Namrata Zakaria http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria.rss en Sun Dec 04 10:00:28 IST 2022 fashion-tales-from-the-himalayas <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria/2024/06/15/fashion-tales-from-the-himalayas.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/opinion/columns/namrata-zakaria/images/2024/6/15/70-Looms-of-Ladakh-new.jpg" /> <p>I first heard of Looms of Ladakh when the pandemic hit in 2020. We were looking for artisans and artisanal cooperatives to raise funds for and someone had suggested their name. Fortunately they were well looked after by their founders, but I continued to follow their extraordinary work since then.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Looms of Ladakh is actually a farm-to-fashion brand, if ever there was one. It is herder-artisan-first, which means it provides work to its pastoralists and makes them co-owners of the brand. Its founder brought together women weavers of Ladakh (Ladakh is one of few places in India where women weave. The rest of India has only male weavers, while the women are only an extra pair of hands) to create a pashmina label. Pashmina, the soft wool of the Ladakhi mountain goat, is a precious commodity in the world of luxury fashion. Few Indian companies work with pashmina, as it is hard to source and thus very expensive. Looms of Ladakh is special not only for its quality of pashmina, but because it is an all-women enterprise.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I’ve seen much of the wares of Looms of Ladakh at various pop-ups in Mumbai. They are soft, but thick pieces of woollen wear—much like the stuff one’s grandmother would knit. Neutral greys and beiges, thick ear muffs, socks, caps and the like.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But I am in Leh now, and visiting the Looms of Ladakh store in Leh Bazaar. It’s less of a store, more of an office, but the upper floor is tastefully done with local wood and a sophisticated vibe. The soft-spoken (everyone in Leh is so soft spoken, it’s almost like they are praying under their breath) Lobzang Lamo is showing us around. The items here are so different from what I had seen before. This is thanks to a designer collaboration with the talented Rina Singh of Eka, one of our well-loved sustainable fashion labels.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rina has used local motifs of mountains, prayer wheels and such, and for the first time ever, introduced a little woollen embroidery to the Looms ladies. She’s also introduced a little colour, inspired by the multi-coloured prayer flags one sees across town. The pieces are gorgeous, and can be sold and worn anywhere in the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This collaboration has been brought about by Royal Enfield Social Mission. It’s the CSR arm of the famous motorcycle company, but calling it merely a government mandate is unfair. The manner in which Siddharth Lal has attempted to impact the terrain and the communities of the Himalayas, where most of his riders venture, is nothing short of a cri de coeur. Lal, CEO of Royal Enfield and Eicher Motors, has initiated The Himalayan Knot, a textile conservation project in the area. “Craftsmanship has long been an anchor of legacies. In Ladakh, finely woven woollen textiles stand as silent storytellers of the weaving heritage of Changpa women, whose skilled hands capture history in motifs,” he says. Other than Eka, more designer collaborations are in store with Sonam Dubal and Sushant Abrol of Countrymade.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lal’s vision is to leave every place better. A little further up from the Looms space, is Camp Kharu, an all-green pitstop for bikers going up to Pangong and Hanle. It is a two-storied 1,500sqft structure made of driftwood and rammed earth that functions as a cafe (the kitchen is run by six local women from self-help groups) as well as an exhibition space, overlooking the magnificent Indus river.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I visited Kharu too, riding pillion with one of Royal Enfield’s riders, wearing a soft white shawl from Looms of Ladakh X Eka. The ladies at the cafe made some barley beer, a great mood-fix for the nextdoor concert by Da Shugs, a Ladakhi band so popular that even the little kids grooving knew the lyrics.</p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria/2024/06/15/fashion-tales-from-the-himalayas.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria/2024/06/15/fashion-tales-from-the-himalayas.html Sat Jun 15 13:58:50 IST 2024 tiffany-the-worlds-most-famous-jewellery-brand-is-in-india <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria/2024/06/08/tiffany-the-worlds-most-famous-jewellery-brand-is-in-india.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/opinion/columns/namrata-zakaria/images/2024/6/8/70-The-iconic-blue-box-is-here-new.jpg" /> <p>Just a few weeks ago, a luxury brand I thought would never come to India, arrived here. Tiffany &amp; Co, the celebrated jewellery brand from New York, opened at Mumbai’s Jio World Plaza with a party that had more movie stars than Karan Johar’s house. Ranveer Singh, Karisma Kapoor, Vedang Raina, Khushi Kapoor and several others made their way to the opening party.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ranveer is an unusual choice for the luxury label’s brand ambassador. For one, it is largely a women’s jewellery label. But one that is known for its engagement rings, and Ranveer has long claimed fame as the ideal husband and boyfriend. The movie star arrived dressed in an all-white satin ensemble, wearing some men’s pieces from Tiffany’s.