Dressing to impress at Lakmé Fashion Week (Photo:pink prom dresses)

American actress and model Azura Skye is just one of the stars set to shine both on and off the catwalk at the 16th edition of Lakmé Fashion Week.

Starting tomorrow in Mumbai, the five-day show – one of the biggest dates on the Indian fashion calendar – is perhaps best known for its high celebrity quotient.

But giving the A-listers in the audience a run for their money this year are dazzling catwalk shows by no fewer than 90 designers, ranging from some of the country’s biggest names to new talent that seeks inspiration from the Middle East.

The big guns

Manish Malhotra – popular with celebrities including Kylie Minogue, Uma Thurman, Priyanka Chopra, Amitabh Bachchan and Naomi Campbell – leads the way, opening the week with his new collection, titled Elements.

Expect richly embellished gowns, lehengas with long trails, and structured tops and blouses in organza, tussar and crepe. Pastel hues will dominate, including baby pink, powder blue and light green.

Malhotra, who showed two collections at The Address Dubai Marina in October, says his latest collection “is inspired by nature and brings out the dichotomy of beauty and power present in the four elements – earth, water, air and flame – much like the play of confidence and demureness, tradition and glamour that we see in a contemporary bride".

Other fashion gurus presenting their collections include Neeta Lulla, Rohit Bal, Wendell Rodricks, Anand Kabra, Payal Singhal, Nishka Lulla, Nikhil Thampi and Anita Dongre.

Fresh talent

Young gun Aqdus Saleem, who makes her debut as part of LFW’s “gen next" runway show, looked to the Middle East when designing her collection The Modest Chapter. The title references her background – she comes from a Muslim family and her designs are inspired by Islamic fashion, with touches of Indian ethnic tradition and contemporary trends. Dominating fabrics are cotton linen and organza, with embroidery in shades of white and Sahara beige.

“I took inspiration from the Middle East," says Saleem. “My research exposed me to various nuances of tradition and made me understand them thoroughly. I basically want to break the stereotype. I wanted to make people understand that modest wear does not restrict you to look beautiful. I am not making abayas, I am just trying to create something that covers your body beautifully."

Other new talent to look out for includes Naveem Naaz Shaikh, Agrima Batra, Chirag Nainani and Sohaya Misra. Emerging designers, including promising alumni such as Kanika Goyal, Doodlage and Siddharth Bansal, will also showcase their collections. Younger established designers showing include Quirk Box, Sahil Kochhar, Sneha Arora, Huemn and Archana Rao.

New trends

LFW has begun to consistently attract the interest of international labels, who seem keen to tap into the subcontinent’s thriving fashion market.

ElektroCouture – a Berlin label specialising in edgy, bespoke electronic wearable technology – is bringing its creations to India for the first time.

“Now in its 16th year, Lakmé Fashion Week is looking outward, outside of India, at what’s happening in global fashion and at international fashion weeks," says Saket Dhankar, vice president and head of fashion at IMG Reliance, which jointly organises the twice-a-year event along with cosmetics brand Lakmé. “We see two key trends emerging – convergence of fashion and technology, and focus on sustainable fashion. We are continuously trying to reinvent ourselves and have made a conscious decision to promote sustainability in Indian fashion in a big way."

Star turns

The designers are tight-lipped about the celebrities who will wear their showstoppers on the runway. We expect to see the usual suspects, including Kareena Kapoor Khan who, as Lakmé’s brand ambassador, has closed the event in recent seasons.

Models poised to walk the runways were selected from two rounds of auditions in Mumbai and Delhi. International supermodels include Azura Skye and Smita Lasrado.

Last day

New Delhi avant-garde creative Rohit Bal has bagged the prized closing slot and will bring the festivities to a glittering end on Sunday with designs tailored to reflect LFW’s theme: the “illuminate look" of Lakmé’s make-up range, “inspired by the shimmer and sparkle of a precious crystal".

Bal’s elaborate outfits, each boasting a high level of detail and sophisticated cut, draw an international clientele, including Hollywood star Uma Thurman and supermodel Naomi Campbell.

Closer to home, Amitabh Bachchan and Priyanka Chopra praise his designs.

“Great to be back again," says Bal, perhaps recalling his last LFW finale in 2012.

“The most incredible part about doing Lakmé Fashion Week is the carte blanche. A complete and uninterrupted creative flow is what Lakmé has given me. That makes doing the finale precious and priceless."Read more at:mermaid prom dresses