RUBINA’S RADAR | THE SABYASACHI INTERVIEW

Sabyasachi is India’s most exalted fashion designer, and he knows that. But he’s not lost to his own nous in vanilla vanities and egotism, with the veneration around his fashion métier. Sabyasachi the person, remains grounded, but Sabyasachi the brand, has taken flight, kissing open skies, with the launch of Sabyasachi Jewellery on October 22, 2019 in Mumbai. Sabyasachi Jewelry is his first standalone jewellery store in the country, located three flights up from the Sabyasachi Calcutta clothing store in Kala Ghoda. His bridal collections have played the role of a bride’s confidant for two odd decades, but his jewelry, in his own words, has turned Sabyasachi into a girl’s best friend today. His business smarts have expanded the realms of his brand rather successfully as his couture loyalists can’t quite get enough of the bejeweled lust box he’s opened up. They’re now seeking appointments for couture and carats, both.
gettyimages-1194484606-2048x2048Life-sized giraffes, fresh red roses, vintage artefacts, armoires and furniture in brass and solid wood, glimmering chandeliers, floral carpets, velvet drapes, tchotchke, conversational wall art in Hindi and Arabic alongside his framed jewelry sketches, with Chinese, African and Indian art and design collectibles make up the grandiloquent design speak of the store. In the artistic polarity of it all, the pièce de résistance are the gleaming emeralds, sapphires and rubies that seem to be telling stories of empresses and emperors of sovereign worlds gone by. Lilting American soul plays in the background at Sabyasachi Jewellery, which is in sharp contrast to the melancholic strains of Indian music that waft through his Sabyasachi Calcutta clothing stores across India. Invoking nostalgia is the couturier’s masterstroke, and it works.
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Edging steadily onto the global playing field with heterogeneous collaborations with Christian Louboutin (Paris) in 2015, Pottery Barn (USA) in 2016, L’Oreal Paris (France) in 2018 and Thomas Goode (UK) in 2019, Sabyasachi is an insatiable man, seeking immortality through his work. In a world where commitment is precious luxury, he’s the only Indian designer to have committed fans – a hallowed dominion so far reserved for Bollywood and cricket personalities in India. Sabyasachi can neither play cricket nor act, though at best, he thinks he’s a good mimic. And he is indeed.

Rubina A Khan converses with Bengal’s very own tiger, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, at Sabyasachi Jewellery in Mumbai:

The opening of Sabyasachi Jewellery is a portentous moment in Indian jewelry history. How are you feeling?
I feel relieved as the store is finally done – it took us about eight months to, actually not to do the store, but to collect everything, all the collectibles because I wanted Sabyasachi Jewellery to look like a modern museum…a bit of Indian art and craft, a bit of global craft, furniture from all over the world. We had a 16-foot Ming vase that had to hoisted up into the store through a crane as it couldn’t come through the elevator or the staircase. And I was very worried that it would break. It’s a very fragile, temperamental store. And I’m glad that the grand end worked out.
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What attracted you towards the business of making jewellery in an economy where clothing giants are shutting shop globally due to slack sales?
I have a theory that when the economy is down, people do what is called smart shopping – they don’t shop in depth; they shop in width, which means they buy new things. But they shop in exceptional width, which means they will buy something that is really important and something that is spectacular and I think my jewelry brand, Sabyasachi Jewellery has all of that to offer people.
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Are successful luxury brands like Sabyasachi Calcutta immune to the economic slowdown? Or do you think inherent brain genius and strategic marketing can override anything?
You know when there is a slowdown, like I said, people don’t stop spending money, they’re just careful about how they spend it.  And if you give exceptional value to them, no amount of marketing bullshit is going to help you override a failing economy. But if you give your customer great value and a unique, bespoke product, you will be able to convince them to spend their money.
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What made you invest your mind, and your own money into this opulent jewellery store?
When you sell important things, you have to give your customers respect. I think today, shopping for something that will stay with you probably for the rest of your life, because jewellery is not really perishable, the experience needs to also leave an indelible impression in your mind. It needs to create a beautiful experience, full of wonderment, that you’ll never forget. When you’re shopping for weddings or special occasions, where you shop and how you shop is as important as what you shop.
gettyimages-1194525486-2048x2048Do you have a favourite stone yet for your jewellery?
I love sapphires, yellow sapphires because old Indian jadau jewellery used to made with pukhraj, even white sapphires for that matter. I love rose cut diamonds – I love mutual cuts (old mine cuts) they are not brilliant cuts, so they have a little bit of softness and warmth in them – rounded and beautiful and soft. I don’t like jewellery with too much bling and shine as it takes the personality out of the jewellery. As us Indians have brown skin, I hate diamonds set in white gold because I think Indian people need warmth because it makes your face glow. When you wear diamonds set in white gold it makes your face ashen, but when you wear diamonds, actually mutual diamonds, which are slightly more softer, set in yellow gold, not rose gold… it just gives you that old world, rounded beauty. I think the problem with jewellery and stones in India is that people just want to blindly ape a tradition that has been created by the West and they don’t really buy what looks good on them. So if you ask me, I prefer stones with warmth that’s why I like sapphires. I don’t like the rubies that you find in the market right now, because once you start liking Burmese rubies, not even pigeon blood, the pomegranate color with a slight brown tinge in it, it’s like having good wine. It’s a one-way education and once you get exposed to good things in life, there’s no turning back.
gettyimages-1194495289-2048x2048Do you sketch your pieces like your clothes?
Absolutely. You can’t make mistakes with jewellery, but what I also do is that I keep my sketches in my jewellery very organic. A lot of jewellery is completely dependent on produce. When I make jewellery, I don’t assemble the piece till the last moment because there’s always a little tweaking, which I call the ‘Sabyasachi tweaking’ that I like to do. I’d love to combine emeralds which are expensive with aquamarines and turquoise, same color family, but with a huge difference in prices, or I’d like to put rock crystals and diamonds, which is a little unheard of, with white sapphires, all together because beautiful jewellery is also about audacity and courage. Otherwise you’re just one of the pack and that doesn’t interest me.

