Young designer Nida Mahmood's collection Sadak Chhaap that she showed today on the last day of the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week (WLIFW) in Delhi, was an unfashionable mix of street theatre, an overdo of assorted paraphernalia and proof of an imagination that needs to be channelised. While her official note in press handouts says as much that the collection is inspired by street typography, scrap, colloquial advertisements, store sign boards, stickers with funny messages and the rest, what came across in this maddening kaleidoscope was the lack of smart thought and an absence of focus. Wrappers, packaging, nuts and bolts, combs, scissors, mirrors, buttons, hooks, a streetside naai (hair dresser), a motley group of local drummers and tamashbeens made up what cannot be called fashion. Nida whose graduation show at NIFT won her the most creative collection award, seems to still think like a college student. Sad, because she is clearly one of the most talented young designers around. I am among those who like her work and I love her bags. She has a sense of fun, the nerve to experiment, doesn't want a piece of the trousseau market, she creates fashion for those who explore it as a meandering cultural walk. She is great for for new disciples of anti-fashion and her own sense of dressing is innovative and personalised. A charming young woman with many new creative projects in the pipeline.
But today, she lived up to her PR profile in letter and spirit. It introduces her as designer, graphic artist, stylist, painter and columnist. Ironically, she tried to display all these talents at once. Her imagination ran wild on the ramp, her talents overlapped, making it difficult for the audience to differentiate Nida the artist from Nida the designer. She overdid her styling, brought in kitsch, noise, drama, experimental silhouettes, unconventional accessories and bold, chaotic colours all at once into her pieces. We had no idea if we were there to watch the clothes, the accessories or the performances by drummers and street theatre actors. By the time the models came to the ramp, you knew this was India overhyped. The girls wore everything you can imagine--cluttered saris with jeans, loud necklaces, accessories made of scrap, headgears made of combs and other knick knacks, carrying crazy bags with stickers glued to their bodies displaying a riot of Indian realities. Nida needs to make her niche in Indian fashion clearer--is she an accessory designer, a stylist for Incredible India or essentially a garment designer?
India is exotic. India is chaotic. India is diverse. India is unbelievably mind boggling. India is traditional. India is modern. But should you show all this at once in one collection, draining the idea of India and leaving little to imagination?
By the way, to the many who said she is doing a Manish Arora on us, I would say only this. Manish is imaginative, inventive and a genius. He creates art with all the parameters of fashion in place. Nida is a bright student. Let's not do Manish an injustice by comparing them.