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Undoubtedly, Diwali is the most popular festival in India. Going by the sheer numbers who celebrate it, it's probably the biggest in all of South Asia. Such is our love for the five-day festival that our festivities usually begin a month before, around Navratri, and continue all season.
Of course, the festival of lights is connected with dressing up our homes with diyas, dressing up our plates with Indian sweets and dressing ourselves so elaborately that we can seriously compete with The Great Indian Wedding even when there isn't one. Indian festivals are especially unique in this — our sense of festival fashion evolves entirely on its own might, away from runway diktats or high-street trends.
It is deeply rooted in our cultural sensibilities so intensely that even the biggest European fashion houses — otherwise totally disconnected with Indian customs —celebrate Diwali with us.
It probably all began when Louis Vuitton dressed up its windows at its Champs Elysees store with Diwali lights two years ago. Other luxury labels decided to partake of the festivities too. British giant Burberry has released a collection of its signature trench coats in a beautiful gold patina, and a selection of bags and shoes to match.
Tod's of Italy has brought out a truly spectacular Diwali D-bag. It's an opulently printed wonder that
I'm told they have only two pieces of. How's that for limited edition?
Last week, I was a guest of Pinky Reddy in Hyderabad's longest dining table — at the Taj Falaknuma. The only thing that dared to take my attention away from the jaw-dropping beauty of the premises was the style quotient of the other women on Reddy's guest-list. Amala, Elahe Heptoolah, Vinita Pittie, Asmita Marwa and several other Hyderabadi women who personified the idea of celebration. "Of course," said a friend next to me, "Hyderabadis are the Punjabis of the South." Almost each lady wore a Sabyasachi sari (including the hostess), a jewellery set that I'd only wear to a family wedding, and fresh flowers in the hair.
Sabyasachi's template of mixing textures and prints may be going through an overkill, making clones of all of us. But simply irresistible are his newest line of vintage clutches. With delicate gold and peal embroidery, these take any simple kurta (or even a basic LBD) to fashionable places. Team it with his brocade and zardozi hairbands.
Manish Malhotra is the name on everyone's lips these days. Much of this has to do with Kareena Kapoor's wedding, where he dressed up the bride and her friends and family. Malhotra is also riding the wave of the anarkali silhouette — he's layered it, turned it into a floor-sweeping gown and brought amazing contemporary touches to it which have found fans in Madhuri Dixit-Nene and Karisma Kapoor.
Manish Arora, on the other hand, has collaborated with Rajasthani jewellery label Amrapali to bring us some fun and colourful baubles in traditional avatars. A bridal haath-phool is made with a bright pink dragon, and a kada has two tiger heads. There are maang tikkas, earrings and necklaces served with a twist.
This line was also shown by Arora at his Paris Fashion Week Spring-Summer show.
I don't think we've ever seen such playfulness with saris either. The beautiful Indian drape refuses to fade away, constantly reinventing itself for the young and avant-garde.
Designer Suman Bajaj is the newest to toy with the sari; his comes with a handy inbuilt pocket. "I like to surprise my clients by fulfilling an unrecognised requirement, and giving them something they only realise they need once it's available," she says in an interview to a magazine.
Varun Bahl's T-shirt saris are a personal favourite — it's usually a lightly embroidered sari with an embroidered T-shirt in net and lycra. If this doesn't promise to light up our closets (and lighten our wallets), nothing else will.