With this season’s Lakme Fashion Week wrapped up recently, and the country seeing three fashion weeks in the last two months (and Wills India Fashion Week gearing up for its edition next month), one can only surmise the hunger for all things stylish in India. Fashion and its people are all around us, models, actors, cricketing and Squash-playing stars smile at us from each morning’s newspapers.
The daily advertisements range from couture pop-ups at chic boutiques to high-street brands peddling the new ‘cool’. But where is the chronicler of this movement? The seasoned voice of reason that decodes a runway collection, analyses a market and captures a moment in our society. Where has the fashion critic gone?
It is a sorry death knell to look for my dwindling tribe and come up with a virtual nought. Ironically, when I began writing, fashion writers didn’t exist. We were just a handful of reporters who aimed at celebrating Mumbai’s nightlife (and sometimes Delhi’s, but honestly, all good stuff only happened in the island city).
We covered parties and wrote about pretty socialites who educated us on Versace and Valentino. Since fashion shows then only happened in the evenings, mostly sponsored by liquor companies, the party reporter became the fashion critic. Today, the scene is so exciting. Everyone in the industry is armed with a degree from someplace fancy in London, Milan or Paris. International glossies pop up every year.
Many top luxury labels want to open shop in India. And e-retailers are making all the right moves in truly turning India into a mall for all. Social media has changed the game in such exciting ways. Everyone shares an opinion. Much of it is amateur and that’s why it is also important, because an ‘amateur’ is driven only by love. I think it is especially important right now to have a voice that shapes the thought.
A writer that breaks down a fashion collection to its symbolism, its mood and zeitgeist. But with paid news, such a strong and omniscient reality, the spaces for this ideation and think-tank are too few and far between. Today, a brand, a fashion label or a designer controls everything.
Someone with a modicum of success can buy space in some of the leading papers and also dictate what is to be written. It is honest, of course, honest advertising. But nothing else. Commercialism in luxury is not just a label being managed by a profit-seeking CEO. It is also selling a lie, or a unilateral point of view, because now you can.
Today fashion is Karl-Lagerfeld’s post-Warhol supermarket where quotidian clothes, once the antithesis of style, are now style itself. The same can be stretched to the space for fashion in media. What’s in my inbox today is in the newspapers tomorrow, the story is just a press handout.
Newer labels, younger designers, real talent rummages through the trash can of fashion journalism trying to make sense of this new world. And goes back to the internet to create its own space and voice. But there are no filters any more. The historian-raconteur is nowhere.