Archana Rao’s Diverse Fashion Palette Magnificently Displayed at Lakme Fashion Week

At the creative heart of Archana Rao’s studio nestled in the stylish enclave of Banjara Hills in Hyderabad, the vivid marigold yellow of a gown bursts into view. Echoing the resplendence of its floral surface intricacies and sumptuous trail, this gown stems from her exquisite Frou Frou Bride collection. Moreover, a stone’s throw away lies her monochromatic black and white attire, outlined with silhouettes that resonate power dressing – this is her Sun and Moon collection which made an impression at Lakme Fashion Week (LFW) Spring-Summer, an event produced in collaboration with the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI). Nearby, charming frocks designed for young girls complete the visual tapestry that speaks volumes of the fashion label’s widespread offering.

Returning to LFW after a span of three years, Archana Rao’s arrival was much anticipated. The interim years were spent fabricating intricate designs for director Nag Ashwin’s Telugu science fiction film, “Kalki 2898 AD,” coupled with commitments at her studio. But 2022 marked a turning point for Rao, “This year, I was determined to showcase at LFW; the concept was ready ahead of time and we pulled it off in between all our commitments,” she shared with anticipation.

A parade of models unveiled Archana Rao’s Sun and Moon collection at LFW, highlighted by her trademark opening – a white ensemble, which then elegantly transitioned into a palette of pastels, and culminated in black creations. Despite her personal affinity for the color black, this marked the first occasion she ventured to include black designs in her fashion week offerings. Ignoring seasonal trends, her collections are designed to transcend seasons with a fabric selection and color scheme that bridges time. Blacks, traditionally reserved for cooler months, have shrugged off past prejudices, with designers like Rao innovating with lighter-weight fabrics. Through the use of airy leathers and silks, Archana’s black designs emerge as breathable without compromising the formidable nature of padded shoulders that are emblematic of power dressing.

Adorned in large pearls and floral embellishments, her creations reflect the contrasting themes of the sun and moon, each varying to align with its respective celestial inspiration. “Using a hint of bling in structured silhouettes helped to tone them down,” Rao elucidates, showcasing a careful balance between robust structure and sparkling adornments.

Her captivation with florals traces back to her childhood, wherein fallen flowers from an aunt’s garden spurred her fascination. These early experiences with natural pigments and preserving flowers between the pages of books, sowed the seeds for what would become her signature design elements when she embarked on her path as a designer.

Archana Rao’s journey with LFW began in the Gen Next category in 2012, where she drew attention for her feminine contemporary Indo-Western ensembles catered to a youthful audience. Over time, her focus widened to encompass saris—both through a collaboration with Ekaya and her label—bridal wear, and eventually, kids’ wear. “With age and maturity, I began designing for women of all age groups,” she notes, capturing a growing and diversified clientele. Her saris, particularly favored by the younger generations, feature designs such as pre-draped saris and zippered saris for effortless elegance.

The Sun and Moon showcase also introduced men’s ensembles – signaling Rao’s official foray into menswear at the fashion event, despite years of designing for male clientele. This expansion was catalyzed by her female clients’ interest in seeing designs tailored for their partners. “I began my career at a menswear company upon returning to India,” explained Rao, a Parsons School of Design alumna. She incorporates the meticulous attention to detail and seamless finish found in menswear into her womenswear designs.

While known for her pastels, Rao has seen a shift in women desiring her ensembles in richer tones such as wine reds, midnight blues, or mustard yellows, especially for wedding occasions. The preferences of her Hyderabad clientele tend to lean toward bolder colors, possibly to complement their jewelry, she suspects.

The Frou Frou Bride collection, therefore, presents a vibrant variety from ivory whites to teal blue-greens and hibiscus reds, featuring innovative elements like crop tops adorned with large bows, sheer tops paired with flowing skirts, and pre-draped saris—a showcase of versatility and splendor that has become synonymous with the name Archana Rao.

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