Namrata Zakaria en Sun Dec 04 10:00:28 IST 2022 heres-what-happens-inside-a-drag-party <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Last weekend I did something I should have done a decade ago. I went to a drag party. It was the most sensational experience I have had in too long, and let me tell you why. Everyone was in costume. Never mind that I could not tell a heterosexual from a homosexual, I could not even tell a woman from a man. And that was the most liberating experience in the world. The freedom to be who you chose to be, regardless of what your parents told you you were.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A drag performance is derived from theatre. Since centuries, it was men who performed the women’s parts in plays (Shakespeare famously poked fun at this with gender confusions in his plays like <i>As You Like It</i>). Some etymologists state ‘drag’ is a literal abbreviation of being “dressed as a girl”. Others say it refers to the woman’s gown sweeping across the floor.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Regardless, the name has stuck for centuries and so has the fame. Drag parties today are cross-dressing parties, drag queens are men who dress as women while drag kings are women who dress as men. However these days, with so many people questioning and obliterating the gender they were born into, drag simply means a party where you dress up fantastically and perform to songs of your choice. There is a great celebration of sexuality, because even though most queer folk may question their gender, they celebrate the expression of their sexuality. It is exaggerated of course, which may cause the unfamiliar to blush. But once you are welcomed into their context, you really wish you were more like them. These are people whose sexuality has not been allowed out of the closet, so this is them waving it in our faces now.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The drag party I was invited to (these are strictly secret soirees and by invitation only) took place at a posh bar in central Mumbai. An unusual location, as most underground parties are known to pop up in the far-flung suburbs of the city, where the less conservative live. I have also heard of some parties taking place at another posh south Mumbai restaurant, since the growing tribe of queer folk and allies who frequent these are also spenders at the bar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But honestly it is the vibe of the party that is its biggest draw. Mind you, not all guests here are queer. The allies are highly creative people from fashion, film and even the rare business family—they are simply here to enjoy the sparkle and shimmer, and the removal of many masks although the faces are painted on.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The room is filled with colourful wigs, feather boas, sequins, confetti and stardust. “It is like a children’s party,” I told my accompanying friends, leading stylists, as we walked in. “It’s not,” they echoed before they broke into laughter. Soon enough, the performances began and I began to catch on to the energy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I especially loved what a subversion of fashion drag dressing was. Home-style, DIY fashion that was once the bane of costume parties or street-walkers is now the space for heightened creativity and self-expression. Fake pearls, synthetic clothing, sequins, colourful makeup, netted stockings or even shirts, diamond waist belts, piercings and tattoos—everything fashion schools taught us to clean up and wipe out is now clever costuming.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Drag costumes really take us back to the primal origins of fashion: you can be whoever you want to be with the right clothes. It isn’t the price tag on your frock that matters, it is how it makes you feel.</p> Sat Sep 23 17:10:47 IST 2023 how-dignitaries-delightfully-experimented-with-indian-clothing-at-g20 <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Now that the G20 Summit is done and dusted, host city Delhi can get back to its quotidian routine. Morning walks at the Lodhi gardens, lunch at the Chinese restaurant at Claridge’s, followed by an afternoon trawl at Khan Market and late-night negronis at an MP’s Lutyens bungalow. Never mind that the minutiae and the MOUs of the summit are barely known—most of it is related to Russia-Ukraine and climate change anyway. The most important task of a geopolitical junket is to create amazing photo ops.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Perhaps this is also why we are so obsessed with who wore what at the G20. After all, with the world’s most powerful leaders congregating in India for the first time, Indian clothing customs were the biggest winners.