Passage to India part 4

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Newsflash: I’ve been moved to a hotel! Whoop-de-doo! So instead of a 90-minutes-each-way commute, it’s down to 20 minutes. My hotel has wi-fi in the rooms so at last I can get up to speed with my regular blogs. I didn’t actually realise until now just how much I rely on blogs for my fashion information. Scratch that…any information. Style Bubble, Mrs Fashion, Fashionista.com, Jezebel.com, Blue Floppy Hat I live and breathe them all.

This move has made me tons happier, even if it’s only for a few days. I don’t feel so far removed from the action and I can spend more time at the office instead of in the car achieving precisely nothing. OH MY GOD an elephant just walked right past me on the pavement! Jeez, this town is bloody crazy! (I’m sitting outside a location waiting for a photographer to do a recce with me. Of-course, he’s on Indian Standard Time so I’m using the extra minutes to blog.)

Favourite daily sights:
Women in saris, riding pillion side-saddle on motorbikes and scooters
Men drinking their early morning chai on street corners
Teenagers in school uniforms marching in the playground next to my office
The hazy sunshine at 10.30am, perfect for a backlit shoot
Thums Up cola in glass bottles – this reminds me of my holidays to India when I was a kid
Ambassador cars
The clashing acid brights of contrasting kurtas (tunics), dupattas (scarves) and churi pants – I never get tired of this
Tradesmen (and women) carrying piles of crates, baskets and boxes on their heads
The general hustle and bustle of streetlife, it’s totally hypnotic
My driver Ratnesh -I’d literally be lost without him

The not so nice bits:
Broken pavements that force you to walk in the road
The gate-pass police in my building – every time I enter or leave I have to declare my camera/laptop/press samples to the security staff and fill in a form (or ten)
My driver when he spits out of the car door – hasn’t he seen the signs? ‘No Spiting’ (sic)

Bloody typical

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The minute my back is turned something exciting happens! No, not Amy Winehouse’s crack meltdown but the celebration of brand Stella McCartney at Selfridges.

From 6th – 20th February Selfridges is hosting ‘The World of Stella’ throughout its Oxford Street store. Entire windows and areas will be dedicated to la McCartney’s ready-to-wear, lingerie, skincare, denim, blah-di-blah-di-blah. Like, WOW, talk about a marketing coup! The most exciting bit will of-course be the Le Sportsac collaboration – how badly do I want one of those cute ickle backpacks? As if that’s not enough, there will also be – and I quote – “balloon modellers” (no, I’m not kidding), caricaturists to draw your portrait, a vintage photo booth to raise money for charity and a personal appearance by Stella herself during London Fashion Week on Wednesday February 13th at 5pm to meet and greet customers.

Phew, I need a lie down.

Backpack pic: Teen Vogue

Jean Charles de Castelbajac comes to London

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Jean Charles de Castelbajac is coming to town. Who else is loving this crazy-cute graffiti on his still-being-built store front in Conduit Street?

(PS, thanks to my dear D who is looking out for the blog while I am on the other side of the world and took these pics for me!)

M&S *hearts* Sephora

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Ooh exciting news. WGSN reports that M&S is in talks with Sephora about the possibility of opening a number of beauty shop-in-shops within its branches. Should be interesting…

WTF

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Kirsten Dunst to collaborate on a range of cashmere with Lutz + Patmos? Is it me or is the world going crazy?

Source: http://fashionista.com/2008/01/kirsten_dunst_for_lutz_patmos.php

Passage to India part 3

Posted on by Disneyrollergirl

So nearly three weeks into my big Indian adventure and how has it been? Bloody hard work! I’m a bit hesitant to really let rip as I don’t want to go off on a negative one (and it wouldn’t be very professional, even though most readers won’t know
which magazine I’m working on) but let’s just say everything is so different here to what I’m used to, much more so than I ever expected. I’ve been on the verge of quitting a couple of times because I’m simply not getting much enjoyment out of being here but decided to take this experience for what I can, and see what I can learn from it, plus I thought it can only get easier.

On my arrival I had to complete a ten-page fashion shoot in two weeks. Just little old me on my own with no team in a foreign country (and not forgetting I don’t speak the language). Also it’s the tricky in-between-seasons time of year when the spring/summer samples haven’t arrived yet and most of the shop stock is on sale (the sales here start mid-January). Cue much begging of every PR from Mumbai to Delhi on the scrounge for a dress here and a shoe there. Thankfully I pulled it off but not without a lot of luck and no small amount of panicking.

