Where east and west meet in the middle

One of the things I found hard to get my head around when I was working in India last month was the disparity between traditional design and modern fashion. The magazine I was launching was an international title which is nothing new, as the emerging markets are opening up of course all the magazines want a presence. Elle, Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire have been in India for a few years, Vogue launched last year, this year should see Glamour, Grazia, In Style and (I believe) Harpers Bazaar. What was confusing was that my initial editor (an Englishwoman) made a point of saying the magazine needed a 50-50 mix of Indian and International fashion and features while her Indian successor insisted that references to Indian traditions were kept to the absolute minimum. This meant no mention of saris, kurtas, mother-in-laws or maids if we could help it. As the very person this magazine was targeting – the single middle class, twentysomething working woman – her reasoning was that the modern Indian woman wants to be ‘international’. She travels abroad, she watches American sitcoms so she wants access to those brands and lifestyles that she has experienced in the western world. All very understandable, however I couldn’t help feeling that it was a bit of a shame.

Here is a country with such great history and culture, not to mention an amazing textile heritage, but to have any hope of succeeding outside India or appealing to the new Asian middle classes, designers have to move away from traditional Indian style and design with a more western-influenced eye. The same seems to go for Chinese and Russian fashion (example: Kova & T). Clearly, a balancing act is needed. The designers that inspired me when I was in Mumbai were those like Drashta which combined cocoon-like western shapes with the sequins and saturated colour we associate with India. Anupamaa designs simple kaftans and silk shifts in the most breathtaking fabrics, while Manish Arora is now a household name with his wacky Indo-Western psychedelic-pop prints. I’m not knocking Wendell Rodricks or Gauri & Nainika, their accomplished designs are certainly worthy of attention from overseas but will find it harder to stand out amongst similar fare from American and European designers. The ultimate challenge for designers from emerging nations is learning how to design for the western market while throwing in a taste of local flavour that reflects their heritage.

Pic: Drashta aw/08


My dear friend Z is travelling in Asia and wanting to get some dresses copied. In particular a MIu Miu dress that she describes below.

“ANYWAY I need your help! I’m looking for a picture of a Miu Miu dress I saw in loads of mags last year but lost the tear. It was in LOADS of mags – last summer I think – Red I remember, and in Vogue India in January (!) – the Gauri Khan cover. Anyway I can’t find a pic of it and wonder if you know what’s a good website to look on as I can’t find it on vogue.com or netaporter, or even if you have a pic of said dress. It’s strapless, prom shaped, made of different cuts of quite heavy fabric around the bodice, and then one fabric for the skirt. It’s pastelly in colour. It’s AMAZING. Does it spring to mind!?!?”

Ugh, no idea what she’s talking about. Any clues anyone? PS, the dress is pink, not red (as I first thought) – she saw it in RED magazine, but It’s PINK!

Letting the good times roll

In the early nineties when I was a mere fledgling fashionista, there was a huge post-acid London club scene that started me on my road to style-surfing and people-watching. Girls would spend their Saturday afternoons scoring velvet catsuits from Pam Hogg or corset tops from Wit & Wisdom at Hyper Hyper to wear with teetering, towering uber-platforms from Vivienne Westwood. Boys would sport leather trousers from John Richmond with Vivienne Westwood’s orb necklaces, perhaps topped off with a second-hand mink coat. Rankin would pitch up to Love Ranch – a club in a naff venue in Leicester Square – with his tripod and black sheet and set up an impromptu studio where he’d take snaps of creative club kids to publish in his new magazine, a foldout affair called Dazed & Confused.

Fast-forward fifteen years to a rainy Wednesday night in a naff club next to The London Palladium. Sixth form club kids are pouring into Movida to celebrate Henry Holland’s new night, complete with nineties soundtrack – Alison Limerick! FPI Project! The place is packed tighter than a Wag’s suitcase. The girls have peroxide hair, ruby red lips, body con dresses. The boys have curly quiffs, painted nails, kooky headwear. Hang on, is that a photography ‘studio’ set up in the corner? Why yes it is!

Some things it seems, never change. Each generation thinks it invented clubbing but at the end of the day what does it matter really? Last night these kids on a natural high (no gurning faces in sight) had it going on with their hi-energy dancing and agonised-over outfits. All they cared about was looking hot, showing off and letting the good times roll. Isn’t that the coolest thing?

New York bloggers – a date for your diary

Cathy Horyn reports that the Metropolitan Museum of Art is organising a fashion bloggers discussion on Sunday March 30th at the Met as part of its Blog:Mode exhibition. The discussion panellists are Scott Schuman, Diane Pernet and Cathy Horyn. How cool is that? If anyone’s going please can they report back!

PS: Questions I would like to ask Scott:

*Does everyone at fashion week know who you are now? And if so do they try to take your photo?

*Do many people turn you down?

*Do you ever miss a shot?

*Are you doing a book?

PPS: Question for Cathy Horyn:
*Don’t those really loooong, serious commenters do your head in?