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I’m just going to get Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty out of the way first as both were predictably dull. Sunak’s ankle-length trousers may have been a thing in the UK, but in India, we usually wear our trousers short, thanks to the diktat of dusty roads, humid days and pricey gabardines. All eyes were on Murty as she stepped out in a crisp white shirt and a floral printed lehenga skirt (of yet unknown provenance), but she ended up boring us with the rest of her suitcase of Indian or Indian-origin designers. A printed dress and another lavender one from British Indian designers Saloni and Manimekala respectively. I am glad that she wore Fabindia. I am not a fan of the apparel at this chain of stores, but it is a promoter of local crafts and one of India’s first startups. Her finale sari—a pink organza Raw Mango—was the final fashion nod we snobs were waiting for.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The rest of the dignitaries gave respect to Indian clothing with their delightful experiments. The Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni had multiple memes to her credit—it is probably the unfortunate price women politicians pay for being attractive. She wore an elegant Indian shawl with her gorgeously tailored black dress. The IMF director Kristalina Georgieva chose a purple Kashmiri style kurta or a pheran with a dupatta and wore them quite chicly with white trousers and sneakers, while her deputy Gita Gopinath wore a blue silk sari. The World Bank’s Ajay Banga wore his turban with trademark elegant suits, while his wife wore a mint green Raw Mango sari.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Japanese prime minister’s wife Yuko Kishida showed up in a green and pink zari and silk weave, with a classic bindi on her forehead. And who could miss the <i>gajra</i> (hand-strung Indian jasmines) that the South African president’s wife Tshepo Motsepe wore in her hair. Kobita Jugnauth, the wife of the Mauritian PM, wore an elegant white chikankari with a contrasting full-sleeve blouse.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But the finest saris expectedly came from Bangladesh PM, Sheikh Hasina. She wore a fusion of two types of jamdani saris on one day, jamdani being a gossamer-thin muslin that originated in her country and moved westward to Bengal. Hasina wore jamdanis every day of the summit, and easily stole the show. President Droupadi Murmu’s white Benaresi ashrafi was quite a classic too, made contemporary with its contrasting blue minakari border. Mamata Banerjee stayed true to her Dhaniakhali wardrobe, with the undyed white saris she purchases for just a few hundred rupees each from one of the poorest parts of Bengal. The austerity of these saris are now her political capital.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Politicians have long learned that their attire is the most powerful tool of communicating their ideologies. The Instagram generation is only just discovering the importance of a visual language.</p> Sat Sep 16 15:28:23 IST 2023 fast-fashion-to-fab-fashion-zara <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>There is something going on at Zara. Ever since its store at Mumbai’s Palladium Mall reopened after a redesign a few months ago, it has become unbelievably chic. It has little to do with its newly launched beauty line or its cheap knock-offs of Jo Malone perfumes. Zara is suddenly stylish.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While once fashion lovers would be embarrassed to flaunt their Zara labels, or not wear what was so obviously purchased from the Spanish fast-fashion behemoth, Zara is now back in the black.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The label, a joint venture in India called Inditex Trent between the Spanish owners and the Tata group, has reported a 40 per cent rise in sales here. Zara operates 21 stores across the country with a revenue of Rs2,562 crore in the financial year 2022-23. Moreover, an annual assessment of the apparel business in the UK by Salience Search Marketing reveals that it is the leading retailer from the 300 brands examined (including Marks &amp; Spencer, Primark and Next). Zara led with 91 million social media followers and a sizeable 18,300,000 monthly searches. Apparently, a meme account showing off ‘unusual’ Zara poses has helped in increasing its recognition.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A wedding in Madrid a few months ago of Ricardo Gomez-Acebo Botin (nephew of Santander bank’s Ana Botin) had some guests show up in their favourite homegrown high-street label. The Zara dresses worn here became the subject of an Elle magazine story. The label, once known for its cheap and cheerful party wear, thanks to its knock-off specialist status, was never elevated to occasion wear. But, last year, Selena Gomez wore a blue Zara suit, that cost Euros 150, to Britney Spears’s wedding.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the first quarter of 2023, Inditex, Zara’s mothership, posted a 13 per cent jump. Its sales for 2022 rose by 17.5 per cent, lifting its market value to Euros 105 billion. This is the highest retail growth of any brand since the pandemic. Much of Zara’s growth is credited to Marta Ortega, the daughter of founder Amancio Ortega, who has launched premium collaborations with American designer Narciso Rodriguez and South Korean label Ader Error. Although Oscar Garcia Maceiras, its current CEO, tells the <i>Financial Times</i> that Zara does not have a new strategy but is only trying to improve quality, style and design.