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Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Free-to-Wear-Anything Country

In India,women wear a Kanjeevaram sari with a bandhini blouse and wedding chooras with blue denims. When it comes to clothing we follow no rules,we delight in gypsy wear.

Written by Shefalee Vasudev | New Delhi |
October 17, 2010 6:15:53 pm

In India,women wear a Kanjeevaram sari with a bandhini blouse and wedding chooras with blue denims. When it comes to clothing we follow no rules,we delight in gypsy wear.

Costumes are the third reason why Bollywood musical Zangoora: The Gypsy Prince that shows at the gaudy Gurgaon theatre Kingdom of Dreams is such fun to watch. Colourful gypsy wear designed by Neeta Lulla unfolds as a parallel narrative and the way we respond to it reveals our cultural comfort with mix and match. In our minds. So in our wardrobes.

“Gypsy” is often considered a politically incorrect term,associated with racial discrimination faced by the Roma people. Like “Negro”. But while no designer would label a collection Negro fashion,or for that matter Harijan fashion in India,the global fashion fraternity disregards political sensitivity and continues to create “gypsy fashion”. Recently,at the Lakme Fashion Week Winter-Festive 2010,two designers showed gypsy-inspired lines: Hyderabad-based Suhani Pittie’s jewellery collection and Malini Ramani’s garments for the finale (in the picture). The former is emerging as an imaginative designer with a talent for assimilating traditions with new ideas. The latter is synonymous with bohemian style. With their collections,both recalled the adaptable nature of the Indian wardrobe,the carefree amalgamation that is the core of gypsy fashion.

Many international designers too have referenced gypsy clothing in their collections. Words like modern or urban gypsy continue to waft in and out of look books and fashion announcements. Asked once by an interviewer why designers were enamoured of gypsy fashion,John Galliano said: “Perhaps because gypsies have been able to escape the lives we have. The gypsy life is about moving and finding what you need,putting together a look. Fashion is not important to them and somehow that makes it work.” He went on to create clothes inspired by nomadic tribes. As did Giorgio Armani. His bohemian lace,Frida Giannini’s tribal prints for Gucci and Dries Van Noten’s ikat pants,to name a few,have over the years led to the emergence of a fashion genre that groups together certain “gypsy” elements. Think bold colours,big floral bags,beaded anklets,coin necklaces,long skirts and maxi dresses in Indian or African prints with a brazen mix of patchwork and embroidery,feather headpieces,harem pants with sequinned waist bands and you have the blueprint for gypsy wear. Boho chic,if you will. This year,a gypsy dress by popular brand H&M became one of its top selling items. Usually interpreted for summer or resort ready-to-wear,gypsy fashion is seen as antithetical to formal,structured clothing or red-carpet dressing.

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Except in India where the love for gypsy-like clothes leads to other insights. As people,we take regular recourse to unstructured mix and match,throwing together seasons,influences and styles almost naturally. Pittie and Ramani may have suggested gypsy ideas as festive wear through their shows — as have many other designers before this — but we intrinsically know how to work these. As a society,we are not bohemian by nature but when it comes to clothing,we follow no rules.

We pair fluorescent orange with electric blue,or rani pink with tota green without batting an eyelid. An Indian woman will wear a Kanjeevaram sari with a bandhini blouse and see nothing wrong with it. Wedding chooras with blue denims,mojris with chiffon dresses,boots with seedha pallu saris,turtle neck sweaters with Rajasthani ghaghras. We combine fake labels with real rubies,throw in a hippie stole from Goa with a sequinned blouse from Delhi’s Janpath! Sometimes,all at once.

It is like making a festive rangoli — rice grains will do,as will rose petals or glittering confetti,and yet there is a sense of design. As well as beauty. Try to get into designer Manish Arora’s mind and you will see India as a universe with fearless fashion combinations. You can call it the fusion-confusion of the Global Indian. You can call it the gypsy attitude. It is evident in travellers who pick up a trinket here and a bag there. But it is most robust among Indians.

Two years ago French fashion director Joseph Carle asked me what was the Indian woman’s USP in style. The unintended lack of adherence to fashion’s rules,I said. We wear everything with everything. The result of that conversation was a shoot with the model wearing a Sabyasachi bridal sari with an Adidas jersey. That’s Indian fashion. Or,Unfashion.

Unfashion is the second reason you must watch Zangoora . It pairs sequins with humour. Song and dance with leather and feather. Cholis with love and glamour to create a filmi,festive India. The first reason why Zangoora works is because of the sexy Gauhar Khan and the energetic cast with their joy and fatalism. They make gypsy fashion look good.

(unfashion@expressindia.com)

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