges Hobeika and Alexis Mabille who also showed at the Paris Haute Couture Week 2023. “I think what comes naturally to me is authenticity,” adds Kundnani. “As an editorial and luxury stylist I have grown up learning from masters of styling like Grace Coddington and that’s how I have found my own voice. For me, craft is extremely important. The extravagance and maturity of a garment lies in the detailing of how beautifully it is imagined, woven and embroidered.”

Makeup & Hair artist Akiko Kawano from Paris created an au natural and effortless look

For Reverie Francaise, both Kundnani and Siddharth Sharma of House on the Clouds admit that the old-world romance of Paris was the starting point for their collaboration. They wanted to explore the artistic opulence of the French capital. “We needed that grand maximal look where Indian and French couture could feel at home and blend seamlessly. We shot at historical museums like Musee du Louvre, Musee Rodin and Palais Galliera which offered us a rich architectural backdrop that contrasted beautifully with almost painterly-like details of the Indian garments. For example, when we were shooting the brocade Anamika Khanna couture jacket at Palais Galliera, I felt the most powerful sentiment of being India proud. That jacket in such an exotic setting felt so fitting — the model Ilona ven den Arend who wore it looked like a piece of museum sculpture,” notes Kundnani. Incidentally, the Netherlands native, Paris- based Ilona Van Den Arend is a devout fan of “India and Bollywood.”

Designers: Anamika Khanna, Rahul Mishra, Georges Hobeika, Alexis Mabille, Twinkle Hanspal. Accessories: Christian Louboutin, Diosa Paris and House of Shikha

The material of the Khanna jacket that Ilona wore is called Kim Khwab. Anamika Khanna, who’s one of the undisputed icons of Indian fashion hailing from Kolkata (a city steeped in a strong sense of nostalgia and a knowing whiff of the past) tells us, “I have a love for everything that is Indian in its modernity.” The beauty of the handmade, she further observed, “is getting rarer. One feels a sense of anguish at each piece with intensity. Even though everything has its origin from the past, it is set in today’s context which is fierce fashion. The collection is about love, freedom and a personal collaboration with art.”

How did Sharma of House on the Clouds and Kundnani of Bridelan come up with the title Reverie Francaise? It seems it was Sharma who conjured it. “I wanted to keep the name easy but still give it some edge. So it came from the very idea of Parisians and their way of life. Their sense of enjoying life, every moment of it, to be involved, to dream, and much more. Their idea of leisure is just so satisfying to watch and learn from,” shares the official wedding photographer of such top Bollywood nuptials as Alia Bhatt-Ranbir Kapoor, Kiara Advani-Siddharth Malhotra and more recently Parineeti Chopra-Raghav Chadha.

“How does one describe the feeling of the mood beforehand,” asks Sharma. “One can’t. I was lucky to find that ‘feeling’ simply because Paris just gave it to me. Everyone in the team shared similar energy and zeal to create and that was a point of inspiration as well. And then I let things flow.”

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