Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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© Copyright 2004





In Fashion…Frill and fun, no intricacy or passion

Fashion in India seems stylish, but not substantial. Even the style has little to do with cut or finish. It has a lot more to do with glamour and hype. Fashion appears all frill and fun, not quite dedicated passion or intricate detailing.

Some years ago, I remember watching a fashion photo shoot in Paris. The model looked disappointingly plain. I asked the PR guy why a more attractive girl was not chosen for the advertisement. “But we would not like the focus to shift to the model. We would prefer that people looked at what she was wearing”. That sounded right, and is that not why models are there for. To promote a product, not themselves or their physical attributes.

Akshaye Khanna
But in India, fashion appears to have been hijacked by sheer glitz. Take, for example, the recent Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week in New Delhi (March 2007), where many designers bent over backwards to rope in celebrities. A Tabu or an Akshaye Khanna walked the ramp sporting the style of designer A or B. Khanna wore a black dhoti and a matching “bandh-gala”, styled by his buddy, Manav Gangwani. For Khanna’s nose-diving career, this exposure must have been like a whiff of Oxygen.

Last year, at a fashion event, a designer was almost pushed away by photographers desperate to click actor Sanjay Suri as he walked in.

This seldom happens in the Paris or Milan or New York or London fashion week. I do not think this occurs anywhere else either, except in Mumbai and New Delhi, where clothes and accessories are displayed by film stars, who gleefully turn into models in what eventually becomes a major PR exercise.

The question is are these stars pushing the clothes they sport or themselves. The answer is obvious.

A greater concern here is that often the clothes slip out of the limelight, with the celebrities hogging just about every ray from it. The audience is so thrilled seeing their favourite heroes and heroines on the catwalk that it completely misses out on the wear they are walking for.

However, some designers are wise enough not to get into this madness. Pallavi Jaikishan says: “I think my clothes will get overshadowed by the whole celebrity jamboree, and so I do not use movie stars as models”.

Pranavi Kapoor feels that she would rather not spend lakhs of rupees hiring actors and actresses in a tamasha which is, simply said, “an ego massage”.

A true connoisseur of fashion will be interested in the cut, detail and finish, and this is why stylist Adarsh Gill – who has embroidered for international houses such as Givenchy, Gucci, Armani, Fendi and Prada – is reluctant to sign in for a fashion week. People here judge a designer by the number of stars he or she has been able to get for a show, and it turns out to be style without substance.

Hemant Sagar, who was once part of the famed Paris Couture working under the label, Lecoanet-Hemant, is disillusioned with the Indian fashion scene. Some years ago, he set up shop outside New Delhi after moving out of Paris. He gives an interesting quote: “Fashion is not about having cucumber sandwiches with heavily made-up socialites…”

In India, the style scenario is a collage of pretty damsels dancing on the ramp to heart-pounding music, glasses of wine in intoxicated parties and clever-by-half PR persons selling soulless stuff. “There is no expression of non-conformism and novelty”, Sagar rues. “In the chase to click celebrities, we completely miss out on the finer nuances of style and of discovering fresh talent”.

There are several others who are also firmly of the opinion that fashion weeks are mere picnics, where serious work hardly ever gets done. Abha Dalmia has been trying for 18 years to modernize brocade and intricate weaving: she has no energy to rub shoulders with Delhi’s or Mumbai’s glitterati.

Unfortunately, most people appear to understand bad fashion, and the Indian style scene has contributed to this by focusing on the mediocre, lifting it high and driving it down the catwalk with the blow trumpets and the clash of cymbals. It is only when this stops that we can begin to celebrate the weave and warp of fashion. In the purest of its form.

(Webposted March 27 2007)