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tiffany’s is an unusual brand study. It is the world’s most successful jewellery brand, selling not necessarily the most expensive jewellery pieces. But in 2019, it accounted for nearly $4.5 billion in sales. In 2019, it was bought over by the LVMH group that released a statement earlier this year showing Tiffany &amp; Co had made “record sales”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tiffany has more than 300 stores in the world, over 13,000 employees and 500 artisans working in-house. It specialises in silver jewellery, but also luxury diamonds and stones.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Its 2019 sale to LVMH was completed only in 2021. Thanks to the Covid pandemic, LVMH argued to pay less than the agreed amount. Tiffany sued LVMH in a Delaware court forcing the French luxury conglomerate to honour the deal. The two companies finally reached a settlement where LVMH paid a little less than its initial offer. LVMH still ended up paying nearly $16 billion, making this the world’s largest-ever luxury deal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What makes Tiffany so special? Its marketing strategies. The same reason why it is here in India, to sell to us what we already make best—high-end jewellery. Tiffany has created a brand value, a perception of luxury, that few can ape. Much of this is located at its home turf, its fabulous store on New York’s Fifth Avenue.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The store is a destination in itself. It was immortalised by Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 film <i>Breakfast At Tiffany’s</i>. Another Hollywood classic, <i>Sleepless in Seattle</i>, was shot here in 1993, and then Fashion Victim in 2002.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Most of Tiffany’s revenue comes from its small silver products—its lock bracelet, its heart tag pendants, and such. It is also a go-to place for engagement rings; Nick Jonas had apparently closed down the luxury store to buy a diamond ring for his then girlfriend Priyanka Chopra. It has just finished a $500 million renovation that includes custom art, including a Damien Hirst and a cafe by celebrity chef Daniel Boulud.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tiffany’s founders, two 25-year-old friends, actually began to buy stones from European royalty in the 1800s, including Marie Antoinette, and allowed Americans to buy real stones locally for the first time. Tiffany’s jewellery designs are instantly recognisable, but more famous is its iconic blue box. Tiffany Blue, a robin’s egg-blue, is an internationally protected colour under IP laws.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Luxury labels are excited about India again, and many of them have even brought down prices here despite high duties and taxes. Shopping for several labels in India is now 7 to 10 per cent cheaper than in the Middle East and Singapore. Like Tiffany did in the US, Sabyasachi Mukherjee has disrupted the jewellery market in India. His jewellery is now his most profitable business, and has taught Indians that they must pay for designer jewels.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tiffany, and its elegant little blue boxes, are cashing in on the same sentiment.</p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria/2024/06/08/tiffany-the-worlds-most-famous-jewellery-brand-is-in-india.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria/2024/06/08/tiffany-the-worlds-most-famous-jewellery-brand-is-in-india.html Sat Jun 08 15:15:14 IST 2024 nancy-tyagi-and-her-diy-fashion-was-the-show-stopper-at-cannes <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria/2024/05/25/nancy-tyagi-and-her-diy-fashion-was-the-show-stopper-at-cannes.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/opinion/columns/namrata-zakaria/images/2024/5/25/70-Nancy-Tyagi-at-Cannes-new.jpg" /> <p>Never mind that India is witnessing a massive general election, perhaps one of the dirtiest it has ever witnessed. The month of May belongs to escapism. May belongs to vacations. And May certainly belongs to the gorgeous red carpets of the Met Gala in New York and the Cannes Film Festival in the south of France.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To be honest, the fashion at Cannes has never excited me. It is possibly the only film festival that believes in red-carpet fashion. Its massive rug trails down to almost half the Croisette avenue of the tiny seaside town where the festival takes place every year. Perhaps this is the way of the chief sponsor, L’Oreal, to ensure the focus is on glamour and glamorous hair-styles. Regardless, Cannes is almost always known for who wore what more than the films showcased here.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India has almost always had a lousy showcase on the red carpet here. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan arrived here first for a Devdas promotion wearing a yellow Neeta Lulla sari that perhaps should have been reserved for a friend’s engagement ceremony instead. Neither Vidya Balan nor Sabyasachi Mukherjee can live down the actor’s attempts at the red carpet at Cannes; so unfortunate was her styling. So many Indian actors feel obliged to wear saris, but it is time we accept that if we keep it traditional it looks out of place and too ‘exotic’ (I despise that word). Contemporary versions of the sari are such a hit and miss, either they may be inventive and chic or then just blah.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The jury, for example, is still out on Alia Bhatt’s Sabyasachi sari with an elongated trail that she wore at the Met Gala two weeks ago. Pretty, but not clever enough.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Poor Aishwarya was done dirty by her stylists and designers. Both her outings were frightful. Her two gowns were designed by well-known couturiers Falguni &amp; Shane Peacock, whose love for the outlandish defy good fashion. Both gowns looked like they were DIY fancy dress costumes, not a great look for India’s original beauty ambassador abroad.