Anti-Trend Movement© Rimzim Dadu/Rahul Mishra

Decoding The Anti-Trend Movement In The World Of Fashion

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Radhika Bhalla

Idealistic, individualistic and eco-conscious, the modern Indian fashion brand is celebrating personal style and ideologies like never before. HELLO! speaks with three designers, who head luxury labels rooted in sustainable practices, to delve deep into the future of the industry.

Who’s the trendsetter of the 21st Century? Do designers decide what’s the style du jour, or does social media determine what’s hot?

While we may not have a clear answer, one thing’s for certain: Gen Z and Millennials have upended the cycle of consumption with a far more personal approach towards style — today, the ‘it’ look is influenced by greater individualism than we have witnessed before. Along with that, fashion now has to answer important questions regarding eco-consciousness, fair wages and even how Instagram-friendly the design is. It’s 2023, and the rules have certainly changed.

“Gen Z and Millennial consumers are very driven by individuality. They are extremely confident when expressing themselves,” couturier Rahul Mishra shares with HELLO!.

The designer, who showcases both at Paris Haute Couture Week and FDCI X Lakmé Fashion Week in India, further explains: “Younger audiences are far more mindful and environmentally-conscious than before, and that reflects in their fashion choices. I’ve observed that the modern clientele has an elevated interest in pieces that are independent of trends, such that they last longer in their wardrobes and can be reused over time, in different ways.”

Designer Rimzim Dadu agrees, much as her sculpturesque sarees and blouses have found favour with those on the lookout for worthy investment pieces.

“The younger audience is looking to experiment and explore different silhouettes and materials, rather than following the herd mentality,” Dadu reveals. “For them, the ideal fashion aesthetic would incorporate investing in pieces that are versatile and can be styled in many ways, like repurposing trousseau pieces as separates.”

As Aneeth Arora of label Péro states, the modern wearer is now dressing for themselves and not to impress others, and that, in turn, drives their purchasing choices. In fact, Arora makes a prediction about the future of style: “I feel fashion will become a form of personal expression where no two people will follow the same trend or wear clothes the same way. And recycling and upcycling practices will become a deliberate focus.”

Social media has certainly helped draw attention to the conversations around recycling, upcycling and sustainability. But along with that, it has expanded the very idea of ‘style’, through dialogues around body positivity and personal expression.

“Brands are now creating dialogues around transparency. Plus, following relevant narratives has created a sense of community within buyers,” Dadu states.

Péro, for instance, shares the manufacturing processes and behind-the-scenes with its consumers on social media, for them to know how their clothes are made and who makes them. And for Mishra, social media is a tool that can be used to address the nuances of authenticity and cultural impact.

“Social media has become an important platform to generate awareness, which has allowed people to express their personal thoughts,” he says. “These comprehensions are usually seen in the way people are empowered through fashion… Superficially, it comes in waves of short-lived beauty standards, but the underlying impact is the discovery of individuality in people.”

What is most rewarding is that the modern fashion brand is not just a design house anymore, but is also an agency for change. For instance, Mishra tries to influence the concept of luxury as rooted in simple living and ethical thinking, where each piece of clothing is produced with the purpose of empowering and employing artisans in Indian villages.

“We intend for each product emerging from our atelier to be independent of trends and be ingrained with the values of human touch and intimate thought,” he adds.

Meanwhile, Arora’s brand has championed upcycling since its inception — salvaging discarded pieces from outlets, giving them a fresh lease of life, and even offering to recycle old-and-torn styles from within your own wardrobe. “We only use pure, handmade fabrics and azo-free dyes, and follow a strict policy of zero-waste and zero-plastic packaging,” she informs.

As for Dadu, her recent campaign titled ‘Brides of Steel’ attempted to challenge the notion of the ‘ideal’ Indian bride, focussing instead on stories of fierceness, individualism and innovation.

The fact is that eco-friendly processes and materials will become an integral part of fashion in the future. According to a 2022 research by Forbes, 62 percent of Gen Z consumers prefer purchasing from brands conscious of sustainability and are willing to spend more for ethically-created pieces. And each of these brands has been highlighting the conversation in their own way.

In 2006 itself, Mishra’s debut collection was built on the Gandhian idea of circular design, to which he was introduced by his professor, MP Ranjan at the National Institute of Design. “American industrial designers Charles and Ray Eames perceived that India’s development would begin and flourish in its villages, among the communities that uphold and sustain its cultural heritage as the backbone to its design industry,” Mishra says. “Those values stuck with me ever since.”

For Dadu, the intention is to create less and more mindfully in an eco-friendly manner, “to ensure what we create lasts a lifetime in both their physical longevity and relevance, design-wise”. At her atelier, you’ll find materials like recycled cords and hair-thin steel yarns to create fluid and bold heirloom pieces. And care for the karigars is paramount: a majority of Dadu’s team has been with her since the exception of her brand 16 years ago.

“We provide healthcare, industry-standard wages, stability during off-seasons like Covid-19 lockdowns and bi-annual ‘away day’ programmes,” she explains.Mishra’s design process, as he states, is the abbreviation ‘ASAP’ — ‘As Slow As Possible’ — that allows him to employ and empower as many artisans and weavers as possible. Back in 2014, he had instituted the important reverse-migration policy for his karigars to work from their villages.

“We intend to work with them in the capacity of collaborators and not as employers, and that has heavily influenced decision-making in our company,” the couturier explains. “ I say this with pride that not one member from our team was laid off during the global pandemic.”

Arora has taken the philosophy a step forward — she no longer presents herself as the face of the brand and only allows photographs of her entire team to be showcased as the real stars of Péro.

“We work as a family, celebrating birthdays and festivals together. We make sure they are always employed, season after season, to support their livelihood,” she adds.

Idealistic and individualistic, the future of Indian fashion lies in important global dialogues around the environment and an encouragement of the wearers’ unique expression and personal style.

This has been adapted for the web from a story originally published in the July 2023 issue of HELLO! India. Get our copy of the latest issue right here!