What is the most desirable piece of jewellery in the store? And what does this desirable piece of art sell at?
Desirable always doesn’t have to be very expensive. I am not a jewellery person – but it’s something that I would wear – it’s an old pendant, an old mutual cut diamond pendant with a single line of basra pearls and it’s not very expensive – it’s about INR 9.5 lakh, but it’s just so delicious and evolved. It’s like a character that comes without a pedigree, but someone that you’d love to marry and take back home because it’s just so special.
gettyimages-1194491248-2048x2048Are diamonds still a girl’s best friend?
Rubina, ask the ladies. Many of them tell me Sabya is a girl’s best friend.

How does it feel to be the biggest Indian designer brand, and perhaps the only one to succeed on the global playing field?
I don’t know if I am the most influential or the most popular, but I just know that I am onto something big in my life and I will work very hard till that dream comes true.

IWhat would be the reason for you to seek outside investment in your company?
Strategy. I would never pick up investment for money because I think the business generates enough cash-flow for us to be able to fund ourselves for the next 20 years and grow. But, I am not going to be there forever, so I want to consolidate this business in such a way that it lives far beyond my lifetime. Nandana Sen had given me an issue of Vogue for my birthday, a 1920 issue I think… 150 odd pages and the only name I recognised in it was Tiffany and I realised that in 100 years, so many brands have come and gone, and I don’t want that to happen to my brand. I love the way Chanel has been built beyond Coco Chanel’s lifetime and I think that I’ll find my own Karl Lagerfeld along the way who’s going to take the business from me, to future generations.
gettyimages-1194478437-2048x2048You’ve reached a stage where your creativity is not dependent or driven by money anymore. So what makes you chase the next new collaboration or expand your revenues streams with your creative energies?
I want to grow the business in such a way that it can help consolidate craft and create a lot of employment, and also probably help communities and enable us make the world a better place to live in. The beautiful thing about being in design is the fact that you create tremendous positive inspiration for people; you create hope. Beautiful design makes people happy and there’s a big debate about whether so much is necessary or not, but I think as long as you can create a brand that inspires people to become better versions of themselves, you should keep growing and that’s how I want to grow Sabyasachi Calcutta.

