Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home   |   Volume 6, Issue 19, Tuesday, May 10, 2011




Fashion and Tagore

The “Rediscovering Tagore” series conducted by the British Council in celebration of Rabindranath Tagore's 150th Birth Anniversary came to a dazzling end with a fashion show held at BICC on the 3rd of this April.

Tagore was a very fashion-conscious individual and had a unique fashion of his own. The attires worn by Tagore were unique to him and no other writers or Zamindars have been seen to be wearing similar clothes in pictures. Tagore, one of the greatest writers of all time, not only brought his characters to life through words in his novels and poems, he also used to bring them to life through sketches of the outfits that he had imagined them to wear.

It was this unsung and sometimes forgotten fashion enthusiasm of Tagore's that the stage was set to showcase. Nine renowned designers strutted their creations in singing the praise of the great poet, writer and trend-setter in every aspect of the word. The show highlighted the fashion of his time, hence having a heavy British Raj influence alongside the Regal Zamindar wears.

The group of nine designers led by Emdad Haque worked alongside Fiona Minors, visiting hair and make-up artist from the London College of Fashion UK, and Kaniz Almas, giving the show an international sprinkle. With the mix of dance, drama and music, all elements Tagore-inspired, the show became a unique projection of Tagore's fashion thoughts complementing this utterly different era. Each designer worked with a different theme and did their best to inspire the next generation of Tagore enthusiasts.

'Rabindranath in Time Immemorial' by Chandra Shekhar Shaha highlighted the western influence on men's fashion during that era in Bengal. Some of the designs included a fusion between fatua-like shirts with straight pants and a scarf around the neck. His garments were created from local indigenous material and using local dyes.

'Women Influence in Life and in Creation' by Lipi Khandker was dedicated to the many influential women who coloured Tagore's life, such as Anna Tarkhar or Victoria Ocampo. She captured on her fabrics the lasting impression on Tagore of their friendship, personality and inner beauty. She presented six dresses reflecting a comprehensive picture of the women's wear of the era, created completely from local materials.

'Nature' by Emdad Haque was a statement of Tagore's fascination with the nature of Bengal. Six dresses were presented by him in six different colours representing the six seasons of Bengal, from white for winter to green for spring to blue for monsoon.

'Camellia' by Kuhu Plamondon was where drama and ramp met. Camellia the poem had a very special significance among Tagore's many works of literature and Kuhu tried to play the poem on the ramp with a modern twist of fashion to it all. There was the robustness of the aristocracy and the charm of the wilderness in her creations and all these were enhanced by the poem being read out on stage.

The fashion statements of perhaps the most cherished couples in Tagore's works, Amit and Labanyo from 'Shesher Kobita', Gora and Suchorita from 'Gora' and Nikhilesh and Bimala from 'The Home and The World', were brought to life on the ramp by Bizly Hoque. Bizly portrayed Tagore's thoughts for the attires donned by these evergreen characters using five sets of fabrics.

Despite growing up in a society with immense emphasis on religious traditions, Tagore was more of a believer of spirituality, which was a getaway for him. His creations drew inspiration from love, one of the purest of emotions. His writings about love were greatly influenced by Baishnab verses and Upahishadas. It was this aspect of his works that designer Shaibal Shah tried to depict with his designs, themed 'Love and Prayer', with local fabrics.

Tagore's outstanding dance dramas, Chandalika, Shama and Chitrangada, and musicals, Balmiki Pratibha, Kalmrigaya and Mayar Khela, were the inspiration for Tahsina Shahin's collection. She tried to materialise the outfits worn by the the famous characters of Chandal from Chandal and the daughter of the King of Manipur from Chitrangada and the other lead characters from the aforementioned works of Tagore.

Themed as Drawings and Paintings of Rabindranath, Sabyasachi Hazra's designs were based on Tagore's sketches which bring to light a different facet: devotion. Sabyasachi mainly displayed saris with images of creatures and forms and shapes from the alphabet. The men sported dhotis and rudraksha beads around their necks while a woman or two wore plain white saris with their hair made in buns imitating the attires of Hindu devotees.

The last designer for the evening was Farha Anjum Bari who brought to the audience the fusion of Tagore's western and eastern thoughts. The most representative example of the theme was the sari cum dress which started as the Eastern sari at the top and ended like a gown with an elaborate frilly design. Tagore's jobba, a hybrid of Darjiling's Baku and Japanese Kimono, was the main inspiration for the men's designs.

Tagore's works have been kept alive by his countless fans even so many years after his death by staging of his dramas, performances of his songs and recitation of his poems. He was one of the greatest contributors to the cravings of Bengali Literature enthusiasts.

The people of Bangladesh are more than familiar with the Nobel Laureate's literary works be it his poems, novels, music and dramas. This initiative of British Council and Grameen Phone was indeed an apt way of bringing the Rediscovering Tagore series to an end by making people familiar to an aspect of Tagore that was previously not known by most: Tagore's association with fashion. To that end the show was a huge success.

By Karishma Ameen and Raisaa Tashnova
Photo: Zahedul I Khan and Sazzad Ibne Sayed


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