India's love affair with fashion has begun, and the industry is poised for an elegant flight, says clothes stylist, ARCHANA NANDAL
"THE TIME has come to talk of many things - of shoes and furs and lingerie, and if one flares or clings, and where the waistline ought to be..." - designers in early nineteenth century Europe could be heard muttering this. Seems then that fashion has always been serious business and that designers take their art very seriously. Step back, all you non-believers, who ever thought that fashion is frivolous, and all you cynics, to whom fashion only ever was a whimsical idea meant to pander one's ego - or should one say vanity? True, it was an idea borne from the vain boredom of the European Aristocracy in the beginning of the last century, the `suaves' and the sophisticates who had all of everything and more, and who desired to liberate their souls by dressing their bodies (the soul traps) in clothes that did not merely remain an afterthought but those that teased their senses. Out went the traditional dressmaker, and was born the couturier whose humble empire of then, now after one hundred years of a style renaissance, spans the globe - Paris, Milan, London, New York, and now, our own backyard - New Delhi.
From its vain beginnings, the business of clothing has travelled a long road and there isn't any going back. From being essentially elitist, it is now no longer un-democratic. Fashion is for all!!! Or is it really? Then what does one make of the images that invade our senses every day and everywhere - thin and long girls sashaying down the ramp, clothed in unbelievable frocks - contraptions for outer space? Who will ever wear those clothes? Many ask in contempt! Did someone say "democratic"? Yes, it is! Couture, those very unbelievable and outrageous frocks are, in reality, not for everyday wearing. They perhaps may just end up finding a place in a movie star's or a rock star's wardrobe. They are indeed; the designer's show windows. Rather like an artist's canvas on which he paints an image with a sense of abandon that mirrors his creativity to the core. An image that lingers in the mind of the lookers long after the visual is past. That lingering image and it's recall with the designer's name will then sell the perfume, and the shoes and bags that the designer endorses and most importantly, will translate into sales of his simpler and wearable clothes - the pręt-a-porter lines. Ogilvy would simply put it as commerce and marketing.
Backstage, there is a scientific method behind the madness
that eventually meets the eye of the consumer wearer. A syndicate of highly placed professionals are deciding two to three years in advance, the "next look" - where should the hemline be, and which colour shall rule, season after season. The "look" is then picked up by designers, who interpret these forecast ideas into clothes, each one in their own special way. These are the clothes one sees "showing" at the couture and pręt-a-porter shows.
The first platform to sell these clothes is the boutique shops. The fashions then "trickle down" the line to other retail medium - the department store, the chain store etc. And it is here that fashions are available to all, at prices that are happy for all.
Truly democratic!! To us Indians, fashion is no new concept. It was always there - in our beautiful embroideries sewn with the finest of silk and gold and silver threads, and in our intelligent weaves, which have been patronized by the most discerning people the world over. The "craft" was there. And then it was given the "cut". In the late eighties, thus was born a beautiful idea, which post-nineties, is a fledgling industry poised for an elegant flight. And fly high it will. The talent brigade has honed up it's skills at smart fashion schools established all over India, premier being The National Institute of Fashion Technology, whose pupils are out there and making a visible difference.
So let's put aside our cynicism and brush our uninformed critique under the carpet and sit back and enjoy India's new love affair with itself. To end in Coco Chanel's (Parisian designer of the 50's and 60's) words - "To be well dressed is a victory of the mind over the senses."
Sketch by Archana Nandal
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