India is so excited to be enjoying a booming economy that it’s eager to join in the fun and games that comprise the luxury goods and international magazine markets. However, it doesn’t have the infrastructure yet to support these challenges fully. This means for all the newbies (i.e. me) helping it in its quest for success, there is a certain amount of fumbling in the dark and hoping for the best. It’s common for Indian publications to invite British journalists to coach their editors on how to put a magazine together. This includes everything from using a flatplan (the page-by-page plan which shows the running order of the pages including advertisements so everyone knows how the magazine is going to flow) as opposed to just memorising the pages, to sticking to deadlines. In the UK, if the magazine doesn’t come out on time it has to pay a hefty fine. Here, they just keep moving the deadline back so as long as the ‘March’ issue comes out some time in March it’s kind of OK. Insane, no?

There are certain things you just don’t start a fashion magazine without taking into account. Like the fashion cupboard. This is usually a lockable room, rather than literally a wardrobe, but in my case even a wardrobe would do. We don’t have a fashion cupboard on our magazine. So where am I putting the clothes? In my own wardrobe in my guesthouse. Yep, all the Moschino, Gucci, Bottega Veneta and Fendi samples are snuggled up against towels, pillowcases and an assortment of my socks and underwear. Also key to the process of launching a fashion magazine are the PR companies. These are the essential personnel who organise events, launches and store openings as well as supplying the merchandise for shoots. As the international brands have only been in India for about two minutes, this bit is still in its early stages, and boy is there a way to go. Imagine my shock when I turned up to one PR agency to collect some premium brand handbag samples for my shoot (oh yeah, no bike couriers here, I have to pick everything up myself) to find them squashed higgledy piggledy in a cupboard no bigger than a desk drawer! As if that wasn’t bad enough, two dresses that I doubt retail for less than £1000 each were tossed in a supermarket carrier bag “like a couple of vegetables!” (as my mother exclaimed when I told her).

The thing that takes the most getting used to is the ultra laid-back attitude of some of the so-called professionals I’ve come across. Model agencies who ring at 9pm the evening before a shoot to say their model “can’t come tomorrow because she’s just remembered something else she has to do” to the freelancer who promised to do a shoot then texted the day before the deadline “I don’t have time to do it now so I’m not sure what you’re going to do about that”.

On the flip side, the casual, last-minute culture does have its benefits. Business contacts don’t mind you calling them at all hours and give out their mobile numbers as a matter of course. And as the PR machine isn’t quite running smoothly yet, a lot of brands let you loan stock from the shop floor at the eleventh hour. In a last-minute flap I ran into a hotel shop in a quest to borrow some bling for a shoot. If I’d swanned into a shop on Sloane Street out of the blue with an apologetic “you don’t know me but I’ve got a shoot tomorrow, can you please give me some expensive jewels” I’d have been laughed out of Knightsbridge. In this case the PR wasn’t fazed at all and marched me over to her sales associate demanding he look after me.

I think overall, I do tend to have very exacting standards and high expectations of events and people so I’m feeling the shock of the new rather more than another person might. Equally I’m surprising myself at how adaptable I can be when I put my mind to it. The bottom line is I’ve managed to pull a lot off at very short notice and with minimal resources and to fairly high standards. It’s all about being determined to make things happen whatever it takes. My next challenge is to continue making things happen but learning to enjoy the adventure in the process.

What Rachel did next

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WGSN reports that Rachel Zoe has started filming her own TV show set to launch later in 2008. La Zoe will star alongside her husband Rodger and an assortment of hangers-on in a documentary series that will show her building her ‘brand’ through magazines, celebrities, fashion companies and beauty companies.

Although Zoe is obviously jumping on the already-overloaded reality TV bandwagon, this is a show I badly want to see. Say what you like about her, at least she does have a talent and the show could give an interesting insight into the different sides of the industry. On the one hand, it makes me cringe when I see people exploiting themselves like this as you just know it will end in tears (albeit diamond-encrusted ones as she’ll clearly rake in the dollars), yet on the other hand, who wouldn’t do the same in her position? In a few years time, the reality TV bubble will have well and truly burst (I hope) so if there’s money to be made, it has to be now.

Quote of the day

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“I’m seen as a fashion icon here and in other European countries and that’s down to my personality and sense of elegance. Everywhere I go, it’s a fact, people know it’s not the dress wearing me, it’s me wearing the dress.”
Nancy Dell’Olio

Kite runners

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Yesterday was a kite festival in Mumbai to celebrate Makar Sankranti, the transition of the sun from Sagittarius to Capricorn according to Hindu astrology. As I drove across town for an appointment to source clothes for a shoot I could see hundreds of kids in parks, on the streets and on the rooftops tugging on brightly coloured strings as if nothing in the world mattered. Oh, to have done a fashion shoot on a kite-strewn roof – Tim Walker heaven, surely?! The entire skyline for miles around was dotted with kites. It was so lovely and romantic and the sight of ragged-edged kites stranded in trees and on telephone wires was utterly charming, it all reminded me of flying kites with my dad on Box Hill way back when. Why don’t more people fly kites?

