The changing face of showstoppers in Indian fashion shows, beyond Bollywood

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The changing face of showstoppers in Indian fashion shows, beyond Bollywood


The first physical edition of the FDCI x Lakmé Fashion Week since 2019 recently concluded with actor Ananya Panday sashaying down the ramp in Falguni Shane Peacock‘s creation. While the energy and enthusiasm of returning to the physical ramp were palpable in every aspect — from show themes to collections — little else seemed different. Except for the showstoppers.

It is an Indian fashion week norm that a Bollywood celebrity will close the show; at least that of established designers in the industry. The showstopper is kept a secret, and as we receive in our emails from PR officials, “under embargo”, to secure a sense of surprise. There are a lot of speculated reasons as to why Bollywood celebrities as showstoppers make for a failsafe formula for fashion shows — they enhance the glam factor of the show, attract wider media coverage, and tap into the star’s fanbase who may not necessarily be acquainted with the brand. Among other celebrity showstoppers this season were Janhvi Kapoor for Punit Balana, Kangana Ranaut for Khadi India, Kriti Sanon for Tarun Tahiliani, and Mrunal Thakur for JJ Valaya, among others.

But the surprise this year was not as much in which celebrity will close whose show, it was, instead, in spotting some known as well as lesser known faces as the showstoppers of ace designers. AAP leader Raghav Chadha, art curator Shalini Passi, singer Manasi Scott, influencers Masoom Minawala and Sakshi Sindwani, and even ace designer Rohit Bal turned showstoppers, tipping the scales towards non-normative showstoppers in Indian fashion weeks. While some attribute this to repetitiveness and the need for inclusivity, some think it was an inevitability in the post-pandemic world.

Social media domination

As the tide progressively turns towards social media, the focus, too, continues to shift towards influencers and digital content creators who promise visibility, millennial appeal, and of course, access to their millions of followers. In fact, Masoom Minawala, one of India’s biggest content creators in luxury and fashion, thinks that “that it’s a revolutionary step. For years, we’ve had showstoppers and the title was exclusively reserved for the 1 per cent of people who fit into the societal standards of ‘beauty’. When influencers walk the ramp for world renowned designers, it resonates with communities. Being a show stopper is no longer an unattainable dream, it becomes a reality. Coexisting with the Bollywood celebrities as show stoppers is definitely the future of a more inclusive environment.”

This season of LFW, Masoom turned showstopper for designer Varun Bahl. She had also closed the show for Vaishali S in Milan Fashion Week this year, being the first Indian content creator to do so. Talking about the experience, Masoom says: “There’s some unparalleled solace in batting for your own country. When I walked the ramp for Varun Bahl, the comfort and the support from the audience was simply heartwarming.”

She also thinks that designers making influencers their muse is “a great way to recognise the contributions of influencers who are on a mission to promote the magnificence of Indian fashion and it becomes a symbiotic relationship. From my observations, the vision of Indian fashion weeks are hosted around building a community, whether that’s setting a foundation for budding homegrown designers or strengthening the bonds within the fashion fraternity. Getting influencers onboard as show stoppers is a way of connecting to different masses and covering a wide target group.”

The designer, too, seems to agree. “I think it was a befitting thing to do,” says Varun Bahl without a moment’s hesitation. “She has made us very proud, she is so pretty, confident, and so into fashion. It made absolute sense. But everybody was so surprised!” Bahl also attributed ‘repetitiveness’ and the need for ‘unpredictability’ when it came to picking showstoppers, acknowledging that “of course, Bollywood is Bollywood”.

Relevance over popularity

For Vaishali S, who recently became the first Indian female designer to showcase at Milan Fashion Week, choosing Shalini Passi, art and design collector also ‘made absolute sense’. Shalini has been a long-time patron and supporter of the brand. “I truly believe in Vaishali’s creations and have been wearing, supporting it for years now. Her clothes are artistic and beautifully crafted. Hence, it was an absolute pleasure and honor to be the showstopper for her. The gown was specially designed keeping me in mind and was truly impeccable,” says Passi.

Shalini Passi’s finale outfit was designed keeping her in mind. (Photo: Shalini Passi)

She also poses a thought-provoking question when it comes to determining whether this showstopper shift is a seasonal ‘trend’, or here to stay: “Bollywood celebs as showstoppers has lost the novelty for some, but there are others who are still quite enamored by Bollywood. It surely reaches a lot of eyeballs but are those eyeballs relevant in today’s day and age, is the question.” She further adds, “Since the entire purpose of fashion is inclusivity and not a targeted audience, it is refreshing to see people from other walks of life as showstoppers. The era (of Bollywood celebrity showstoppers) isn’t over, I think, but there is room for positive, inclusive changes.”

‘Fashion belongs to fashion’

On the finale day of LFW, a fashion week constant walked for another. Ace designer Rohit Bal made his runway debut, after years of presenting his collection at LFW, as the showstopper for Abhishek Sharma. The decision was driven by emotion, shares Sharma, given that he is Bal’s protégé and had worked under him for a decade. “I decided that it can be no one else but him. And Rohit, too, instantly agreed.” Bal, too, spoke highly of Sharma and his “really, really special talent” in an exclusive interaction with Chef Suvir Saran for post the show.


Sharma also says that the audience is much more aware of the fashion industry beyond its outlines, and that “it doesn’t make sense to do something for the sake of it. Fashion belongs to fashion. Having masters of the own fields give your work a stamp of approval adds credibility to the whole thing.”

While the motivation and the inspiration to choose their muse differ for every designer and collection, Varun Bahl’s conclusionary statement seems to ring true for this shifting shape of showstoppers in Indian fashion weeks: “Change is going to be the only constant now. People are going to come up with newer and more innovative ideas. Otherwise it will all be so mundane and predictable.”

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