The Chairman of the India Bridal Fashion Week had recently shared in a press article that 60 to 80 percent of the business for the top designers in India comes from bridal couture. It was an observation that begged investigation. Have Indian fashion designers spotted a huge opportunity and successfully aligned with the wedding wear market? And what exactly is this unique relationship all about?

India’s most loved and senior most fashion designer Ritu Kumar feels that bridal couture is a big part of most designers’ work and since weddings are a once in a life-time experience, people are opting more and more for designer wear. It is not just the bride and groom who prefer designer wear, but the family and guests too want to look their best for the occasion. “Thus, the demand for designer wear is increasing but is not limited to Indian wear alone as western and fusion wear are also slowly gaining popularity in the wedding scene,” she expressed. Celebrity designer Manish Malhotra also agrees, “India has an ancient clothing design tradition and is an emerging fashion industry.”
Weddings and India are synonymous with each other. Weddings remain a stable business as it is a once in a lifetime event for most people in the country. The stability of, and rapid growth in the business of marriage has prompted more and more designers to enter the bridal couture market. Since weddings are a round the year event, the need for opulent and designer outfits are always in demand. Brides are even more conscious now and prefer opting for designer wear pieces than first copies. So the sales of bridal couture do add to a significant business to any brand or designer. Talking about the success of his own label, Malhotra shares, “Manish Malhotra label has been extremely lucky when it comes to the business generated from our bridal couture collections and from pieces designed for weddings. My team and I are dedicated towards our bride-to-be(s) and love seeing the magic our outfits bring to any bride or wedding.”
Renowned designer Ashima Singh even opened up on the percentage share that weddings add up for her. “For us, 60 percent of our annual business is contributed by bridal couture. A wedding ensemble typically sets the brand image for a designer, his/ her individual style and also manner of workmanship and identity. Wedding wear is of great significance as an image icon to set the mood for the rest of the designer’s repertoire eventually,” she adds.
Malhotra also reiterated this salience of the need for designers to retain their individuality. “It’s essential for us to marry our label’s ethos with market realities if we want to stay in high fashion. The industry goes beyond the business of selling clothes. It’s more about popular and traditional culture that reflects social, cultural and economic trends,” he says.
Lending more substance to the positive school of thought, Pune- based internationally acclaimed designer Nivedita Saboo says, “To meet the demands of the wedding Industry, fashion houses showcase the most intricate and indigenous surface techniques that not only sustain our talented pool of artists across the country, but also gives them a bigger platform to reach a wider range of people. Weddings do play an extremely important role to the overall business of any independent fashion house and in turn, towards the betterment of the Indian artisan community, our textile industry and also the fashion fraternity on the whole.”


According to Singh, at present, there is a growing demand for very elegant, yet simpler couture and luxury pret. This forms a big chunk of the business in the other months of the year. In fact, the young bride of today would use these far more in her daily life; so in a sense, it forms part of the trousseau as well. On similar lines, Saboo shares, “The sheer volume of the wedding industry in India and our willingness to spend during a wedding is truly incomparable but we are steering away from the generalisations and adopting a style, which is more individualistic and is making the range of Indian couture truly rich and diverse.”
Relevance established, there were some strong assertions on the primacy part. The ever classy and suave Raghavendra Rathore believes that especially the women’s wear hemispheres of Indian fashion is presently driven by the bridal season and by the ‘slow but maturing’ fashion sensitive organised market.
Malhotra also agreed with the dapper designer and says, “Indian designers are working even harder today to focus on the bridal and festive market. Most of them are now investing energies into their bridal couture collections than their pret lines.”
Talking on the same line, Mumbai-based couturier and an acclaimed designer Archana Kochhar said, “Bridal couture in India is an evolved industry. Red carpet looks and pret wear are growing segments but people in India are willing to spend far more on bridal wear as opposed to evening couture.” Acknowledging the grandeur of Indian events, Kochhar apprises, “A lot of purchases are wedding centric even if not for own wedding and these have enormously contributed in creating an independent fashion designer community.”
One of India’s few genuine fashion visionaries and also a prince of Jodhpur, Rathore, had another very interesting take. He feels, “The wedding market is like insurance, making sure the ripples of international fashion runways don’t impact the trends in the Indian ecosystem of fashion but instead, what the trousseau market demands.” Point to ponder. Indeed!