You’re the dream couture designer, definitely in India. Having seen so many blushing brides and grooms, do you know what the color of love is? Or what it even feels like?
Well, they say that the color of love is Sabaysachi red but I am just being arrogant! But I’ll you, I am personally touched by love every day of my life because I am a very positive person. Love does not have to come from one person. It can come from everything that you touch and everything you do and everything that I imbibe around me. I am a very loved person is all I’ll say.
gettyimages-1194480317-2048x2048Would you describe yourself as a ruthless businessman who loves the arts but is uninhibited and unabashed about stating and claiming his creative price?
I don’t know if I would call myself ruthless, but I would probably call myself exacting. And when you call yourself exacting, a lot of people label you ruthless. I wouldn’t have it any other way actually, because for me, if I have to do something I have to do it well or I wouldn’t do it at all. There’s no price to my creativity – I would do something for you if I was inspired enough to do it. Money is inconsequential for me, but of course, the money that we charge, if it helps us create something that can build a larger community or create bigger businesses that employ more and more people, it’s very exciting. For a lot of people who think that because I make such lavish clothing and jewels, truth be told, I wear a lot of simple clothes. Money is just a number for me and it feels great to make money, because in many ways it is a marker of success. But I don’t do things for money. I do things for growth – tangible and intangible. And intangible growth is far more important to me.
gettyimages-1194477822-2048x2048Given your heart and soul are not for sale by what you just said, what would you sell your brain for?
I’d sell my brain for a minority stake at Apple or a majority stake at Amazon!

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©Rubina A Khan 2019

RUBINA’S RADAR | FASHION DESIGN COUNCIL OF INDIA’S QUATERNITY FINALE AT LMIFW SS 2020

The Spring Summer 2020 edition of India Fashion Week, presented by the Fashion Design Council of India, culminated with a grand finale on the 12th of October, 2019 at the Dhyan Chand National Stadium in New Delhi. Rajesh Pratap Singh, Manish Arora, Schulen Fernandes for Wendell Rodricks and Anamika Khanna made up the finale quaternity that was as disparate a show as it was a rousing one.

All four designers showcased lines that were quintessentially reflective of their unequivocal fashion nucleus. Actor Kangana Ranaut broke Rodricks’ tribal whites and blues, Khanna’s embroidered conglomerations, Singh’s effervescent fluoro pops and Arora’s pink-dominant psychedelic synchronisation, in a black and white number, with leather accessories. Ranaut’s runway strut in the crisp ensemble lent the very coveted Bollywood sheen to the inherent shimmer of the polki diamonds around her neck.

Getting them to close an inclusive week (four days actually!) of fashion together, was spearheaded by Sunil Sethi, President of the FDCI. “I feel it worked out well. It is difficult to please everyone but LMIFW SS 20 was definitely a success. I am very happy,” said an obviously elated Sethi from Bhutan, where he’s keeping royal company with the ruling family of the mountain kingdom.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – OCTOBER 12: Schulen Fernandes, Anamika Khanna, Wendell Rodricks, Kangana Ranaut, Sunil Sethi, Nitin Passi, Manish Arora, Rajesh Pratap Singh and Dipin Passi at the Lotus Make-Up India Fashion Week Spring Summer 2020 Finale presented by the FDCI on October 12, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

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NEW DELHI, INDIA – OCTOBER 12: Kangana Ranaut at the Lotus Make-Up India Fashion Week Spring Summer 2020 Finale presented by the FDCI on October 12, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Inclusivity, with the hashtag MyFashionMyTribe sent out an assured energy to everyone that fashion is really about you exercising your power to express yourself just the way you are, and want to, without any fear or inhibitions. Every kind of person was celebrated by the designers on the runway in their collections – acid burn victims, curves, transgender… and that is really what the world is rightfully leaning in towards, steadily.

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Here is the FDCI presented Lotus MakeUp India Fashion Week Spring Summer 2020 finale in pictures:

SCHULEN FERNANDES FOR WENDELL RODRICKS

RAJESH PRATAP SINGH

ANAMIKA KHANNA

MANISH ARORA

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©Rubina A Khan 2019

RUBINA’S RADAR | INDIAN FASHION’S NEW CURRENCY – COUTURE CARATS

This month has been rather august for Sabyasachi with his jewellery line pulling in some colossal coin for the fashion house. And, I am not using the word ‘colossal’ airily here. An exhibition of heritage and fine jewellery by Sabyasachi, comprising of gold, uncut and fine diamonds and coloured stones was held at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel (a favourite Taj of mine!) in Mumbai on the 13th & 14th of August, 2019. Over the two day exhibit, the jewellery sales brought in an unexpected and staggering double digits for the label. “We had good sales at the jewellery exhibit, but it’s not dignified for us to flaunt figures and it’s not a good business practice either,” says Sabyasachi.