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ironically, the one who genuinely did do DIY fashion was the show-stopper at Cannes. I hadn’t heard of Nancy Tyagi before this, but what can I say, I’m a fan. Tyagi is a young influencer from Delhi and Uttar Pradesh who has scored over a million subscribers on YouTube by making her own clothes inspired by famous fashion designers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She looked gorgeous the first time her pictures and interviews were shared. She spoke in Hindi, saying she had made her own gown, a pink fluffy fun-fest, in 30 days using 1,000 metres of fabric. The next day, she bettered herself. She wore a contemporary sari with a hood, and even made a video of how she bought the fabric, cut and stitched it together.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Never mind the stars, Nancy Tyagi is such a hero for so many Indians. A young enterprising girl who found her fame using her hands and her inventiveness. Nothing about her clothes spell ‘fashion’ as we know it. Nothing is handmade, using craft or natural fabrics. It is commercial embroidered cloth sold in bales. All of India is filled with these fabric stores for millions of women who ape “Bollywood” styles and remake copies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But Tyagi is that girl who made it among the Bollywood types and shone. She stands for an India that thrives and survives with its hustle, with its own strong and loud voice. There is no opposition, they say. But India’s people are the opposition. Like Nancy, the heroine of her own destiny, who came from the masses and stole the film festival from the film stars.</p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria/2024/05/25/nancy-tyagi-and-her-diy-fashion-was-the-show-stopper-at-cannes.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria/2024/05/25/nancy-tyagi-and-her-diy-fashion-was-the-show-stopper-at-cannes.html Sat May 25 14:06:17 IST 2024 are-consumers-tired-of-being-taken-for-a-ride-by-luxury-labels <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria/2024/05/18/are-consumers-tired-of-being-taken-for-a-ride-by-luxury-labels.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/opinion/columns/namrata-zakaria/images/2024/5/18/159-Bernard-Arnault-new.jpg" /> <p>A year or so ago, if anyone had told me that Tommy Hilfiger would have stolen the show at New York’s Met Gala, I would have laughed. But it seems the end of giant luxury labels is upon us even before we expected it. The American ready-to-wear designer Tommy Hilfiger seems to have created the maximum media buzz at the 2024 Met Gala, according to several data analytics firms.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even though big names such as Loewe, Balmain, Armani, Chanel and Maison Margiela made their statements here, almost equally prominent were mall favourites like H&amp;M, Hilfiger and even Gap. Yes, on celebrities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>How did luxury labels fall out of favour with celebrities? Simply because they did so with consumers first. Even though many European luxury brands are showing an uptick in their numbers, their consumers are mostly the new rich or the aspirational rich. These don’t bring much cred to the brand, they mitigate the label’s snob appeal instead.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An interesting opinion piece appeared on industry bible businessoffashion.com last week, by guest writer and StyleZeitgeist editor Eugene Rabkin, titled ‘How Long Will The Luxury Myth Last?’ Rabkin says the Great Recession of the late 2000s threw luxury brands a curve ball, but they were saved by just one market: China. The country generated enough and more shoppers to sustain the industry at large. “In 2000, the world had 15 million millionaires; by 2022 that number had roughly quadrupled to 60 million,” she writes. “Through glittering megastores, celebrity-fuelled campaigns and shrewd strategies like category segregation that confined image-driving products such as evening dresses to high price ranges, ensuring they were unattainable to most, while pitching others, such as beauty, at price points for the masses, luxury brands have long managed to sell ‘exclusive’ goods by the millions.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Once brands realised their marketing had worked, they began to sell high-street items like sneakers and sweatshirts at luxury prices. They were lapped up. Volumes increased and quality fell. Rabkin says “the post-pandemic exuberance is over and new customers are pulling back thanks to high interest rates and costs of living. Furthermore, China has stopped producing millionaires”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India is hardly stepping in for China. Women’s Wear Daily magazine quotes a Barclays report that states, “Comments from brands have been very bearish so far, with LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault stating in 2023 that India is not a country where they can have a network of luxury shops due to a high level of income disparity and too low a level of GDP per capita.” Homegrown luxury labels are now taking over China and India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Several industry watchers such as myself and The New York Times have questioned the inexplicable rise in prices of luxury labels. Data company EDITED has noted that luxury prices have been raised by 25 per cent in the last five years alone. Rabkin believes this has pushed customers away, even the rich, because “nobody likes to be taken for a ride”, she writes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another interesting development is that succession in mega companies is failing. Arnaud Lagardere, the son of French duty-free behemoth Lagardere’s founder Jean-Luc, has been forced to resign after accusations of false information, vote buying and misuse of corporate assets. All of France’s big wealth creators are in their 70s and 80s—Arnault is 75, Vincent Bollore of Vivendi media is 72, and Francois Pinault of Kering is 87. All of them are placing their children and grandchildren on their boards (Pinault’s grandson, also Francois, now heads Christie’s auction house).