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Bamboo bustier and cane couture with Milind Soman

By Hindol Sengupta, IANS

Bamboo has just got stylish!

Bent in supple arches, bamboo shoots formed gently drooping canopies over giant puppets and sashaying models -- quite the new age agrarian style that India's rich bamboo industry wants to project.

With bamboo accessories - like handles on alligator bags - sweeping London, Milan and Paris, India, the world's second largest producer of the plant, wants to project it as a style statement.

For their avant garde fashion show at Hotel Ashok Monday night, the World Bamboo Congress being held here this week roped in former supermodel-turned-actor Milind Soman and designer Madhu Jain for a suitably exotic experience.

Breaking the mould of the "when you've seen one, you've seen all" of deadbeat fashion shows, the duo showed an almost surreal collection with depth, dashing and dazzle, all in this delightfully lightweight fabric derived from bamboo fibre and pitched as "Indian linen".

With natural pixel-size perforations, the fabric has a liltingly coarse feel on the skin that accentuates pore breathing.

For the show, it was moulded into a host of ethnic and Indo-Western outfits, bustier with pyjamas, ravishing saris, long coats with drapes, jackets, trousers and scarves.

"At almost every home in India, bamboo is used in some form or the other. It has its own rural economy," said Soman, an unlikely businessman in denims, T-shirt and a long drape around his neck.

"Our dream as part of the design industry is to bring it together as one dynamic industry."

What is astounding is the fit, the body-hugging fall of the fabric that seems to have a natural glide and accentuating contours.

If even 20 percent of what was shown on the ramp is made available at a reasonable price, the business from the clothes alone could help capture for India a great chunk of the global $10 billion bamboo market.

The trick is to do what has already been done successfully with khadi - very competitive, upper mass market pricing, great display, presentation and packaging and fresh design innovations to help develop a whole range of products.

After China, India has the richest bamboo resources of 136 species. A forest area of 8.96 million hectares is under bamboo cultivation in the country, which is about 12.8 percent of the total forest area.

The event also saw dance performances, a fair bit of intricate puppet manipulation by Dadi Pudumjee and felicitations for sports stars - Surajlata Devi, Baichung Bhutia, Bula Chowdhury and Rennedy Singh.

"Bamboo is really cool in the northeast," smiled Bhutia. "We use it all the time but, hey, it's getting stylish now!"


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