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Zara is obviously trying to hoist its image from being a t-shirt seller like H&amp;M and a copycat (like itself, thanks to owning its own factories and famously aping runway looks in less than three weeks), it’s also a brand that even Kate Middleton would like to wear.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The label is trying hard to move away from its disposable clothing image to adopt a more upscale fashion brand. With much talk around sustainability and transparency, already adopted by H&amp;M, Zara wants to be accepted as a ‘cool’ brand, not just a throwaway. It has also upped its prices by over 30 per cent. When a Zara dress at full price was available for around Rs4,000, it is now sold for Rs6,000.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is also using less cotton, often called by sustainability followers as the thirstiest plant thanks to its excessive water consumption. Instead, Zara’s new shirts that look and feel like linen are using the chemically produced viscose and synthetic polymers. As a mea culpa, Inditex is rumoured to be considering investing in start-ups that would assist in making it a greener label. However no decision has been made on this as yet.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Is Zara selling old wine in a new bottle? Yes, a bottle of bubbly.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>@namratazakaria</b></p> Sat Sep 09 15:09:17 IST 2023 why-secondhand-fashion-is-now-being-largely-coveted <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>When I was growing up, the term ‘hand-me-down’ had such an elitist connotation. It referred to items ‘donated’ to those who could not afford them. By default that ended up being the domestic staff in and around the house. I think the only hand-me-down that I owned in my early years was a gorgeous georgette black and white structured jacket I inherited from a formerly skinny aunt, the only one who wore ‘western’ clothes in the family before I did. But I was thrilled. I wore it every weekend to every house party that the 16-year-old me was invited to, and after much dancing I would remove it to scandalously expose my shoulders to the rest of the room.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For years after, the only hand-me-down I welcomed were items of jewellery. Gold—yes I’ll have some. Diamonds and emeralds—happy to relieve you of them. And much later came the saris, as they brought back the fragrance of grandmothers and mothers who had worn them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But thankfully, ideas of second-hand fashion have had a paradigm shift. They are largely coveted these days for many reasons. There are several stores or sites selling ‘vintage’ or ‘pre-loved’ fashion items like bags, shoes and clothing. Primarily because they cost less than the original. But also because it gives the item a longer life; it is better to have someone else appreciate it and make a little money from it once you are bored of it. There is a third gnawingly popular reason: luxury brands are going crazy raising the prices of their items, and an army of fashion lovers would like to stick a finger up at them by purchasing a second-hand item, or even a duplicate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is this can’t-buy-them-so-let’s-bash-them approach that is really worrying luxury brands these days. Several brands, such as Hermes and Chanel, have stopped selling to who they think are potential resellers. Hermes famously won’t sell you a handbag unless you have a history of shopping from the label. It has given rise to the phrase: “You don’t choose an Hermes bag, it chooses you”. And Chanel raised the price of its iconic flap bag to over $10,000 to make it even more inaccessible. Chanel has also taken the resale market head on with its 2021 policy—you can only buy one of their handbags each year. Here is the downside of virality if you were seeking one: fakes and resales.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tiffany James, handbag collector and the founder of Modernblkgirl (a financial investing company for black women), thinks the luxury labels deserve this. “I think it is tone-deaf of them to continue to raise prices,” she says in an interview to <i>Fashionista.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Moreover, since brands are now ‘choosing’ their customers with greater scrutiny, they are opening the door for resales even wider. According to Fortune, the global secondhand market is expected to double to $350 billion. Some of the key international players include Fashionphile, Garderobe, Inseller, The RealReal and Luxepolis, while Indian preloved companies are ReLove, Revivify, Saritoria, Luxury Pop and VRTT Vintage.