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But a new world demands a new order.</p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria/2024/05/18/are-consumers-tired-of-being-taken-for-a-ride-by-luxury-labels.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria/2024/05/18/are-consumers-tired-of-being-taken-for-a-ride-by-luxury-labels.html Sat May 18 15:32:57 IST 2024 bhansali-s-courtesans-in-heeramandi-are-overdressed <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria/2024/05/11/bhansali-s-courtesans-in-heeramandi-are-overdressed.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/opinion/columns/namrata-zakaria/images/2024/5/11/71-Manisha-Koirala-in-Heeramandi-new.jpg" /> <p>Who else but Sanjay Leela Bhansali could bring on a wardrobe reset like the one in his just-dropped period piece—an eight-part Netflix series called <i>Heeramandi</i>? The show of the moment is set in Heera Mandi or the Diamond Bazaar—the famous brothel district in pre-Independence Lahore. In the backdrop of the beautiful nautch girls, their cultural savoir faire and their fawning sahebs, is India’s freedom struggle. Historically, the women of Heera Mandi also played a role in raising funds for India’s fight against the British colonisers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Period dramas have a special place in fashion. When done right, they offer us a deep dive into the lives and costumes of the time. Bhansali’s <i>Heeramandi</i> does just that. It is styled by well-known Delhi-based designers, Rimple and Harpreet Narula.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lahore was Delhi’s twin city, rich in culture and wealth, thanks to the British, Sikhs and Nawabs. Women wore Mughal-inspired zardozis, phulkaris and salwar kameezes of the Punjabis, as well as European styles such as chintz prints, toile de jouy, and sequined chiffon saris. The designers say they extensively researched archives, visited museums (such as Ahmedabad’s Calico Museum), and studied books like <i>Punjab Reconsidered: History, Culture, and Practice</i>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The show stars Manisha Koirala as the formidable queen-bee courtesan Mallikajaan and Sonakshi Sinha as her nemesis Fareedan. Richa Chadha, Aditi Rao Hydari, Sanjeeda Shaikh and Sharmin Segal play other pivotal courtesans. The women are a delight to watch, each one bringing their A-game to the coveted sets of an SLB film. Not for nothing do actresses want to work with him, he makes the women look more beautiful than any Instagram filter or another filmmaker can hope to.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The nautch girls of Lahore, much like of Mughal India, were not mere prostitutes, but repositories of wealth and culture. The finest art forms—dance, singing, fashion and jewellery—were found in their mansions. They were wealthy, and thus earned respect. Bhansali also shows them as empowered, wielding influence over the British police as well as local nobles.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bhansali’s courtesans wear ghararas, shararas, Farshi pajamas, lehengas, anarkalis and glamorous saris, with extensive jewellery like matha pattis, maang tikkas, passas and necklace suites. Mallikajaan’s jewels are kept in vaulted rooms, not ordinary Godrej-style lockers. They are overdressed, an occupational mandate, but oh, what clothes!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Heeramandi</i> is important not just because it throws light on the forgotten courtesans of yore, but also because of these fiercely independent women’s role in India’s freedom struggle. At the end of the series, a voiceover reminds us that history has constantly obfuscated the support of women. In Vikram Sampath’s <i>My Name is Gauhar Jaan</i>, the famous real-life courtesan who became a powerful and established singer, and one of the richest women in India, was asked by Mahatma Gandhi to perform for the Swaraj Fund in 1921. Gauhar agreed on the condition that he would attend. When he didn’t show up, she contributed only half the amount raised for the cause.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One cannot but notice that women-centric films and shows are finding mainstream audiences on streamers as well as theatres. Rhea Kapoor’s Crew made nearly Rs150 crore at the box office. Kiran Rao’s fabulous comedy <i>Laapataa Ladies</i> is also considered to be a hit. OTT streamers have brought the most brilliant women to work. Sharmila Tagore, 79, frontlines the 2023 film <i>Gulmohar</i>. Dimple Kapadia, 66, was the lead in <i>Saas, Bahu Aur Flamingo</i>, Sonakshi in the stellar bride-killer show Dahaad, Sanya Malhotra in <i>Kathal</i>, Raveena Tandon in <i>Patna Shukla</i>, Vidya Balan in <i>Neeyat </i>and<i> Sherni</i>, and Shefali Shah in the superb <i>Delhi Crime</i>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The spotlight suits women.</p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria/2024/05/11/bhansali-s-courtesans-in-heeramandi-are-overdressed.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria/2024/05/11/bhansali-s-courtesans-in-heeramandi-are-overdressed.html Sat May 11 15:28:44 IST 2024 dressing-for-the-weather <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria/2024/05/04/dressing-for-the-weather.