Taking wedding couture from ideation to concept to creation is a very intensely involving process for a designer. And also very interesting. We asked the iconic designers how they go about it.
Singh shared the process in detail. She says, “Meeting the bride-to-be is the first step, to gauge her likes and dislikes, to brainstorm with ideational designs that would suit her persona, as each bride wants to be unique and stand out as it is her big day. Post that, samples of embroideries, fabrics, colours and test fits of the garments are worked out. The amount of effort which goes into one single ensemble is phenomenal; every stitch, bead and technique must be perfect; the cut and colour must flatter the bride to perfection; styling the look is also undertaken right from the jewellery and accessories to the flowers in her hair to the mehendi patterns. The bridal look must also inspire the grooms and the rest of the family’s looks as well, and not clash but rather complement her outfits for the rest of the functions.”
Kumar believes that the entire process of creating a garment for the bride is more of an emotional journey than a laborious one. “Clients usually have an idea of what they want and we suggest designs, colours and cuts that would complement them or they select from attire that is already available. Sometimes, clients want a particular design or style that has an emotional connect and we deliver that while getting to know their story in depth. Thus, when we finally finish the garment and deliver it to them, it’s like a part of us is gone with them,” she says.

MeetIng tHe BRIDe-tO-Be IS tHe FIRSt SteP, tO gAUge HeR lIKeS AnD DISlIKeS, tO BRAInStORM wItH IDeAtIOnAl DeSIgnS tHAt wOUlD SUIt HeR PeRSOnA, AS eACH BRIDe wAntS tO Be UnIqUe AnD StAnD OUt AS It IS HeR BIg DAY.

Kochhar too described the ‘beautiful process’ and says, “I became a fashion designer because I wanted to be part of this special celebration. Every
bride has a different persona, a different requirement and a different taste. The first meeting is where I try and understand the bride and her family. I then suggest what elements her outfit can have. It is a very interactive process. From the couple’s story to my travels, there are several influences that form part of a bridal outfit.”
Bollywood’s favourite and an acclaimed designer, Malhotra was quite the fashion leader, “The process is very involving and intensive but it’s also one of the most fun things to work on. Today’s modern bride is open to wearing high fashion looks that are customised to her personal style, hence it becomes extremely easy for me as a designer to design any outfit. Most of my brides allow me to take over the design element which is great as it helps me to deliver my best.”
Rathore was perhaps the brand methodist. “The clients, sometimes, come with some ideas that are tweaked to the brand’s liking and sometimes they are guided through ideas based on what is the forte of the brand. All in all, it is extremely detailed interaction with the client wherein the ensembles are carefully and immaculately planned and designed to their satisfaction,” he says. Talking about his signature style, he shares, “Most of our collections have a very little element of embroidery and hence cannot be considered as trousseau product. Most of the product is bespoke and 90 percent of it moves on its own strength away from the trousseau market.”
Saboo shares, “Being a part of someone’s most cherished occasions has always been special to us. Our signature styles are thoroughly researched, conceptualised, designed and made perfectly to suit the tastes of our brides and grooms in terms of looks, colours and style. We bring together layered elements in their wedding finery that represents their style and provides absolute comfort.” She further explains, “We have a balanced mix of everything. Nivedita Saboo Couture showcases an array of products to suit the demands of our customers all around the world. While we have a segment that comes for weddings, we also have clients who trust us with their complete wardrobes across all seasons. From travel wear to corporate get-up, destination weddings to glamorous red carpet events, we present versatile pieces in men’s wear and women’s wear.”

Apart from the conceptual and design excellence that goes into turning out wedding couture, there is an array of skill, craftsmanship and execution that bring the work alive. The work that India’s finest designers create is a factor of the talents and time they mentor. Singh shares, “Bridal garments are couture through and through, so yes, a lot of hand work is involved. The fabrics for the dress could be specially woven, new and customised embroideries developed, so sampling is done to a great extent. All this requires a lot of time, to get each detail right. And the dress, being usually heavily embellished, takes a lot of man hours, usually a team of craftsmen working together for many days.”


Talking on the same line, Kumar highlights the talents involved in getting such pieces made. She maintains, “We have very skilled workers who have a keen eye for perfection, so each garment is a result of intense concentration and pure skill. The time taken to create each garment varies according to the intricacy of the design and work needed on it.” Malhotra too agrees and says, “The time consumed to design any outfit is totally dependant on the style, work and the detailing that is involved into that piece. No outfit is similar; hence any and every outfit takes some amount of time until it’s finally created.”
Kochhar credited her ‘kaarigars’ for creating her vision on the fabric and says, “I have been blessed with a very loyal and hardworking team. It can take anywhere between 2 to 15 people to create a bridal creation depending on how elaborate it is. We usually take 4 to 7 weeks as delivery time.” Rathore summed up by saying, “It takes precision, good aesthetics and closely working with skilled manpower to create an immaculately designed ensemble for any client. In order to achieve the standard quality, finish and appeal, there are hours that are spent to embellish and tailor the product.”

