Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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© Copyright 2004





In Fashion…Cherian’s Small Shop

Bangalore was once India’s design capital. The city’s soothing climate made it a dressers’ paradise. People wore silks and suits, and often looked sexy and swanky. But time changed all that.

The once garden metro is now a jungle of brick and mortar, cars and fumes that
Jason Cherian
fight to survive. While Bangalore did make rapid strides in business sectors such as Information Technology, its sense of leisure and gracious living faded with men who became money-minting machines.

But there have been exceptions. Fashion designers like Jason Cherian have remained content, soaking in the memory of great times. They have really not gone beyond Bangalore, and Bangalore has not really looked beyond the handful of stylists who once enriched the city’s existence.

When I recently walked into Cherian’s Small Shop (March 2007) – in, what is today an unbelievable luxury, a huge sprawling complex where one can even learn how to drive a truck – I was amazed the find the man looking as young and charming as he did a decade ago. Cherian has not let Bangalore’s tide of time swamp him.

Except perhaps for a couple of changes he has allowed in his life. He is now married to Delhi designer, Anshu Arora, and they have a new label, Jasonanshu. The couple launched this sometime ago without much of a noise. Perhaps the only noise in their life has been their little girl, whom they have given a classic, old world name, Leela!

Cocooned in an ancient-fashioned, low-roofed outhouse, Small Shop opens into an interesting dressing room complete with a gigantic mirror, green chairs, green cushions and green curtains. And the room leads into a little coffee place, where we settle down for a chat.

Which leads me into fascinating avenues. Cherian was at that point ready to fly to Singapore to show his collections there at a fashion week. “Since we decided on Singapore, we thought we might as well give New Delhi a skip this year”, he said. In any case, Cherian had never participated in the New Delhi or the Mumbai Fashion Week. “Anshu has”, he explained.

It then appeared me that his wife was the dynamic doer trying to push Jason out of Bangalore into the wide world. It transpired a little later into our conversation that Cherian had never been to Singapore either. I did not dare ask him whether he had been outside his city, ever!

But maybe, he guessed what my mind was playing on. “I am quite happy to be working without the spotlight on me”, he smiled. ”I do not feel I am missing out on anything…I still know what is happening around. I am in touch”.

Cherian likes to be anonymous, to be creating from a place that that does not imprison him with its influences. Mumbai and New Delhi could, I suppose.
“Maybe, Bangalore may be less stimulating. Nothing to provoke your mind. In any case, I sell all over India, and Anshu has been living in New Delhi before we married and she moved over here”, Cherian tried to tell me that he was enjoying the right mix of isolation (for creativity) and exposure (for provocation, ideas and inspiration).

At this point, Anshu joined us.

Cherian continued. “At the moment, we have been looking at fallen flowers and pebbles for our motivation. A kind of travelled look”.
Arora butted into to say that, “I think we have been taking long walks either with the baby in the pram or after putting her to sleep. Our colony is very pretty, and this is the season of falling flowers and leaves, and these make such lovely pictures on the ground.”

Jason explained that however seedy one’s city might have become, however polluted, the observant can still find beauty and inspiration. This young couple did not have to go far to seek it. They found it in their colony.

Armed with such visuals, Anshu said that they had just put together a collection for the coming autumn and winter. “We may not do very ethnic kind of stuff, not really Indian Indian, but we play around with shapes. We start with an inspired idea of shape, and it may ultimately look or feel like a kurta. I think that is what most Indian bodies can take.”

Anshu said that her passion lay with “folds and drapes”. The style pair have also been doing kimonos, and “you would be surprised how many people actually buy them in India”.

Cherian and Arora have not tackled the sari (“because it is so pure that one should never touch it”), but have experimented a lot with the kurta. Which, I am told, is a craze with Western women. “This garment gives enormous scope to style…I have become very fond of the kurta”, Anshu quipped.

Fashion is a play of textiles, colours and shapes. And with their favourite hue for the coming season being shades of pink, the fashion couple are embarking on a journey of sparkle. For, when winter comes can spring be far behind.

(Webposted April 24 2007)