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/opinion/columns/namrata-zakaria/images/2024/5/4/71-Handblock-printed-from-Anokhi-new.jpg" /> <p>In Mumbai, where I live and work, there is a severe heatwave going on. The highest temperature this month has been 40 degrees, sweltering and humid for the coastal city. Of course this is a savage reminder of climate change, and how brutal even its early effects are. Even as some of us may be privileged to remain in air-conditioned environs of the home or the office, a majority of people in the city do not have access to climate control. They live in small, poorly ventilated and crowded rooms, and leaving home is usually an escape.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India has always been a hot and humid country. But how wonderful times may have been when we dressed for the summer. Even nobles wore soft, diaphanous muslin, Indian mulmul or its more sophisticated avatar of jamdani. This gossamer-like fabric was the specialty of Bengal and Bangladesh, and remains the finest fabric made by human hands. European colonisers found it shameless because of its transparent nature, and yet it is the only fabric they would wear to face our summers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Humans have always dressed for the weather. But globalisation and industrialisation have wreaked havoc on our wardrobes. Clothing is expected to be mass produced, factory made and make fat profit by creating cheap, even unhealthy fabrics to dress a vast population. Thus polyester, nylon, and a whole host of flammable, heat-inducing and microplastic-filled fabrics now crowd our wardrobes. Don’t even say fast fashion, Zara and H&amp;M never claimed to give you quality clothing, just trendy stuff.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India has always been an agrarian country. Our villages created ‘slow fashion’ as we understand it today. Everything the villagers wore, and many continue to wear today, pays respect to the environment. They made clothes without electricity; looms still don’t consume it, but work on mechanised levers—like hand pumps or bicycles do. A large frame ‘builds’ the fabric, a long tooth comb separates the threads, and a mousey shuttle creates the warp and weft.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Thread was spun from rain-harvested plant fibre, fabrics were dyed using spices, fruit, vegetables, mud and soot. Clothing was made from nature. It was vibrant, and it was cooling.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even winter wear came from sheep or animal hide. Nobody went out to kill an animal for its skin, animals were greatly respected for the food and milk they provided. Their carcasses were repurposed into gorgeous, functional and long-lasting leather, giving another example of how zero waste solutions have always existed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is an argument that handlooms are expensive. They don’t have to be. A cotton sari costs a few hundred rupees. Moreover, if you buy an item from an apparel manufacturer or a fast fashion brand for Rs500, it has probably cost Rs80 to make and is filled with trashy bits. Like McDonalds, or your delicious streetside vada pav, you can’t eat it every day or it will kill you.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Two amazing privately-owned brands—Anokhi and Fabindia—have found the sweet spot between natural fabrics and economies of scale. They have taught us that you can have your cake and eat it, too. You can dress daily from either of these two companies for as little as Rs2,000 a day. Whereas designer handlooms may cost Rs15,000 per outfit or more.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It has been shown that hand-loomed fabric (perhaps not hand tailored though) can dress a population, simply because lakhs of people are making it across India. Don’t believe companies that tell you factories are the only means to dress people. They want fatter profits for themselves by selling you junk. They won’t tell you they can still make a slightly smaller profit by selling you good quality natural clothing.</p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria/2024/05/04/dressing-for-the-weather.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria/2024/05/04/dressing-for-the-weather.html Sat May 04 15:38:58 IST 2024 hermes-s-lawsuit-may-do-more-damage-that-one-imagines <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria/2024/04/27/hermes-s-lawsuit-may-do-more-damage-that-one-imagines.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/opinion/columns/namrata-zakaria/images/2024/4/27/70-Handbags-from-Hermes-new.jpg" /> <p>When Hermès was hit with a class-action lawsuit last month for “antitrust” activities, it didn’t see it coming. Most of the luxury world has all eyes on this suit, filed by two interested consumers who claim they were denied a purchase, and whether it would go to trial. Many brands are gleeful. For long, brands have wondered how Hermès, a luxury leader, has managed to hold on to its strategy of rarity and snob value at the risk of losing a sale. Some industry watchers are worried, as American judges are famously pro-consumer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In March, the plaintiffs Tina Cavalleri and Mark Glinoga filed a suit in San Francisco, California, stating Hermès was indulging in the “unlawful practice of tying”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This means it made its customers purchase smaller products such as shoes, scarves, ties and costume jewellery before being allowed to purchase one of their two mega products, the Birkin bag or the Kelly purse. Both the Birkin and Kelly have been the subject of various books, blogs and films, thanks to the almost mythical marketing Hermès employs to promote them. The waitlist for a Birkin and Kelly can go into several months or years, giving rise to a famous saying, “You don’t choose an Hermès bag, it chooses you.