If there is one thing that typifies Indian fashion, it is the vibrant range of colours. And with modern detailing prowess and the ability to morph cuts, stitches, and drapes, wedding wear, today, displays unprecedented experimentation. Kumar discloses, “Lehengas in shades of red have always been a crowd favourite for weddings, with gold and silver detailed work. The trend in colour is, however, shifting from traditional colours to lighter fresher colours like pastels, minty green and zesty colours like orange that add youthfulness and brightness to the overall look. The focus has shifted from heavily embellished garments to minimalistic and comfortable ones. The detailing is limited to one part of the garment and adds just the right amount of glamour and does not take away from the natural beauty of the bride.” Malhotra further says, “Reds, maroons, greens, pinks and gold have always dominated the colour palette when it comes to bridal outfits. However, the modern bride has now made an extensive shift and is willing to move away from the typical colours and styles. Crafted in silks, velvet, sheer net and lace; nudes, pewter grey, shades of reds, royal blue with embroidery art, salmon pinks, are trending this season.”
Singh too shared similar views about the trending colours in bridal wear. “Usually a bride goes in for shades of red, pink and coral, in the form of lehengas with innovative embroideries. The designer can play with the styling of the dupattas, cuts of the cholis and lehengas. There are a few adventurous brides who also want to be trendsetters, giving the designer the freedom to set the trends. For example, the colour nude teamed with emerald green looks stunningly different in bridal attire, the embroideries can be crafted to look rich without weighing down the bride on her special day. But what is trending is hues of coral and raspberry pink, embroideries done in different placements, to create bold and beautiful contrasts and gorgeous styling with contrasting dupattas,” she adds.
Saboo too talked about minimalist looks, being preferred by contemporary brides. She maintains, “Classic lehengas in sorbet shades of lilac, rose, mint and ice blue made in translucent organza, with minimalistic surface embroideries in gunmetal and dull gold will set the wedding season tone for the brides. Tonal, fully embroidered, swirling floor length gowns will add a touch of sophisticated glamour to the pre-wedding festivities as well.”

Both Kumar and Malhotra justify their pricing on value. “Our prices vary based on the intricacy of the work that goes into each piece and the amount of time it takes to create it, as well as fabrics and embellishments,” Kumar apprises. Singh, who has always been known for down to earth prices, maintains that the cost varies with bridal budgets. The Nivedita Saboo Couture wedding wear range for women is priced from `80,000 and goes up to `3,50,000 depending on the work involved.


Technology has also taken over the wedding season and buying habits. Families and planners both are coming online to check latest trends in this wedding season. There is a sharp increase in buying of heavy lehengas and sarees online. Consumers are also beginning to trust online websites for their wedding purchases. Agrees Malhotra, “E-commerce does help in catering to a larger audience in India as well as internationally.”
Concurring his opinion, Ritu Kumar says, “E-commerce has its fair share of good and bad sides. It did prove to be favourable to many designers who wanted a global audience but the success of their brands depended on how well the brand was promoted. Though owning a physical store created a foundation, it may not be rational for all and thus e-commerce is the best place to showcase a brand and designs,”
But it has to be noted that although selected e-portals have a great reputation, it is imperative that the designer build a reputation first, which, Singh feels is only possible through real touch and feel. Talking on the importance of the touch and feel angle, Saboo expresses, “Though the online reach is definitely far and wide but a luxury couture requires personal attention and feel, which is more feasible at a brick and mortar store. Most e-commerce alliances that we have today, negate this imperative core of a couture house which is why it doesn’t work. A prêt line specifically designed for an online market is the way to go for virtual visibility as a designer.”
Rathore was totally in agreement with Saboo and believes, “We have, as a company, always believed in substance that you can touch and feel, our expansion to open stores has not been slowed down by online movement but instead given us an advantage to expose the product more clearly in the clutter of brands by having it at a physical point that people can go and customise it to their suiting.”
Kochhar too talked in favour of brick and mortar stores. She adds, “In the bridal segment, brick and mortar will always be needed. Bridal couture is a process. It’s a feeling. It goes beyond the fabric and embroidery. In the non-bridal segment, e-commerce has done wonders and it will continue to expand. Be it Pernia Qureshi’s Pernia’s Pop Up Shop or Myntra or Jabong, the industry is changing.”
Of late, there has been a noticeable shift in trend away from opulence and excess amongst the younger generation in India, but it seems designers are absolutely optimistic about the future given the country’s propensity towards ostentatious marriage celebrations. “The youth might be opting for minimal outfits but they still prefer wearing outfits with voluminous skirts, heavy embroidery and long trails. Since, weddings are a one-time affair for a bride; they are willing to go all out to invest and having a designer piece for their ‘D-day’ or to add exclusive pieces to their trousseau,” says Malhotra. If Kochhar is to be believed, in the luxury segment at least, weddings are becoming increasingly lavish. I think the bridal couture industry will continue to grow.

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