Onam is all about welcoming good times – spending happy moments with family and friends, preparing floral carpets, eating delicious feast and beholding the spirit of the festival in all possible ways, which includes dressing up in the traditional golden-bordered kasavu wear. In every festival, metamorphose happens over the years according to changing perceptions and newfound tastes.
Likewise, Onam fashion sense too has evolved, so much that fashion designers in the state are coming up with fresh and unique awe-inspiring costumes one would never guess that kasavu could inspire. And the new crop of designers proves that traditional Kerala outfits are not just about golden-bordered white garments. From the heavy designs, tradition has taken a switch to comfort and easiness to wear. Gold and creme give way to bright colours atypical to Onam like red and green. Onam fashion this year includes comfort clothing for urban women without compromising on tradition.
Where style, comfort unite
Aikyam (Unity), fashion designer Alka Hari's Onam collection, as the name suggests, is based on the concept of oneness. Her garments speak of style and comfort as two entities that are complete only when combined.
Being an Onam collection, Alka has wisely woven tradition into modern fabrics, a choice of woman today.
The collection has off-white cotton jumpsuits, tunics and dresses with slight embroidery and some with bright borders. It’s a conscious play to highlight various shades of golden colour with a pop of other bright colours, keeping in mind the occasion as well. She has played with silhouettes, including trendy cuts, sleeves and neck patterns yet keeping the prints quite ethnic. The designs are heavily inspired from chrysanthemum flowers abundant during the season.
“All the garments in the collection preserve the taste of tradition and keep up with the trends of the times.
Every wear is a single piece symbolising oneness and an effort to combine the collective thought process of my crew, clients and all the people who have stood by me. A lot of thought has gone into these designs that elaborate on the ease with which one can select matching items that makes for a whole outfit,” she says. Her motto is minimalising the wardrobe space and maximising the getup.
Urban-tradition mix from the phoenix loom
Last year’s Onam was probably the most sorrowful festival times state has ever witnessed. It was a baffling task to bring the flood-hit state back to normal.
Fashion industry too suffered a hard blow when Chendamangalam village, popular for its handloom products was water-logged for three days, entirely destroying the looms and garments stocked for Onam sale. However, a year later, rising from the misery, the village has marched ahead of the disastrous times, taking the traditional language of Kerala handloom to a global arena.
Fashion designer Sreejith Jeevan has collaborated with Chendamangalam weavers to create an Onam collection in his label Rouka, which, he says, is an ode to a modern Kerala.
A show he organised in association with the Cochin Yacht Club saw 21 models of different age group and size wearing ensembles made from color mundu.
“Through this collection, we try to look at Kerala handloom in an urban context and embrace the idea of dressing up real women. Our designs stand true to their values and style,” he says.
The collection plays up on the mindset of the woman of today. Sreejith elaborates, “Though celebrations evolve with time, the current lifestyle and culture of Malayalis co-exist with the age-old customs and traditions. The urban woman connects her tradition to the present and instead of leaving them in old trunks, lives up to the times. Our collection this year is about picking what we want out of this age.”
Silver lining in the golden cloud
Designer Bindu Nair’s Ela has always embraced simple and classy designs that match the outlook of urban women. This Onam, her soft hand-woven kasavu sarees with silver borders seamlessly blend tradition with modern day taste.
Here, the traditional kasavu design comes without any motifs or patterns. Bindu says, “We are merely selecting traditional handloom kasavus for the Onam Edit. As far as the regular collection goes, we have an understated aesthetic, which we want to continue in our Onam Edit by sticking to the gold and silver kasavu.”
Seeds and flowers of nostalgia
Like every year, this time too, actor-designer Poornima Indrajith strives to reflect nostalgia through drapes. Her designer label Pranaah has come up with the Onam collection Chethi Manjadi that makes you relive your blissful and carefree years of childhood when kids used to collect manjadi seeds and in groups, pluck chethi flowers for the floral carpets. The highlight and novelty of Poornima’s collection is that the trims and the buttons are real manjadi in some of the garments along with hand-embroidered kunnikkuru duppatta. The traditional lehenga with embroidered red and gold chethi flowers on off-white handloom skirts is styled with an off-white blouse with kunnikkuru detailing on the neckline and matching embroidered chethi motif on the sleeves. The traditional border plain davani with red trims highlights the design. On Sarees, hand-embroidered single chethi flower detailing is completed with manjadi and kunnikkuru as trims on the pallu.