Notes from Fashion Week

Notes from Fashion Week

Sunil Sethi,the President of Fashion Design Council of India has an eye for subtle chic and enough designer friends to worry about his wardrobe.

Sunil Sethi,the President of Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) is a stylish man. He has an eye for subtle chic and enough designer friends to worry about his wardrobe. Yet,he openly and only favours only one: Rajesh Pratap Singh. The tireless Sunil usually wafts through fashion weeks changing in and out of Pratap shirts and sadris,bandhgalas with subtle red trimmings,quirks sitting aplenty on his clothes yet never shouting. Like stamp-sized skulls that from far look like benign medallions. Pratap may not consciously design for Sunil but all his samples come in at least two pieces,one is in Sunil’s size. Even before Pratap can phone Sunil,his staff makes the call. Sir…can I send this and that to you. Shoes,ties,belts included. This,a beaming Sunil told me himself yesterday. “Now they even call my wife and before Raksha Bandhan,my sister,” he added. When they set out of the house,often Sunil’s driver asks him,“Pratapji ki dukaan mein chalein?”

Little surprise then,that on the first day of WIFW,Sunil stood out: he wore an olive green jacket with mustard trimmings and stitchings,a natty piece,it would make an Armani jacket turns its head. Worn with a nude coloured,turtle neck stretch pullover,Sunil had got the look right. The only thing that beat this was his shoes: quirkily,he had neon green shoelaces in one and bright blue in other. “The best debut at fashion week are Sunil’s shoes,” tweeted the know-it-alls.


Jesse Randhawa,the tall,sinewy,androgynous model has been walking the Indian ramp as long as I can remember. She is here this time too at WIFW. She plays out her own little script on the catwalk,I noticed.

Right from the first show where Shantanu and Nikhil showed S&N drapes—a collection of gold,nude,shimmer,sheathing and lace,Jesse came strutting like a peacock,(the peahen’s tentativeness be damned),unlike other models who walked like models do—deadpan,frozen,looking at headlights as if they were going to the gallows. Not Jesse. There was a mild thumka in her walk; that alas,did nothing for the clothes,a spring in her step that announced her overconfidence. At the head ramp,she would do blink and you miss it installation movements (installing herself) before looking teasingly at the cameras.


Did I notice her almost biting her lip? Not sure,but she was too self-concious,her come-hither,look-at-me stance was not something I would clap for. She is a good model,her pulled back spine has inspired many but this overt act of playing to the gallery was jarring. Dislike is seductive,I realised as I looked out for her in other shows too. For Anupamaa Dayal’s show Surat & Spice,which had a playful,Gujarati folk ease about it,there was Jesse again,doing the act like none other. She was walking in a mela.


If Tom Ford glasses with wide and thick frames are one outstanding trend this season and wide,flared trousers another,there is also a new footpath that Indian fashionistas now tread upon. Heels from hell. Fantastic. Stilletoes and wedge heels,blocks and boots,tall and robust. Fuschia,orange,shocking blue,unabashed red,gosh,where do these women shop? Not in India all the time,I guess.

We have all the brands that matter but these are shoes with chutzpah,a culturally different standing to them. I would call it I-am-whimsical-and-I-love-it boldness that makes shoes cultural entities. Wearing eye-catching and improbably tall heels is a distinct change in Indian dressing up. Having walked the road to hell on high and higher heels myself,I wonder how so many women with different body types manage to walk on them through the day. I carry a pair of flats in my leather jhola—it is a desperate short cut to balance tired,craned feet with the high heel confidence.

At Pragati Maidan the fashion week stalls,show areas and lounges are spread over a largish space,so it is not funny walking from here to there in tall heels especially if you are working. The ground beneath our feet isn’t smooth and tripping on the carpet and falling like fashion victims (which most of us are at some time or the other) is a real risk. Even so,people’s heels made me look at the floor every now and then. I am going to get you some pictures today.


Rohit Bal’s show last night,an off-site show at the designer’s restaurant Cibo in Hotel Janpath was a delight. He had been very choosy about the guest list,at least as far as the media was concerned (“I have invited only one person per publication” he said ) and didn’t allow any press photographers in.

It was a candlelit evening; candles framed the water body in the centre of the courtyard while Chivas sponsored booze kept guests indulged till the show started at 10:30 pm,a good hour after the scheduled time. Bal was mingling joyously with his guests. Candles are moody,mellow creatures as you know,they glow but don’t jazz up the surrounding. They also cut our age and wrinkles and make us look beautiful with their soft lighting. Bal’s designer friends were all out there—JJ Valaya,Rakesh Thakore and David Abraham,Rohit Gandhi,Payal Jain among others. The Delhi elite came dandily dressed. Former model Nisha Singh came wearing a white Rohit Bal creation with white flowers tucked into her hair. She had changed for this show; I remembered seeing her earlier in the day in a yellowish sari with blue edges. I didn’t spot any of the younger designers,it only reiterated my guess that fashion,especially in Delhi is about hierarchy.

While everyone waited for the show to begin,whispers did the rounds with hot,potato wedges and grilled chicken. “Is it a show,an exhibition,a what?” hissed people. So it was both. Models dressed in sufiyana white mulmul fabrics from neck to toe with white a line of bindis dotting their foreheads stood on the rooftop as a violinist played with passion. Then lights went up on one part of the exhibition area which had red,maroon and gold Bal clothes displayed like art works. Another violinist played played there. The lights would shift to the final exhibit area with white,beige and gold creations. A bit of an art gallery,a bit of fashion canvas. Back to the models,who stood in meditative poses on the brick tile roof and were now being showered with petals as the violins reached a crescendo.