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>From the consumer’s perspective, the handbag is now a genuine asset. If its price keeps increasing, there is potential to sell it for more money than you purchased it for. It is akin to not looking at the proverbial gift horse in the mouth. A Business of Fashion case study showed that 62 per cent of resellers have sold luxury accessories for more than they purchased them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The greatest challenge for luxury labels is going to be how to ensure their cash cow—the handbag—continues to drive their profits.</p> Sat Sep 02 16:07:55 IST 2023 which-luxury-brands-are-hot-and-which-are-not-when-it-comes-to-after-sales-care <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Even though sustainability is the buzzword in fashion circles lately, there are very few high-end brands who practise it at all levels, unless being nudged into it. While brands may speak of using eco-friendly materials, recycle their waste or minimise their carbon footprint, there is little a consumer can do to check this, except believe the company’s website promises.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The most reliable way to accept that a luxury or a premium label is truly sustainable, is when it respects the very definition of the word. Sustainable quite simply means long-lasting, and products that do not offer guarantees or after-care services cannot be truly sustainable.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fashion in India is historically ‘sustainable’ in that sense. We wear heirlooms with pride, we mend rips and tears beautifully, and we have even started darning in contrast colours to add an element of quirk. Many Indian stores understand this uniquely Indian trait. The staff at fashion boutique Ensemble has seen me gain and lose weight through pregnancy and midlife metabolism. I bring all my favourite clothes here to open up or close in a couple of inches, and the store obliges each time. Ensemble has a lifetime repair policy for any item a consumer has ever purchased from them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sabyasachi Mukherjee and Tarun Tahiliani, too, offer great after-sales care. A reader writes in telling me how Sabyasachi’s staff always accepts mending requests with a smile, even though they know you are not there to buy anything new.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Few international labels do this. Profit-chasing business models insist customers make a new purchase by limiting warranties or easing out old collections or parts. Like Apple, that makes its products obsolete to ensure you keep buying newer and more expensive items from its self-created ecosystem.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I once tore an overused pair of Chanel jelly slippers, but I adored them and was not ready to let them go. I sent them to Chanel’s Delhi office, which in turn sent them to Paris. A month later I received a package from them with a note that read: “Sorry we couldn’t fix your slippers, but here’s a new pair from us.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The same with Dior. I had a gorgeous Saddle bag that got patches on the leather and I sent it to the Mumbai office. Same note, new bag. I realise I am treated to press privileges. But another reader writes in to tell me her Dior bag was lost by customs officers, and the brand offered her a new bag or a cheque of Rs1.5 lakh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the other hand, my only pair of Christian Louboutin shoes had the upper tear after wearing it exactly twice. I took it to their Mumbai store and was treated most unpleasantly. They gave me an unsolicited refund so rudely, that they made me feel they did not want my business. Thankfully, they now have a new sales head who ensures that repairs are welcome and encouraged.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After-sales care of Tory Burch and Bottega Veneta are loathed by readers. A designer friend says he paid Rs1 lakh for a pair of Ferragamo shoes and they died on him after a couple of wears. The store said sorry and that was that.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The US started a ‘right to repair’ movement that especially protects automobile and electronic consumers from obsolescence (even Apple is made to comply). The movement has caught on in the UK as well as in India, where Narendra Modi’s government has launched a portal where companies can enlist their repair policies and offices.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is about time luxury brands improve their after-sales care policies, since they serve a demographic that expects nothing but the best.</p> Sat Aug 26 16:41:00 IST 2023 made-in-heaven-2-does-fashion-like-never-done-before-in-cinema <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Last week’s Amazon Prime Video drop <i>Made in Heaven</i> Season 2 has a scene where a middle-class character, Jazz (played by Shivani Raghuvanshi), speaks of her office: “You can’t do fashion here”. It is such a great moment, almost as if she is addressing the show’s makers themselves. Take us seriously, don’t just dress us up. And yet, it is the dresses that speak louder than the stories. After all, this is India, where the lehenga matters more than the wedding, perhaps even the groom.