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The suit states the company is engaged in unfair, anti-competitive business practices, and the two complainants have also invited other consumers who have been denied a purchase to join their cause: their freedom to buy a crazy expensive handbag if they wanted to.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hermès, last week, hired a well-known antitrust legal firm, Latham &amp; Watkins, to represent them. They are yet to comment on the suit, adding to the intrigue. But last year, the brand told Businessoffashion.com, “Hermès strictly prohibits any sales of certain products as a condition to the purchase of others.” The CEO Axel Dumas, however, accepted that stores are encouraged to vet buyers and sell the sold-out bags only to real clients, in a bid to thwart the growing resale market for their products.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is also interesting to note that this suit comes less than one year after Hermès’ stock rose to more than €2,000 per share, raising its market cap to €210 billion. Hermès, not the world’s largest-selling label (it appears well after Nike, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Adidas), has for the first time surpassed Nike’s market cap.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I am honestly intrigued. If the suit goes to trial, Hermès will be forced to disclose trade practices it has long held secret. Hermès is said to focus on traditional manufacturing techniques and training its artisans for up to 10 years, across its 21 ateliers in France, instead of making assembly-line products.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But Michael Tonello (who authored the riotous <i>Bringing Home the Birkin</i>, exposing the luxury label’s faux waitlist by shopping for Birkins at the smaller stores instead), wrote on his Instagram: “I began reading some of the Hermès PurseForum (one-stop shop for inaccuracies and untruths) and Reddit groups, back around 2005. Each of them were like a country club for Hermès cheerleaders… “Every Hermès bag is entirely handmade, hand-sewn (‘saddle-stitched’) by a single craftsman at a bench.” And, I’ve yet to find anywhere in print where Hermès makes that claim. And they won’t, because it’s not true… But you can find that verbiage in most publications and stories about Hermès.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hermès, and eventually luxury brands after the trial, will be forced to disclose methods they disguise for the convenience of myth-based marketing. This may turn on their head stories of the exclusivity, quality and long-held beliefs of discretion that luxury labels are known for.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It will also shift the focus of power in the industry. Who controls the keys to the success of a luxury brand—the producer company, the purchasing customer, or the sales staff who decides whom to open the doors of the private viewing room to.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This suit may change the luxury game forever.</p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria/2024/04/27/hermes-s-lawsuit-may-do-more-damage-that-one-imagines.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria/2024/04/27/hermes-s-lawsuit-may-do-more-damage-that-one-imagines.html Sun Apr 28 13:34:09 IST 2024 the-curious-case-of-brands-refusing-to-dress-celebrities <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria/2024/04/20/the-curious-case-of-brands-refusing-to-dress-celebrities.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/opinion/columns/namrata-zakaria/images/2024/4/20/70-Rishi-Sunak-new.jpg" /> <p>British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak may have aimed for an everyman image when he wore a pair of Adidas Samba sneakers in an interview to promote his tax policies. But no one saw the ridicule coming from the irreverent British public. The widely popular shoe on their widely unpopular PM has caused fans of the Samba to troll him openly.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The country’s GQ magazine ran an article with a headline that read, “Can Rishi Sunak leave the Adidas Samba alone, please?” The <i>Daily Mail</i> said: “Rishi Sunak roasted after wearing Adidas Sambas to ‘try and appear normal’.” Journalist Ed Cummings tweeted: “Thinking of the Adidas Samba community in this difficult time.” Another troll suggested it was a gift from Nike to sabotage the competition.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Sambas—a typically slim, gum-sole shoe with Adidas’ trademark three stripes—are currently London’s most popular shoe. It’s been called the shoe of the year or of the season, depending on who you are reading.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If that’s not bad enough, Sunak has taken it on the chin and apologised for wearing the seriously cool sneaker and ruining the credibility for everyone.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even though it appears that every brand is chasing a celebrity, any celebrity, to wear their clothes, dressing up public figures is a rather sticky idea. Primarily because the celebrity needs to be someone whose image matters too. Victoria Beckham, in her WAG days, showed up in LA in 2007 wearing a fuchsia Roland Mouret dress, a personal purchase. When the designer learned of this, he is rumoured to have famously said: “Get her out of my dress”. This was, of course, years before Victoria would launch her own label (amid criticism of copying Mouret’s designs). And much before the Beckhams became front-row gold for designers in the US and across Europe.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Former French <i>Vogue</i> editor Carine Roitfeld said no designers wanted to touch Kim Kardashian because of her “cheesy reality person” background. Kardashian, now a billionaire entrepreneur and still a reality-star, is muse to Balenciaga and Dolce &amp; Gabbana, plus is now the name that can launch a thousand brands.