We’ve just concluded the India Couture Week and the India Bridal Fashion Week, two fashion weeks that are as high on glamour as they are in the fashion stakes. The Lakme Fashion Week begins in Mumbai today. It is a carnival for young and avante labels, much like London Fashion Week and is a favourite among Bollywood stars judging by the backing newer designers get at red carpet events.
Celebrity dressing in India is going through a bit of a transition, much quicker than it did anywhere else in the world. There is a sense of fatigue, even a feeling of being cheated. Is this really who your favourite actor is or is it just an image she’s projecting? Why do they get free dresses when they can easily afford them? Especially the perennial rant when two actors show up in the same frock: who wore it better?
Society pages in Indian newspapers are filled with pictures of who wore what and where. They have become much like British or American tabloids, catching movie stars at airports and movie theatres. Or mostly at launches of jewellery stores or mobile phones, Bollywood sells everything in India. Of course the ordinary reader is inundated.
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Red carpets or even celebrity dressing came into existence for one main reason: as a product placement. One photograph of a ‘famousette’ in a gown can set the designer’s career soaring. The financial benefits were astounding — for the price of making one gown, the image gets published in every single publication available. If it’s an international awards ceremony, like the Academy Awards or the Cannes Film Festival, you get free publicity across the world’s publications and websites. Talk about more bang for your buck.
For the star in question, it’s a great way to up his or her image. Frieda Pinto became an international star because of her impeccable styling. Cate Blanchett is my current favourite, she’s never on the wrong foot. Lupita Nyong’o is a sensation, thanks to the experimenting of her stylist Micaela Erlanger. Sonam Kapoor made it to the American Harper’s Bazaar ‘Best dressed in the World’ list earlier this month. Even Sandra Bullock and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, actors not known for their pulchritude, are getting votes for their red carpet highs.
But the red carpet is so much more than a dress-up game. It has become a cultural chronicler of sorts. It captures the mood of a society and showcases its consciousness. It can sell a fantasy and an escape or capture a moment in activism. A good stylist is an artist who can translate a cultural movement into a dress, a shade of lipstick or a twirl of mascara.
Interestingly, a Palestinian theatre executive dressed herself and her young daughter in a gown made of the Palestine flag and made an appearance at the Sarajevo Film Festival two days ago. Fashion is obviously a political statement too.
I love Kajol for stating on Look Who’s Talking with Niranjan that she hated dressing up to be a rebel of sorts. The new and improved post-marriage-and-babies actor is now a chic dresser, with a stylist in tow, and feels empowered. Kangana Ranaut’s off-screen appearances show her to be a relentless shape-shifter.
Karisma Kapoor is my favourite, her natural style has an insouciance that says ‘this is how I look when I’m picking up my kids’. In contrast, her sister Kareena Kapoor — far more beauteous than any other actress — always looks like a billboard for Manish Malhotra, even when she isn’t wearing the designer’s clothes.