A Glamour Masterclass From India’s Fashion Luminaries

India has a rich history of exquisitely embellished textiles. The Greeks who arrived on the subcontinent with Alexander the Great in 325 BC wrote about the delicately flowered muslins and the fabulous gold-embroidered robes that they found there. In the centuries that followed, generations of astonishingly gifted Indian artisans refined their weaving, printing and embroidery skills to create breathtakingly beautiful textiles for Moghul emperors and maharajahs.

Fast-forward to the 21st century, and it’s clear that these skills have not only survived—they have thrived. Indian haute couture is dominated by opulent and highly decorated, jewel-colored fabrics—it’s a rich design language in which there’s a natural place for the brilliance and sparkle of crystal.

It’s against this background that Swarovski launched a new platform in September 2016 called Confluence, which brings together 11 of the hottest couture and jewelry designers in India: Amrapali, Eina Ahluwalia, Gaurav Gupta, Isharya, JJ Valaya, Manish Arora, Outhouse, Pernia Qureshi, Rohit Bal, Shivan & Narresh, and Suneet Varma. Their brief? To create statement pieces incorporating crystals from Swarovski for the special occasions and moments that make up the backbone of traditional social life in India. 

Showcasing crystal-studded pieces by some of the most luminous talents in the worlds of art and fashion—Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, and Alexander McQueen to name but three—Swarovski Crystal Worlds in Austria was the perfect location for a photoshoot showcasing Indian couture and jewelry from Confluence designers. 

Renowned for his show-stopping collection for brides and bridegrooms, Tarun Tahiliani blends the most sumptuous of Indian textiles with European-tailored silhouettes. Pernia Qureshi’s celestially inspired earrings and hand jewelry are a pitch-perfect accent for Tahiliani’s stunning lehenga (an Indian full-length skirt worn at formal occasions) in heavenly shades of blue and gold. Demonstrating his mastery of drapery, a delicate gold-embroidered sari by Tahiliani is offset by Isharya’s bold bangles.

Manish Arora pushes the boundaries of Indian couture, playing with traditional Indian craft techniques and experimenting with color. His gold Barbarella-meets-matador jacket and pants ensemble is the designer at his most daring, while his jigsaw-inspired shift dress reveals a more whimsical side. 

Dubbed “India’s master of fabric and fantasy” by Time magazine, Rohit Bal’s designs are the last word in lavishness, worn by an international clientele that includes Uma Thurman, Naomi Campbell and Anna Kournikova. His unique take on luxe fabrics and fabulous embellishment in sumptuous colors are brought to life in two outfits with a medieval feel. In stark contrast to Bal’s flamboyant creations, Gaurav Gupta’s gown in the palest of blues is elegantly understated. Gupta is the go-to designer for sophisticated, yet sexy, occasion wear. Romantic, regal and extravagant in their use of beadwork and crystals, JJ Valaya’s designs are a stunning expression of Indian heritage and the epitome of luxury. Not for nothing is he referred to as “the monarch of Indian fashion”—the gold brocade lehenga and jewelry featured here are the perfect expression of his luxurious aesthetic.

Shivan & Narresh broke new ground with beachwear designs that reflect India’s textile and cultural heritage through their bold use of color, handcrafted detailing, and modest cuts. Bikinis don’t come more flattering than this sophisticated number from the designer duo, teamed with a matching blouse. In another unforgettable image, Suneet Varma gives the traditional red wedding ensemble a free-spirited and contemporary twist with light-as-a-feather fabrics and painterly prints.

Summing up the Confluence collaboration, Markus Langes-Swarovski, member of the executive and advisory board of the Swarovski group, commented: “India is an incredibly vibrant country and family is very important. Celebrations are a big part of family life, and people are happy to invest in a couture item that could go on to become an heirloom. Crystal adds sparkle to couture designs and a magical element to the décor at special events.”

Photographer Dirk Bader
Model Natalya Piro at Louisa Models
Hair & Make–Up John Elliot
Fashion Stylist Sristhi Tewari
Fashion Producer Amrit Channa
Fashion interns Anila Junaid and Archit Dixit
Location Courtesy Swarovski Crystal Worlds, Austria
Harper’s Bazaar Bride – India