Ever since he launched his jewellery line, it has compelled every fashion designer in India to view diamonds and precious stones with a design perspective, never mind the naysaying and economic slowdown whinging all around. Sabyasachi brides and grooms now have the added luxury of getting their bridal dreams realised in totality, in both fabric and stones, at any one of his flagship stores across India. And with the high numbers that the Mumbai jewellery exhibit brought in, it goes without saying that Sabyasachi definitely knows how to pull his weight not just in khadi and chiffons, but in molten gold and diamonds too! And his loyalists are only queuing up for more.

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Sabyasachi Heritage Jewellery | Photo: Sabyasachi Instagram 

Emboldened by the response to his private jewellery viewings over the past two years and the multiple city exhibits across India this year, the couturier is now ready to open his first jewellery store, situated on the third level of his flagship store in Kala Ghoda in the festive quarter of 2019 in Mumbai. If the bejewelled whispers are anything to go by, the store will be a blinding sight to behold.

Manish Malhotra, fresh off Maahrumysha, a shimmering velveteen of an alluring show, that kicked off Lakme Fashion Week’s Winter/Festive 2019 edition, is launching his new jewellery line this year. Malhotra’s show on August 20th at Famous Studios, Mumbai had models wearing Raniwala 1181 jewels on the runway, including his showstopper, actor Katrina Kaif, and some of his favoured Bollywood front row regulars and social lights. It was a lucent teaser of what is to come from his jewellery design board.

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Katrina Kaif in Manish Malhotra’s Maahrumysha line | Photo: Katrina Kaif’s Instagram

“I have been carrying a Raniwala 1881 line, curated by me, in my Mumbai store since August 3rd, 2019, with some pieces at the Delhi store. But our next collection together will be the one I am designing for them. I chose to collaborate with Raniwala 1881 as they have years of expertise behind them, making genuine, good quality jewels,” says Malhotra of his upcoming jewellery line that will be available come November 2019.

Not one to conform to perform, Tarun Tahiliani is not launching an eponymous jewellery line this season, but he intends to. Having had a peripheral jewellery collection in the past, not a full-fledged one per se, he is serious about launching one going forward.

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Tarun Tahiliani’s Tarakanna couture collection | Photo: Rubina A Khan

“I am always wary of selling things that I can’t verify unless there is a buyback guarantee. I’ve heard too many horror stories of people who are buying things that are not what they claim to be. The problem lies in the quality of coloured stones and heating versus natural and the like. So I approached the World Gold Council as they took the guarantee, and they also have a buyback guarantee with the person I dabble and work with. Only if the World Gold Council and the Gold Standard have certified something, will I lend my name to it. My reputation and brand integrity are of paramount importance to me and if I don’t have the necessary tools to verify something, I don’t want to sell it bearing my name,” says Tahiliani.

As far as jewellery lines go, not surprisingly, Rohit Bal has been there and done that. “I’ve done a jewellery line before, though it wasn’t an entire collection. And I am not saying no to launching one either in the coming months,” says Bal of a possible jewellery collection.

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A model in Rohit Bal couture | Photo: Rubina A Khan

Given that India’s biggest couturiers have successfully launched their own jewellery collections, or are planning to soon, it won’t be long before every designer in the country will be selling a bridal outfit, replete with its own essential accoutrements in couture carats. No doubt some of them will be decidedly questionable on the couture and carat fronts, but it definitely won’t be a deterrent for any designer aspiring to follow the successful business expansion models of India’s biggest couture houses in a bid to rise up in the fashion ranks.

Jewellery collaborations have always been a part of India’s bridal business, but couture carat collections seem to be the new fashion currency for Indian designers. In a business that is as plagiarised with a knock-off on every street as it is, designing couture carats is a fiscally viable way forward, complementing their couture collections. Couture and carats designed by your favourite designer is a win-win for everyone. Brides and grooms couldn’t ask for more now or could they?

