Despite the beautiful clothes that were sent out across the world in the past 10 weeks,an abiding image from the round-up of the various international fashion weeks is Anna Wintour cooing at little Harper Seven,perched on her father David Beckhams lap,in the front row of mum Victoria Beckhams show at New York Fashion Week.
If a picture tells a thousand words,this image told us that while we love fashion and trends and all the socio-cultural schlep that goes in to make a collection,we are,at heart,people watchers. Social anthropology,anyone? Or celeb-spotting in plain-speak?
If Hedi Slimane,the genius fashion influencer behind Yves Saint Laurent,is to be believed,the fashion show is a happily irrational and an emotional ritual. But the ever rising number of fashion weeks the world over make the front-row (called the FROW in London Fashion Week) a very special place.
Sabyasachi had plush red sofas this year and Ashish Soni theatre seats for his operatic show (even a balcony where the political heaviest weight Robert Vadra was seated).
The FROW is,of course,a political minefield. For a designer,it is imperative to have a few glamorous faces on it to generate publicity. Mumbais Lakme Fashion Week has the hands-down geographical advantage here. Filmi favourites like Manish Malhotra and Sabyasachi Mukherjee have the cream of the crop (who can forget Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoors first public outing together at Malhotras fashion show?). The other designers have to cough up seriously big bucks. The rates this year are Rs 4 lakh for a television actor,Rs 5 lakh for an upcoming starlet and Rs 10 lakh upwards for a big star.)
The Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week that wound up in New Delhi last weekend was a FROW microcosm of sorts. Fashions newest pin-up girl Masaba Gupta had cricketer Irfan Pathan on her front row. Minister Jaya Jaitley came for Krishna Mehta,beauty maven Shahnaz Husain for Wendell Rodricks and Delhis fun-nest party crowd (Kalyani Chawla,Koel Purie,Ruheen Jaiswal,Sanjeev Bijli,Karan Paul,Bharat and Riddhima Sahni) for Rohit Gandhi-Rahul Khanna.
Celebrities means more publicity, admits FDCI president Sunil Sethi. The politics of the Indian front row is best evident when you see him organising little stools for famous Johnnies who come in late.
There is also front-row etiquette that must be maintained. Rubber-necking is allowed,talking is not. You can tweet,but dont you dare answer your phone. Pout and allow yourself to be photographed,this is why you are here. Applause at least once in between and also at the end of the show.
Its really quite simple but it can also go horribly wrong. In the middle of Wendell Rodricks show last weekend,a khaki-clad gent appeared alongside the runway. He stood in front of Shahnaz Hussain,saluted her and gave her a paan to enjoy as she watched the show.
I suspect she would be uninvited next season on.