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is not a complaint though. We are watching cinema in a country where escapism is de rigueur. Whether our movie theatres are plush multiplexes or dusty, rexine-seated standalones, we need to forget our daily drudgery for those three hours. Thus, the difference between mainstream and art-house is in whether you want a mirror to reality or to be rescued from it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The new medium that has taken over India’s storytelling in the last few years—OTT platforms such as Netflix and Disney+ Hotstar—faces the same binary. On the one hand we see shows and films that bring to the fore those faces and stories that would have otherwise not been told. On the other, there is the acknowledgement that one is creating for those with laptops and cell phones now, an Instagram generation that is not too bothered with authenticity and originality, so long as it makes for pretty pictures.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So, <i>Made in Heaven</i> Season 2 “does fashion”. It does it like we have never before seen fashion being done in cinema. And that is really a very good thing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indian films have long had stylists and costume designers dressing up the characters in designer clothing. More so in the last two decades. But <i>MiH2</i> had more designer labels in it than India Fashion Week. And not once did it look forced or overwhelming. Instead, it looked exalted and effortless. And for that, the impossibly chic stylist Bhawna Sharma needs to be commended. Sharma, the former supermodel-turned-sometime stylist, splits her time between Barcelona and Mumbai.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>All the brides of <i>MiH2</i> are dressed in wedding wear from the best bridal designers in the country: Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Tarun Tahiliani, Manish Malhotra, Raw Mango, Gaurang Shah, Gaurav Gupta, Rimple and Harpreet, Gauri and Nainika, and Aisha Rao. Each of these pieces were especially created for the show. Even the families’ outfits are matched for colour and design language to make for better portraits.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shobhita Dhulipala’s Tara Khanna is decked in Raw Mango, Torani, Kshitij Jalori, Amit Aggarwal, and AMPM saris, and outfits by Bodice and Roma Narsinghani, too. Raghuvanshi and Mona Singh wear Jigar Mali; Arjun Mathur wears Antar Agni; Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju wears Aseem Kapoor; Shashank Arora wears Rishta by Arjun Saluja; and Jim Sarbh and Kalki Koechlin show off their richer-than-thou status by wearing Bulgari and Christian Louboutin.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dhulipala’s Tara is a much stronger woman this season, and her wardrobe shows power suits and cinched waists. Raghuvanshi’s Jazz has a more chic wardrobe this time, with more tastefully elevated high street pieces.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dressing characters in real-time glamour is an underrated challenge. Somehow period films offer that temporal distance, a little nostalgia and historic appeal. But when characters are to be dressed like you and me, making the film’s styling a hero by itself is even more of a challenge. Films like <i>Band Baaja Baraat, Dil Dhadakne Do and Gehraiyaan</i> get it right. As does <i>MiH2</i>, where a character, Kabir, says of marriage, but which holds true for seamlessly stylish films, too: “It doesn’t matter if they are true or not, it is an ideal the world needs.”</p> Sat Aug 19 15:39:46 IST 2023 best-part-of-rocky-aur-rani-kii-prem-kahaani-is-its-portrayal-of-men <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>My favourite scene in <i>Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani</i>—and it is a film with many amazing moments—is when Ranveer Singh’s Rocky Randhawa emerges from behind Tota Roy Chowdhury’s Chandon Chatterjee, both men performing the highly expressive kathak to ‘Dola Re’. The song, a homage to director Karan Johar’s forever muse Sanjay Leela Bhansali, originally featured Madhuri Dixit and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. Singh and Chowdhury are not only taking on a herculean task by attempting the incredibly fluid and articulate dance, but they are also competing with two fabulous female dancers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The two men wear the most well-regarded kathak costumes—a billowing angrakha and churidar—the gender-neutral costume of Mughal India where kathak was the preferred dance form. This is the exact moment when the two men, this sequence, and this film drove home the point that men could do traditionally feminine things and still be themselves.