Dior hosted a landmark runway show in Mumbai on Thursday, a move nodding both to India’s long-standing role in manufacturing European high fashion and the growing power of its luxury consumers.
The location was a clear inspiration: The runway itself was adorned with marigold and diya lamps, and the clothes featured Madras check and Benarasi brocade fabrics, mirror work, tie-dye detailing, Nehru collars, and kurta tailoring.
There was something quite mind-blowing about the whole experience of being present at Maria Grazia Chuiri’s introduction to India—or rather, to her making visible all of the many ways that Christian Dior is interlinked with the artisanship centered in Mumbai. One moment, you were taking in the epic scale of a show on the harbor, silhouetted against the Gateway of India landmark, with a runway flanked by a carpet of multicolored flowers. And the next, your retinas were being irradiated by the microscopic ingenuity of Indian traditional handcrafts sparkling—all-over mirrored Rajasthani embroidered mini-dresses were part of it—under a revelatory spotlight.
A tribute to Indian crafts
Dior entered the Indian market in 2006 when it opened a boutique in New Delhi. And while it has only added one store in the country since the brand’s ties with the country go far beyond commerce.
Like many luxury houses, Dior often turns to Indian artisans for their exceptional craft skills. Many of the embroideries and textiles on Thursday’s runway were made by Chanakya International, a Mumbai atelier that the French label’s creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri, has worked closely with for almost three decades.
On Wednesday, the atelier held a retrospective in Mumbai featuring 50 hand-embroidered pieces it has produced for the label since Chiuri took the helm in 2016.
Dior has also turned to Chanakya School of Craft, a non-profit institute run by Chankaya International and staffed by communities of female textile workers, for various runway backdrops. Among them were a collection of 22 mammoth tapestries, created in collaboration with Indian artists Madhvi and Manu Parekh, that Dior commissioned for its Haute Couture Spring-Summer 2022 show.
“It is very important to celebrate the creativity of the artisans and the culture of India while giving them a contemporary flavor,” Chiuri said at a press conference ahead of Thursday’s show. “This collection is a result of all the efforts we have put into bringing this language to life.”
Fashion insiders, like leading stylist and former Vogue India fashion director Anaita Shroff Adajania, saw the event as a long-overdue acknowledgment for Indian ateliers. “I see this show as a thank you to India,” she said.
Among the 99 odd models who walked the ramp on Thursday night, two-star daughters made their debut on the runway. Actor Arjun Rampal and model Mehr Jesia’s younger daughter Myra Rampal made her debut on the runway. Proud father Arjun Rampal took to Instagram to share a photo of his ‘gorgeous little princess’ and revealed that she got the chance to walk the ramp on her own merit. Rampal was a well-known model before he forayed into Bollywood. Mehr Jesia, a former Miss India, is also considered one of India’s first supermodels.
Meanwhile, Bengali actor Jisshu Sengupta’s daughter Sara Sengupta too made her debut as a model on the same show. Sara made her debut in Srijit Mukherji’s film Uma in 2018. Mukherji took to Twitter to share a photo of the young model and wrote, “My. Little. Uma. Got selected as a Christian Dior model from hundreds around the world. Walked the ramp with unbelievable confidence. And all this, absolutely on her own. PROUD PROUD PROUD!!!!” Sara is Jisshu Sengupta and TV actress and producer Nilanjana Sengupta’s elder daughter. Jisshu, a well-known face in Bengali films has also featured in multiple Bollywood films including Barfi, Shakuntala Devi, and Piku among others.
The event saw the who’s who of Mumbai society and the film industry turning up in their best outfits. The Ambanis, Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, Anushka Sharma, and Virat Kohli, Karisma Kapoor, Mira Rajput, Ananya Panday, Shweta Bachchan, Masaba Gupta, Natasha Poonawala, Frieda Pinto, Maisie Williams, Simone Ashley were some of the prominent faces that one saw at the event.
While most chose to dress up in Dior, Rekha’s sartorial style got everyone talking. The actress chose to wear a red and gold saree and accessorized her look with gold jewelry, a potli bag, and bold red lips. She tied her hair up in a bun and adorned it with white flowers- a style that many associates with her.
Indian shoppers have become a major force in the fashion industry, with the country’s levels of disposable income jumping by more than 24% between 2019 and 2022, according to Anul Sareen, senior research analyst at business intelligence firm Euromonitor.