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Her former husband Kanye West is seeing a reversal of fortune. After posting anti-Semitic comments and losing all his brand endorsements (including his blockbuster collaboration with Adidas), West is the superstar all labels must absolutely avoid in order to survive. Last October he appeared at his Yeezy Paris Fashion Week show wearing a T-shirt with the phrase ‘White Lives Matter’ on its back. The rapper faced criticism from fans as well as other celebrities for echoing the new Nazi and white supremacist statements.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Plus-size celebrities such as Ashley Graham, Rebel Wilson, Rachel Bloom and others say they often had to buy their own dresses to wear at red-carpet events. Several brands don’t make dresses in larger sizes, they stated.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Beyonce famously accepted her CFDA Fashion Icon award in 2016 saying high-end labels refused to dress her band Destiny’s Child early on in their careers because they “didn’t really want to dress four Black, country, curvy girls”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Often designers only want to dress A-list celebrities. Stylists in Mumbai often tell me how they struggle to source clothes for actors who are not stars as yet. They end up sourcing from younger, lesser known labels, where both often lose out on coverage opportunities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I remember, not too many years ago, a pretty petite actress was walking the runway or shooting campaigns for as many as six fashion labels in one year. The next two years, no designer would touch her.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the other hand, when brands once spoke about their ‘discerning’ clientele, all their big bucks come from the arrivistes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>@namratazakaria</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria/2024/04/20/the-curious-case-of-brands-refusing-to-dress-celebrities.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria/2024/04/20/the-curious-case-of-brands-refusing-to-dress-celebrities.html Sat Apr 20 11:33:12 IST 2024 sad-only-few-female-led-films-have-brought-in-numbers <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria/2024/04/12/sad-only-few-female-led-films-have-brought-in-numbers.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/opinion/columns/namrata-zakaria/images/2024/4/12/70-Kareena-Kapoor-and-Tabu-and-Kriti-Sanon-in-Crew-new.jpg" /> <p>At the time of writing this, an all-women-led film—Crew—has clocked in Rs104 crore at the worldwide box office. It is only the fifth film this year to have reached the prestigious Rs100 crore club. It is also one of the very few films frontlining women to have reached this milestone. In fact, you can count these films on one hand.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Crew, starring Tabu, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Kriti Sanon, is 10 days old and still counting its collections. The Rhea Kapoor-Anil Kapoor and Ekta Kapoor-Shobha Kapoor production has scored a double whammy, their previous all-girl romp <i>Veere Di Wedding</i> (2018) made Rs138 crore at the worldwide box office. Sonam Kapoor’s Neerja (2016) made Rs131 crore, while Alia Bhatt’s <i>Gangubai Kathiawadi</i> (2022) made Rs209 crore. Kangana Ranaut’s iconic 2013 film, <i>Queen</i>, also a blockbuster, fell short at just Rs95 crore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is a sorry state of affairs that such few female-led films have brought in the numbers. It is also discouraging to know that fewer films with women protagonists will thus be made.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There’s a scene from Crew—<a title="Crew: Watch it to bask in the glory of the leading ladies" href="https://www.theweek.in/review/movies/2024/03/29/crew-watch-it-to-bask-in-the-glory-of-the-leading-ladies.html">otherwise a laugh-out-loud comedy</a>—that made me tear up. Sanon’s character, ‘Divya Rana from Haryana’ (among the more backward states of India) is trained to be a pilot. Unfortunately, she’s pretty, and only gets recruited as an air hostess. She takes the job, but spends years lying to her proud parents. So, she goes to work dressed in a pilot’s uniform and changes into a flight attendant’s uniform once she reaches the airport.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This reminded me of so many young women I know who left home in one wardrobe and went to work in another. Women in burqa, women in salwar kameezes, women in jeans and shirts. Women from diverse social and religious backgrounds who had to hide what they wore, and who they are, from those at home. A public toilet became their safe space, there they could get into their Wonder Woman gear and get ready to take on the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Perhaps, this is also why such few women make real-life or reel-life heroes today. Simply because they are not able to wear what they want to wear.