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©Rubina A Khan 2019

RUBINA’S RADAR | ISHA AMBANI PIRAMAL IS INDIA’S NEWEST FASHION FORCE IN THE MAKING

Fashion keeners are still effusing over Sabyasachi’s Kashgaar Bazaar runway presentation in collaboration with Christian Louboutin earlier this month. But more so, because they can’t have, rather can’t buy, what they saw! Sabyasachi’s stores in Kolkata, New Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai are inundated with requests from Sabyasachi enthusiasts everyday, for the beautiful Kashgaar Bazaar resort collection, only to be told that none of the 125 pieces shown on the runway will ever be made. Not even the green toga sari that Bollywood’s actor extraordinaire, Alia Bhatt wore to the show, or the bandhni lehenga (fresh off the runway) she wore soon after.

But guess whose natural beauty and poise, wearing a custom black sari made by Sabyasachi especially for the show, has been causing an anomalous fashion delirium since? None other than Mukesh and Nita Ambani’s daughter, Isha Ambani Piramal! Innumerable, not to mention persistent demands, are being made to the couturier for the black sari Isha had worn. “I do not do any merchandise change on client pressure. The black sari was always going to be a part of our production,” says Sabyasachi of the sari, that will soon retail a little over INR 1,00,000 for those desiring it. It sure ain’t easy overshadowing anything or anyone in Bollywood in India, particularly when it comes to fashion, but Isha seems to have done just that, by being herself. As I see it, Isha is India’s newest fashion force in the making. Black Sari Woman anyone?

Pinky Reddy hosted a celebratory lunch for her birthday on Saturday, April 20th, at Townhall, the latest restaurant on Mumbai’s ever-evolving culinary landscape for her friends in the city. Given Pinky’s convivial essence, it was an ebullient afternoon, well-attended by Mumbai’s beautiful women – Poonam Dhillon (who also had a birthday on the 18th) Rita Dhody, Poonam Bhagat, Rashmi Thackeray, Lali Dhawan, Laila Khan, Gayatri Oberoi, Madhoo Shah and Queenie Singh amongst many others.

The afternoon made me wonder if Cyndi Lauper’s classic track, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, should be reprised, and swiftly, as Women Just Wanna Take Selfies! Pinky’s husband, Sanjay Reddy, vice-chairman of the GVK conglomerate, was seen, given he’s taller than Amitabh Bachchan standing at all of six feet and five inches, but barely heard. But he made sure everyone was well taken care of, in quintessential Reddy style, disarming smile et al. This is what a real marriage is all about, rare, but there.

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©Rubina A Khan 2019

RUBINA’S RADAR | A VERY FASHIONABLY YOURS APRIL

India’s couturier extraordinaire, Sabyasachi’s nonpareil fashion métier makes him an exalted being in the world of fashion. Today, the enviable designer ceases to be just about khaki, silks, embroidery, jewellery and his L’Oréal Paris x Sabyasachi Calcutta (a non-negotiable term when it came to his historic collaboration) makeup line. Sabyasachi Mukherjee, of the eponymous label Sabyasachi, is a vibe, and a very desired one at that.

NEW DELHI, NEW DELHI – MARCH 04: Indian fashion designer and couturier extraordinaire, Sabyasachi, opened his first flagship store in the capital, and his fourth in the country, spread over 13,500 square feet with two separate wings housing bespoke bridal wear, jewellery and accessories for women and men at Kutub Serai, Mehrauli on March 5, 2016 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

From Bollywood actor Anushka Sharma and cricketer Virat Kohli’s wedding in Tuscany in 2017 to Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh’s ceremonies in Lake Como in 2018 to Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas’ coupling in Jodhpur in 2018 to the Ambani twins – Isha Ambani and Anand Piramal in Udaipur in 2018 to Akash Ambani and Shloka Mehta in Mumbai in 2019, the fashion artistry at all these extravagant weddings was designed and orchestrated by Sabyasachi. In a country where bridal wear, our equivalent of the West’s haute couture, is of supreme importance when it comes to the big spend, all these celebrated brides and grooms from diverse worlds of film, sport, music and business wanted Sabyasachi to “do” their clothes and jewellery on their big day. And that’s saying a lot because there certainly is no dearth of designers doing bridal collections in India. For someone who is on a no-sugar health plan, he sure is taking the biggest bite from giant wedding laddoos, India’s sweetest business!

