Priyadarshini Rao takes the Indigo Route

My mother was a lecturer who taught Philosophy and Child Psychology. Her sense of style was earthy and functional. She loved her crisp, cotton saris, in beautiful summer prints. She said she found them very comfortable, and never really made that switch to the salwar-suits that many other working women from her generation did.

Decades later, Indian fashion is a far cry from those sweet old days of cotton saris and salwar-suits. Silhouettes have changed. The concept of functionality and wearability itself has evolved with times. I remember the early years of the Fashion Weeks, when there wasn’t this high level of instant accessibility. We’d wait for the trend reports to appear in the magazines, and then rush to our local stores or tailors to see how we could best replicate those looks within our budget. I do believe that fashion is a lot more affordable and democratic now. It’s a good change. What’s not so good, however, is season after season of predictability, and a self-suffocating cycle of repeating or rehashed trends.

I miss that euphoric high of seeing a couture guru uncover his new line, or a new ‘rebel’ create avant garde interpretations of Indian silhouettes. I guess the business of fashion sort of took over the spirit of style. Unfortunate, but inevitable. But let’s not be too harsh about this, shall we? There is, especially, in the last few seasons, a growing emphasis on drawing outside the lines. We have seen some young and established designers move away from their signature styles and try and reinterpret the trends. Amidst all the PR cacophony, some unique voices are standing out, mostly from people who have chosen to remain “outsiders” despite being a part of the fashion community.

One such “voice” that I have followed over the years is Priyadarshini Rao, whose style reminds me, in some ways of those times when fashion excited and inspired. The lack of frills and pretence in her lines might have been a tough norm to set, but thankfully, she has managed to stand her ground so far. In her last collection, “An Ode To Indigo”, she has played with the colour freely, indulgently, and with the maturity of an artist who knows exactly what form a seemingly random stroke of her brush will render. Creating varied silhouettes with free flowing fabrics, her designs have the simple sophistication that appeals to women across age segments. Priyadarshini designs for the real woman, and not for the lanky clotheshorses, and that wins my respect, every single time.  

In her last collection, she has worked with Muls, Chanderis, Tussar, georgettes, Khadi and Muga silk, to create trousers, long tunics, skirts, and dresses which sound simple enough on paper, but definitely nudge a few norms. Playing so little with accents and imagining more with the fabric itself, Priyadarshini seems to have had fun designing this collection, while also infusing it with her maturing sensibilities. So what you see is the emergence of a strong, global muse, in contemporary ensembles, inspired by this all prominent colour of nature.

There is so much in her collection that you and I could wear, and get excited about. And then, keep wearing it for years. These are styles that don’t really lose their magic over the years. Like the simple, cotton saris that my mother wore. I can probably take a shot at figuring out what makes a style timeless, but it would be a very subjective observation. But the growing popularity of Priyadarshini’s designs shows that I am not really a lone voice of approval and appreciation. I do hope that the business side never overshadows her freewheeling approach to designing. 

All photos: Lakme Fashion Week


  1. Very cool little insight into a fashion I don't often see here in Philadelphia and not being Indian myself. I find the prints stunning!

  2. I could easily wear these! They look so comfortable, and pretty :)

  3. Love all the turquoise and blues!!! Such a beautiful fashion show! Looks like you had fun!!!
    xoThe Beckerman Girls



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