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Contrast this scene with another just less than an hour before. Chowdhury’s Chandon is asked to perform at a traditionally loud Punjabi wedding, where his grace is greeted with embarrassing catcalls instead of a worthy applause. Then, the film grows and we grow up.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As does Ranveer’s Rocky. So easily the most fun part of this hilarious film, Rocky is a Karol Bagh-style newly rich Punjabi who has perfect abs and imperfect English. His “Can you repeat?”, “Escoose me”, and “West Bengal is in west India” are highlighted by his resplendent wardrobe. He would put both Badshah and Diljit Dosanjh to shame wearing only monogrammed clothing—rainbow-hued Gucci, Moncler in Switzerland, a parrot-green Louis Vuitton, a canary-yellow Versace robe, a starry denim suit by Amiri, and I know I saw a DSquared jacket somewhere, too. Once he begins to understand the cultural nuances of his Bengali hosts, he learns Rabindra Sangeet and kathak, and starts wearing more Indian clothes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Perhaps the most important upshot of this film is its portrayal of men. Rocky moves from brawny masculinity to cultured dignity. Chandon is a dancer and a dance teacher in a household full of strong feminist women. And Dharmendra’s Papaji, cuckolded for all his adult life, finds a voice and his legs (he literally gets off his wheelchair singing <i>‘Abhi na jao chod ke’</i>) when he finds his long-lost lover. <i>Rocky Aur Rani is a prem kahani</i>, a love story, of men with their own dark shadows, wherein they are told to let go of ‘manliness’ and find their softer edges. Masculinity is not manliness, respect is.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is also the story of the filmmaker Karan Johar, so easily the most ‘open’ celebrity of our times. Johar has long pushed the envelope for dressing like a peacock. Like Ranveer, his colours and monograms are his armour. His non-masculinity has invited jibes on his sexuality. He offers generous hints, but insists it is his business alone. He says he would dance the heroine’s part of Bollywood songs as a child, not unlike Chowdhury. He had two children through surrogacy, and loves making reels with his tots in his wardrobe. He says he hopes for a late-life lover, like Dharmendra in the film. He is as tied to his family and as woke as Alia Bhatt is in the film.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Audiences have loved <i>Rocky Aur Rani</i>, as have most critics. With this film, both have also understood, accepted and opened their arms to Karan Johar. But most importantly, the film has brought about a major mainstream cultural moment, where the real ‘hero’ of the film is the breakaway from the myth of masculinity.</p> Sat Aug 12 16:23:43 IST 2023 what-really-happens-inside-a-fashion-atelier-tarun-tahiliani-reveals-all <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Designer Tarun Tahiliani has begun to invite national media and his top clients to his factory whenever he can. High-paying couture clients have to trudge to Gurgaon, where they can meet with the designer and his team, and place their orders for customised pieces. But once there, they are transported to a world like no other.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tahiliani’s factory is an architectural marvel. Designed by the architecture firm Stephane Paumier Architects, the entire edifice is in the shape of the designer’s initials and logo: TT. It is a three storied structure in exposed concrete and bricks, and a luxurious space that matches the designer’s ‘India Modern’ aesthetic (his own coinage of decades ago has now become a fashion mantra) of Islamic arches and contemporary engineering finesse.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The industrial area all around hardly offers a pleasurable experience for buying luxury. The Tahiliani studio thus looks inward. Its inner courtyard is a frangipani garden, and numerous skylights allow for natural ventilation as well as for the sunlight cutting through the building. The studio houses the designer’s clothing production, embroidery rooms, administration offices, a new couture showroom, an archive room and multiple studios for various collections. The terrace is a garden with a permanent tent where the designer hosts elaborate luncheons and cocktails.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With this building, Tahiliani, 61, aims at something no fashion label in India has done before. He invites you into his factory to see first-hand the working conditions of his large team of designers, tailors, cutters, embroiderers, and others. Guests are free to roam the gargantuan space, and to touch and feel the garments on the mannequins. They can talk to the design team and all the workers (masters Tausif and Shamim Firoz are old hands here), and learn more about the label’s design language and the crafts employed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Last week, hours before his fashion show at the FDCI India Couture Week, Tahiliani invited some of us here to see up-close what he would be showing hours later: elaborate but unconventionally lightweight clothing made with chikankari and kasheedakari embroideries and drawing from Byzantine art, Moroccan Jaals and Persian motifs. At the show, he would break convention again and take the finale bow with four of his top designers—Mansha Sahni, Zaib Ahmed Quazi, Harshit Srivastava and Umarjit Mei Tei. “It really takes a village to bring a heartfelt vision to life and it can never be done alone,” he later stated.