Sabyasachi celebrates 20 years of his fashion story this year, with Kashgaar Bazaar – a runway presentation, in collaboration with the world’s most famous red-soled cobbler, Christian Louboutin on April 6th in Mumbai. The fashion extravaganza has international guests flying down especially for it and it’s already blowing up everyone’s minds with expectations of Sabyasachi’s grandiloquent style. Mumbai’s temperatures are soaring, but the anticipation of what Sabyasachi’s bringing to the city in April is taking it to another level of fashion heat!

NEW DELHI, INDIA – JULY 29: Indian fashion designer and couturier, Sabyasachi checks in on models and last minute fittings just before his opening show for the Fashion Design Council of India’s (FDCI) Amazon India Couture Week 2015. Sabyasachi and Lebanese shoe designer Christian Louboutin collaborated on the couture line together with his famous red-soled shoes adding glamour to the shimmering regality of the couturier’s designs at the Taj Palace Hotel on July 29, 2015 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Pharrell Williams makes the world a very happy place with his music, but he wants to make it happier with his fashion and design aesthete with a colourful collection for Parisian fashion house, Chanel. Williams is the first ever guest designer for the fashion house, having collaborated on it with the late Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel’s creative director for 36 years. It was Lagerfeld who named the collection Chanel Pharrell.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: Pharrell Williams arrives at the 91st Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood and Highland on February 24, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)

To coincide with the launch at Chanel’s flagship in Seoul, Korea on Friday, March 29, the Grammy winning artiste released a behind-the-scenes video of the collection. In it, the multihyphenate talks about gender-fluidity, meeting Karl Lagerfeld and the importance and influence of the number 5 in the collection as well as Akira and motorcycle gangs.

Yellow bathrobes, brightly-colored hoodies and embroidered graffiti sweatshirts, terry-cloth bucket hats, sunglasses, T-shirts, opulent diamond jewellery and the double C bags make up the Chanel Pharrell collection, dedicated to both men and women. And, sneakers with hand-drawn text and doodles, but of course, and loafers and sliders. After the Seoul launch, the complete Chanel Pharrell collection releases worldwide on April 4.

A very fashionably yours April indeed!

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©Rubina A Khan 2019

RUBINA’S RADAR | THEATRE & FASHION ROYALE

India’s finest talent, Shabana Azmi is celebrating her late father, Kaifi Azmi’s birth centenary with an ongoing series of events across India, from mushairas to plays to live musical evenings at Janki Kutir. Raag Shayari is an artistic, theatrical collaboration between Azmi, tabla maestro Zakir Hussain, singer and composer Shankar Mahadevan and lyricist Javed Akhtar, interpreting the works of the accomplished late poet in a contemporary, musical manner. “Raag Shayari’s an evening of archival value because Shankar Mahadevan sings a selection of Kaifi Azmi’s poems, Javed Akhtar recites them in Urdu and I recite the English translations with Ustad Zakir Hussain interpreting the same on the tabla,” says Azmi. The debut show of Raag Shayari was on January 13 at NCPA, Nariman Point. The second show was held the following evening at the St. Andrew’s auditorium in Bandra, Mumbai with Waheeda Rehman, Asha Parekh, Rekha, Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan, Vidya Balan, Farhan Akhtar, Divya Dutta and Madhu Chopra in attendance.

Shabana Azmi during rehearsals for Raag Shayari. Photo: Rubina A Khan
Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi and Zakir Hussain during rehearsals for Raag Shayari. Photo: Rubina A Khan

Forts are Indian fashion’s new runways du jour in 2019. Earlier this month, the Red Fort in New Delhi made for an enchanting setting for a fashion show held on its heritage grounds, organised by the Ministry of Textiles. It was a historic first for Indian fashion and a commendable one at that. After showing at the Red Fort, master couturier Rohit Bal enthralled Mumbai with Guldastah, a collection inspired by Renaissance artists and botanical paintings, at the Blender’s Pride Fashion Tour held at the Bandra Fort on Wednesday evening. 

Models walked down the bedecked steps of the fort in luxurious Bal raiments in hues of ivory, black, gold and red to the dulcet sounds of Shubha Mudgal’s live classical performance. This was the best fashion show I have ever seen in Mumbai. Guldastah was an immersive experience and you could almost smell the roses of forgotten romances with the ethereal floral dominance in Bal’s impassioned collection.