Tagged!

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What is it about list-making that’s so therapeutic? I mean, to-do lists and shopping lists I can understand, they make order out of chaos so they serve a purpose, but listing what’s in your handbag? How useful can that be? However, Susie Bubble and www.buttonsand-stars.blogspot.com tagged me to play the ‘What’s in your bag’ game so I had to comply. I did a ‘What’s In My Bag’ post a while ago but things were different then. This month (and next) I’m in Mumbai helping to launch a new magazine so the contents of my Marc by Marc Jacobs PVC tote are somewhat different to what they’d be in London. Actually, it’s not one bag but two that I’m toting on a day-to-day basis. Luckily, I have a driver. I know! Insane, no? But don’t hate me, my company guesthouse is a 90 minute drive away from the office. And I need a driver because Indian cab drivers don’t do The Knowledge, so quite often they need to be directed and I don’t speak the lingo. Anyway…

Laptop and notebooks
In the big bag is my laptop which is kind of like humping a four-drawer filing cabinet from pillar to post. It has every email, picture and piece of research I could ever want or need. Then there are a number of notebooks and files. Somehow I’ve convinced myself that having more notebooks and files makes me more organised when in fact, my memory is so dire I can never recall what I wrote where. Duh. Maybe it’s that first-day-of-school feeling of writing in a new book that’s the appeal? Whatever, I can’t go anywhere without my Liberty notebook – a farewell gift from S, my old beauty editor when we all got made redundant – and my red Moleskine diary.

Bottle of water
I’m not one of those annoyingly virtuous people who religiously swigs their eight glasses of water a day. In fact, I rarely drink anything, ever. But in the office there are these guys who come round every morning handing out free bottled water so I take one anyway. I’m stockpiling them at the guesthouse to drink with dinner as we can’t drink the tap water.

Eley Kishimoto clutch
Um, I’m not quite sure what my satin star-print clutch is doing in this bag. I usually use it as a make-up-bag-slash-pen-case but there’s actually nothing in it bar about a million Muji pens.

Indian Vogue
In London I cannot venture out without a magazine. I have some sort of boredom phobia and need to consume information at all times – hence the Indian Vogue. If it’s not Vogue it’s Grazia, Harpers Bazaar, Teen Vogue or Allure. And I must say I do love those miniature versions of Elle and Red.

Camera
The camera was one of my best freebies ever from Olympus and even has my name engraved on it (even though it’s a bit wonky). Much as I adore my digital camera, I still like an old-fashioned camera with film so you can get all excited about getting your photos back months after the event. Having said that, I’ve been here a week and have taken precisely no pictures. Is that bad?

London mobile phone
I’ve had this phone for years. I’ve been using it to keep in radio contact with my boyfriend D and various friends in London because there doesn’t seem to be free Wi-Fi anywhere in Mumbai. Keeping it on a lanyard with various knick-knacks hanging off it means I can grab it from the depths of my bag just before its fourth and final ring.

Vintage Celine bag
My smaller bag is my Celine bourgeois bag which has served me well in the short time we’ve been together. This has the quick-access stuff that I need at short notice like my Miu Miu glitter wallet. (Never buy a glitter wallet unless you want to be dusted in a shower of metallic shards every time you have to pay for something.)

Indian mobile phone
It also has my Indian mobile phone which the company gave me for work. Except I’m crap with technology and have no idea how to save numbers or read the texts my boss keeps sending me.

Make-up
I never get girls who carry their entire make-up kit around with them. If I’m not going out after work all I want is my Carmex and Stila lipgloss. I do not need a professional-size powder pot, six-colour eyeshadow palette or eyebrow-grooming set thank-you-very-much.

Digital camera
My Casio Exilim is a bit shabby and old-school (only 2.0 megapixels – the shame!) but it’s so small and cute. It’s fab for sneaking into places as it fits in my hip pocket with room to spare. I have been using it on this trip to take candid 60-second videos. As I said, I’m so not a techno whizz but even I can handle this.

I tag Mrs Fashion (http://mrs-fashion.blogspot.com/), Blushing Apples (http://thecolorofblushingapples.blogspot.com/) and Coco’s Tea Party (http://www.cocosteaparty.blogspot.com/).

Open up ladies!

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