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tahiliani’s factory does not say it but spells it out: respect your employees by giving them an environment that is welcoming, luxurious and a visual feast. This reflects in their work too, in his supremely tasteful and impeccably tailored couture that appears to be industrially crafted, even though it is all handmade. This human capitalism is a rare feat in Indian fashion, where designers earn lakhs per outfit on the dint of poor artisans working in substandard conditions and for poor pay.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I feel more than climate change, sustainability is all about checking Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) boxes that focus on fairness and diversity as well. Fashion businesses the world over are alarmingly selfish companies. The global non-profit watchdog Fashion Revolution profiles 250 companies globally each year to rate their ESG statistics, in what is called a Fashion Transparency Index. In 2023, the world’s largest fashion brands have scored an average of just 26 per cent of transparency. The Index exists because policies and mandates don’t.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tahiliani has been quick to realise that companies are expected to be ethical. Here’s hoping he paves the way for other designers to allow journalists and customers into their workspaces.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>@namratazakaria</b></p> Fri Aug 04 15:28:03 IST 2023 manipur-clothing-in-a-state-of-undress <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Even as the video of two stripped-bare women from Manipur went viral, one is reminded again of how wars are constantly fought by men abusing the bodies of women. Rape and sexual violence is a centuries-old war crime, the conflict between men is always played out on its women, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Women are, after all, male terrain. You win over a king, a tribe, a country, by shaming and taking over its women. The two women were humiliated through nakedness, even as more stories of rapes are emerging.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The irony is not to be missed. Women are part of dressing the community in the northeast. Unlike the rest of India, women of this region are the main weavers of cloth. Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur famously wear garments made by women bending over the loin loom. It is much smaller, hence easy to keep at home, and still a popular activity for local women regardless of there being zero interest in their traditional cultures outside their tribes. I mean, imagine if only Benarasis wore the dazzling Benaras saris, or if only women of Madhya Pradesh wore the chanderi. We would all be poorer for it, not just the weavers of the cloth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Manipuri textiles do not compare in allure, but they certainly do in craft techniques and heritage narratives. The arts and crafts of Manipur provide for a fascinating study of tribal culture. This is also seen in the Chin-Kuki-Mizo tribes—ethnic tribes that live in six of the seven northeastern states, the exception being Arunachal Pradesh. They are called the Mizo in Mizoram, and the Chin in Myanmar. Art and craft is how they dress, build their homes, household items and make jewellery from.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The clothing of this region is extremely significant in storytelling—each motif, colour and shape speaks of one’s place in society. It is like one’s entire biography is told in a skirt or a jacket. Carolyn Niengneihmoi, a research scholar from Manipur University, says: “Dresses are the identity of every nation or tribe. For the Chin-Kuki-Mizo, dresses are the unwritten constitution. It is a symbol whereby a man’s social status and culture can be determined. Every shawl and loincloth is patterned with beautiful designs and chequered with different colours, which have immense cultural significance.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Manipur is an extraordinarily beautiful land, surrounded by blue hills and nestled in an emerald carpet. Its dominant tribe is the Hindu Meitei, living in the valleys, whereas the Kukis live in the hills. The Meitei costumes are the innaphi, or the diaphanous dupatta ‘wrapper’, and the phanek or the sarong. The innaphis used to be made of coarse bark, but richer families make intricately designed ones in silk and cotton. It is very similar to the Bengal muslin, or the gossamer jamdani.