Actor Sidharth Malhotra was Bal’s showstopper, but a resident dog of Bandra Fort beat him to it, wagging its tail happily on to the runway, ahead of him, much to the delight of everyone present. Malhotra seemed to have studied Amitabh Bachchan’s walk and stance thoroughly and mirrored the same quite well on the runway. But then again, mirroring is not quite like owning it! Anju Bhavnani, now more popular as Deepika Padukone’s mother-in-law versus Ranveer Singh’s mother, was all praises for her beautiful bahu when I spoke to her for a lightning Mumbai minute. “We are very happy and blessed, hashtag blessed,” she said. A family that hashtags together stays together? Insta guess so!

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©Rubina A Khan 2019

RUBINA’S RADAR | MAKING FASHION HISTORY IN OLD DELHI AND CALCUTTA IN THE NEW YEAR 2019

The first week of 2019 kicked off with Indian fashion making historical moves on, and off, the runway on heritage sites. The formidable collaboration of the Ministry Of Textiles Government Of India, the Archaeological Survey Of India, the Ministry Of Culture and the Fashion Design Council Of India, created fashion history with Artisan Speak, a show that celebrated India’s majestic textile legacy at the Red Fort in New Delhi on January 5. The Red Fort grounds as a fashion runway was unimaginable, till it was the past Saturday. And, what a progressive first it was!

Headlined by designers Anita Dongre, Rohit Bal, Rajesh Pratap Singh, Gaurang Shah, Rahul Mishra and Anju Modi, the ivory Sawan and Bhadon Pavilions, and the red sandstone Zafar Mahal made for a dramatic backdrop for the show. Artisan Speak turned a page in India’s history, transcendentally juxtaposing the regal era of yore with the immediate now. The show honoured six Padma Shri and seven Sant Kabir award winning master craftsmen, wherein the Union Minister Of Textiles, Smriti Irani, gave away Special Recognition Awards to the indomitable contributors to India’s textile sector. 

On January 7, Anamika Khanna showed her collection at the Artisan Speak show organised by the Fashion Design Council Of India for the Ministry Of Textiles Government Of India at the legendary Currency Building founded in 1833 in Kolkata. It was a felicitous venue for Khanna’s show. Whilst most heritage buildings in Kolkata, the first seat of power of the British Empire, reflect Gothic styles of architecture, the Currency Building stood out in the city with its Italian style, particularly its Venetian windows. The building went through many hands and years of neglect and demolishment till the Archaeological Survey Of India took over and restored it to its distinct Italian architectural style recently. Archaeologists have found evidence of an underground canal from the building to the river Hooghly to cool freshly minted coins in its original avatar as a currency house.

Artisan Speak in Kolkata was yet another historical step forward for Indian fashion by showing in a protected building, creating awareness for India’s textile industry, the second largest employment sector in the country, after the agricultural industry. After the momentous fashion show, the Currency Building turned into an exhibition space, open to the public, for jute, silk and handloom crafts the following day. “India has seen a growth of 24 percent in the export of jute products in the last five years,” said Smriti Irani, Union Minister Of Textiles, a pivotal voice of Artisan Speak.

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2019

 

RUBINA’S RADAR | A LITTLE GLAMOUR NEVER HURT NOBODY

RUBINA’S RADAR

The Beyoncé of the beauty business is celebrity makeup lines. Everyone’s got one or wants one, not Bey of course. Lip Kits, Kyshadows, Kylighters and what have you for that Calabassas glow-up by the 21-year-old billionairess on the block, Kylie Jenner and her company, Kylie Cosmetics, founded in 2016 to Kim Kardashian West’s KKW Beauty and fragrances that launched in June 2017 to Jennifer Lopez’s 70-piece limited edition collaboration with Inglot in April 2018 to Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty line that dropped in September 2017 – every girl in the world is obsessed with these race, gender and colour inclusive beauty products that make you look like the glam goddesses pushing them. Not only do they make you look and feel beautiful, they’re selling out in seconds globally with every new collection drop! It seems like everyone wakes up to makeup with these celebrity lines!

