A calm and serene evening in Paris turned out to be an important one for the Indian fashion industry’s timeline. Designer Vaishali Shadangule became the first Indian woman designer to be invited to the highly regarded Paris Haute Couture Week, which was held from 5 July to 8 July 2021. At the Haute Couture Week, Vaishali, who owns the eponymous brand Vaishali S, showcased her brand’s couture collection.
Titled ‘Breath’, the collection brought out her unique flair for blending traditional weaves and techniques with dramatic silhouettes. The collection, the designer tells us, was inspired by the lines and curves seen in corals, tree bark and other textures seen in abundance in nature. The collection largely consisted of fall darker hues with a white couture gown depicting snow.
A journey to the centre of the fashion world
Certainly not a newbie to the international market, Vaishali has been showcasing at New York Fashion Week since 2015. Having completed two decades in the industry, experimenting with hand-woven textiles and designs, and with a reach at fashion hotspots like New York and Milan, Vaishali has now taken her label to Paris.
Naturally, Vaishali is excited about her Paris experience. Even so, the ace designer shares a sore point with us. “My Paris show was experimental couture and people from around the world appreciated the collection. I’ve been getting lots of messages appreciating my Breath collection,” she tells us. “Strangely, however, I haven’t got any response from the Indian fashion industry biggies about it barring a few.”
The previous months leading up to the show have been quite tough for the designer. For starters, Vaishali suffered from COVID-19 just before she received news about being selected for the show. Then, there was the ongoing challenge of coordinating with karigars during the pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns.
“Couriers were shut and karigars had gone back to their hometown during the lockdown,” Vaishali recollects. “So it was just 10 of us who decided to stay together to finish the collection.”
But because she had sourced the raw materials beforehand, the entire collection — comprising 30 garments — took 6–7 months to complete, she tells us.
Vaishali’s collection is replete with motifs of trees, corals and mushrooms in fall colours of green, brown, red and white. As for naming her collection ‘Breath’, the designer tells us that it was inspired by the lessons from the ongoing pandemic.
“The pandemic emphasised the importance of nature and breathing,” she elaborates. “It taught us how important nature is to us — almost an extension of our body — and that we can’t stop taking care of it. So if you’re damaging nature, you’re essentially damaging yourself. My collection pays homage to nature,” she says matter-of-factly.