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Kukis are largely Christian, thanks to the missionaries during the British Raj. The Kuki women wear a knee-length ponve, a sarong that is wrapped above their breast and down to their knees. The tuck is famously under the left arm. A petticoat, called the nih, is made of red and black stripes and is strung at the waist.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The missionaries also introduced the Kukis to English, which modernised them in some ways. The community has a custom of Lawm, where boys and girls learn hunting and farming, as well as javelin, high jump and shot put.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Like much of rural India, weaving in Manipur has taken a huge beating. It is now a leisure activity, and lack of marketing has made traditional clothes worn only during rituals and festivities. The civil strife will only push the marginalised into further poverty.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>@namratazakaria</b></p> Wed Aug 02 12:27:39 IST 2023 how-with-return-of-barbie-pink-we-wanted-our-women-to-be-dolls-again <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>I was not the first girl in school to own a Barbie. A few girls already had one before me, and had quickly formed a little can’t-sit-with-us cult. But thanks to a favourite NRI aunt, I soon had myself the tall doll as well as a matching salon set and bathtub. Within a week, I began to be invited to my class’s very elite club for Barbie parties and hair-colouring sessions (her platinum blonde hair could be streaked pink and purple).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Never mind, it would be just weeks before I would be back at my lonely corner in the library. I hated pink, and besides, the Secret Seven made for more interesting friends. I suspect the generation after me, obviously smarter than mine, was done with Barbie entirely.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Barbie Pink gave way to Bubblegum Pink and eventually, to Valentino Pink (their 2022 line is truly lovely, but second to Valentino Red). But that Gelusil-bright hue has been part of the fashion conversation once every decade or so. It is like a rash that keeps coming back. The last few times we devoured it, it was popularised on Jennifer Lopez, Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. Then some men decided to wear it to work and thankfully, gave us girls some respite from it for a few years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Soon enough, with the growing number of homosexual boys coming out in public and embracing ‘girlie’ fashion—pink shirts, pink socks, pink feathers—it came to be decided that pink would not belong to girls and blue would not belong to boys. Modern would-be parents began painting their newborns’ rooms white or yellow. Fashion icon Victoria Beckham decided that her only daughter would not wear any pink, but a sea of dull English grey. And so she did.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But pink would never really go away. Blush, flush, old rose, and salmon were fine—but every time someone wore a pop of fuchsia, heads would turn. It almost became fetishist, we wanted our women to be dolls again.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But Greta Gerwig, the outstanding feminist filmmaker behind <i>Lady Bird </i>and<i> Little Women</i>, and who wrote Wes Andersen’s thought-provoking <i>Isle of Dogs</i>, is reclaiming Barbie again. She is turning the world’s most famous doll (sorry Paddington) on its head. Barbie and Ken are thrown out of Barbie Land for being less than perfect and sent into the ‘real world’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film’s phenomenal marketing is matching that of Mattel, the owner of the doll. The doll was first invented for girls to understand they could have careers (albeit they still needed zaftig breasts and perky glutes to get by). Mattel cleverly added a wardrobe, accessories, and sets for the dolls to be astronauts or hairdressers or doctors and such.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Now, that annoying psychedelic pink is back as Barbiecore. Hot pink has been spotted on Lizzo, Florence Pugh and, closer to home, on Deepika Padukone ever since Barbiecore began to trend in 2022, when pictures of lead actor Margot Robbie were released. The film’s announcement sparked a 416 per cent increase in searches for pink clothing, according to <i>Time</i> magazine.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Never mind whether we like the colour or not, Barbie made its founder Ruth Handler, a savvy businesswoman, very rich. The film will probably give Gerwig her first major hit. Barbie is like an old-girl’s version of Kim Kardashian’s Skims. Whether you believe women must have hourglass figures or not, the shape-wear brand is chasing $4 billion in pre-IPO funding.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>@namratazakaria</b></p> Fri Jul 21 16:17:10 IST 2023