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Bengali Style Emerges

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Indian Designer Anamika Khanna's Outfit
Bengali Style Emerges
30 th May 2012

With the rise of fashion designers like Sabyasachi Mukherjee and Anamika Khanna, Kolkata has become home to the fashion industry's modern-day revivalists of traditional styles. Their success has prompted other designers from the region to focus on making clothes that have traditional elements but with a modern twist – a kind of Bengal School of Fashion. Sabyasachi Mukherjee showed his first collection in 2002, at the Lakmé India Fashion Week, with his collection, Kashgar Bazaar. Full of beautiful block printing, artsy patchwork and intense colors, the clothes had an organic sensibility, and the models carried books and wore reading glasses as accessories. By contrast, most other designers at the time were busy focusing on glitter and glamor. Today, Mr. Mukherjee, 38, is one of India’s most successful designers, with annual revenue of 610 million rupees (about $11 million) last year. Actors like Rani Mukherjee (no relation), Aishwarya Rai, Vidya Balan and Kangana Ranaut often wear Mr. Mukherjee’s creations to red carpet events. He has stand-alone stores in Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai, with another in Hyderabad in the coming months, and he is also planning to open a store in London next year. Ms. Khanna, who started her career in the mid-1990s without any formal fashion training, likewise eschewed flamboyance in favor of tradition. At both Ensemble and Evoluzione, the leading high fashion retailers in India, Ms. Khanna’s clothes almost always sell out. “She is one of the top three designers at all stores,” says Atul Malhotra, founder of Evoluzione. In Evoluzione’s 5,000-square- foot store in Delhi, almost a quarter of the retail space is dedicated to Ms. Khanna’s label. Anupama Dayal, a designer who is from Kolkata, has been based in Delhi for 28 years but travels to her hometown for the gorgeous embroideries that state produces. In particular, all her kantha (a technique based on the running stitch, originally from West Bengal) and parsi gara (a threadwork embroidery technique that has Chinese inspirations) come from there.

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