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So much of the rest of the film, still an escapist heist-in-high heels gambol, echoes the same sentiment without once spelling it out. The three actors are colleagues who haven’t been paid their salaries. Each one’s back story is a compelling middle-class tale of working women who fend for their struggling families. They chance upon some manna from heaven, and indulge in a minor crime. They end up getting caught, and have no one to rely on but their own devices (their looks, their wit and their unshakeable sisterhood) to get themselves out of a sticky situation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Never mind there are two rather popular heroes in the film—man of the moment Diljit Dosanjh, and the mass icon Kapil Sharma. It’s a dramatic irony that both mega stars are relegated to bit roles, just so the girls can go out and do their thing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The girls dress their parts beautifully. Tabu in kaftans and capes (and one deliciously buxom dress in the poster) exudes badass big sister energy. Kareena in her unbuttoned blouses, belts and boots is the original hustle rani. Kriti, in itsy bitsies, is the millennial who makes her looks her modus operandi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And there’s that seminal, sensational, remix <i>‘choli ke peeche kya hai?’</i> What lies behind the blouse, it asks. A heart, it replies. But also a smart as a tack mind, the girls echo.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>@namratazakaria</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria/2024/04/12/sad-only-few-female-led-films-have-brought-in-numbers.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria/2024/04/12/sad-only-few-female-led-films-have-brought-in-numbers.html Fri Apr 12 16:30:17 IST 2024 like-alexander-mcqueen-alessandro-michele-is-no-ordinary-creative-talent <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria/2024/04/06/like-alexander-mcqueen-alessandro-michele-is-no-ordinary-creative-talent.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/opinion/columns/namrata-zakaria/images/2024/4/6/67-Alessandro-Michele-new.jpg" /> <p>It took five long years since the death of fashion genius Alexander McQueen for the world to fall in love again. By happy coincidence to a man with the same name. Alessandro Michele was named creative director of Gucci just a month shy of McQueen’s fifth death anniversary. By the time his first fashion show headlining for Gucci had rolled out, we were all shik-shak-shok.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Michele made our heads spin. His debut was a menswear show, a much harder market to break into. But his vintage-inspired, gender-fluid florals for men were groundbreaking. It heralded a new language in fashion, one that’s still an ongoing conversation. This was 2015, also the year when the US Supreme Court had announced that homosexual marriages would be legal across the US. Michele was for the new man, the new woman, and a new world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gucci’s profits went up by 50 per cent in two years. Under Michele, Gucci began to clock in €10 billion each year. Along with CEO Marco Bizzarri, Michele reimagined Gucci’s branding, advertising (they famously had a campaign that featured no white models at all), and stores. In December 2022, when Gucci couldn’t recover from the sales slump that followed the pandemic, Michele was sent out in the cold. I’m sure I shed a few tears, just as I did when news of McQueen’s passing broke.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This was the second time Gucci found itself without a creative director. In 2004, Tom Ford and Domenico De Sole, famously known as the Tom-Dom team, brought Gucci back from bankruptcy. Gucci now has ‘safe’ Sabato De Sarno as its head, but its profits are refusing to return.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Last week, Michele was announced as Valentino’s creative head. Valentino is much smaller in size than Gucci is, but it takes Michele back to his Roman roots (Valentino Garavani, 91, was a famous gown-maker out of Rome who retired in 2007. His is the first store in the city’s Via Condotti just beneath the Spanish Steps.) Valentino’s revenue is humble at €1.4 billion in comparison, just before it was hit by a slowdown, too (the group has not yet announced last year’s results). He also returns to his good friend Jacopo Venturini, the chief merchandiser at Gucci who is now CEO at Valentino.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Michele and Valentino are strange bedfellows—he is a kitschy streetwear guru while the label is posh, old-world romance. But if Kering, Gucci’s owner, can allow a shake-up at Gucci, surely Valentino owner Mayhoola can do the same at Valentino. Michele is an expert at rediscovering lost motifs from the archives and giving them a fresh twist.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Michele and his friends at Gucci (he had worked there for 12 years before he was appointed creative head) also brought on a massive brand punch, even the entry-level products were given a touch of quirk to invite newer buyers. The same approach could be just the shot in the arm that would swing the profits in favour of Valentino. Gucci, under Michele, became an innovative, artistic, visionary brand. All these terms are alien in the Valentino dictionary thus far. Gucci also collaborated with Adidas and Disney, and it would be fun to see Valentino be young and relevant again.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mayhoola, the Qatari investment group that also owns Balmain, has deep pockets. But bringing in a star designer like Michele is unusual, as it plans to exit soon. Kering invested in Valentino last year taking a 30 per cent stake with it. Michele will then be back in the Kering fold, this time taking a hopefully super successful Valentino with him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Like McQueen, Michele is no ordinary creative talent. He is a significant moment in time, a cultural signpost. Unlike McQueen, he is lucky to have got a second chance.</p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria/2024/04/06/like-alexander-mcqueen-alessandro-michele-is-no-ordinary-creative-talent.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/namrata-zakaria/2024/04/06/like-alexander-mcqueen-alessandro-michele-is-no-ordinary-creative-talent.html Sat Apr 06 17:20:53 IST 2024