It’s taken India a while to get on the collaborative beauty carousel aside from the passé promotional posts on Instagram where everybody’s an advertorial beauty advisor, trying to Kontour like a Kardashian. As if! Lakmé India’s stepped up its beauty game by dropping its first ever celebrity makeup line with Bollywood’s most original and enviable pout – Kareena Kapoor Khan in August 2018. Taimur Ali Khan’s haute mom’s limited edition collection – Shades Of A Diva, the Kareena Kapoor Khan Signature Lakmé Absolute Range celebrates Indian skin tones and beauty vivacity with Pout Definers (duh!), Face and Cheek Contours, Waterproof Lip Definers and the works. What’s missing though is a definitive Khan Kajal for our beauteous Indian eyes. At least some of those ghastly makeup video wanna shines can now Kontour like Kareena or Pout like Poo, with a makeup range designed for Indian skin tones, curated and endorsed by a Bollywood star, the biggest magnet of all. Let’s see if this celebrity collection is a blockbuster in the beauty market and the kind of numbers it pulls in with her name.

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Kareena Kapoor Khan | Lakme

India’s grand couturier Rohit Bal’s giving “Are you wearing Rohit” a whole new essence ever since he dropped his own fragrance line for men and women in February this year. Bal launched an Arab essential, Oudh and Aab for men and Vana and Oas for women. Bal is known to experiment with his inherent talents, having collaborated on an exquisite home decor line with Good Earth in November 2016, an extension of his 2015 Husn-E-Taairat couture collection. In keeping with his indomitable spirit for artistic excellence, Bal’s velvety, luxurious fragrances add another dimension to his creative pursuits marking an impressive debut in the beauty business. Bal’s Oudh is enchanting and as seductive as the Arabian originals in the Middle East. What’s a desert country like Dubai without the exotic Oudh wafting through its architectural modernisms anyway? Wearing Rohit Bal apparel and couture is de rigueur, but the fragrance line has taken Bal to another level of luxe altogether. What’s next? A makeup collaboration?

Whilst on all things glamorous, flying to exotic locales is quintessential to fashion forwards worldwide. The Wadia Group’s domestic airline, Go Air, is all set to go international come October 2018 with direct flights to two of the world’s most fashionable and luxe destinations – Male, Maldives and Phuket, Thailand from Mumbai and New Delhi. Go Air’s direct flights to both Male and Phuket from Mumbai will definitely put an end to the stretched nights spent at the Mumbai airport flying into Male via Colombo at unearthly hours on SriLankan Airlines. In this demonetised Indian economy, I had to read the tempting introductory fares twice over to believe them. The Wadia Group launched Go Air in November 2005 as a low-fare domestic airline operating over 230 daily flights across 23 destinations. Taking flight as an international airline in October 2018 after 14 years of domestic operations, is a great move forward for the company and one of great pride for India.

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Go Air | Photo: Rubina A Khan

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2018

Shah Rukh Loves My Work The Most, Says Design Virtuoso Gauri Khan

Whilst her husband Shah Rukh Khan is the uncrowned king of Bollywood, Gauri Khan seems to have come into her own as a design virtuoso, befitting her status royale as the celluloid sovereign’s wife. Gauri Khan Designs, her eponymous design studio, is headquartered in Mumbai, but her visual representational percipience is swiftly traversing worldwide.

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Gauri Khan at Chivas 18 Alchemy in New Delhi

The modernist designer couldn’t resist turning into an alchemist of sight at the second edition of the quintuple sensory Chivas 18 Alchemy experience in New Delhi, transforming the space with her definitive luxe aesthetic. As much as her husband is the alchemist of sound with his unequivocal eloquence, she seems to speak (the reluctant conversationalist that she is) through her alluring and arresting visual artistry. Khan makes for relaxed, affable company when she’s talking business, but turns a deep, love blush when SRK Face Times her during our conversation. “It’s Shah Rukh,” she says, tossing her hair into place and arching her frame into a flattering angle to talk to him.

Rubina A Khan caught up with Gauri Khan in New Delhi for Gulf News tabloid!

You entered the world of design in 2011 and have been making enviable headway since designing homes, restaurants and pop-up events…
It wasn’t a planned effort to get into interior design. I’ve been an artist all my life, in school and college, and even after I got married to Shah Rukh, I used to do a lot of charcoal paintings at home. There’s a lot of connection to art in my life – I bought a lot of art and was intrigued by artists and read up on them extensively. Then I started designing my own home, Mannat, with my architect. A lot of people walked into the house and asked me to design for them. My friends, Yash and Avanti Birla opened Yantra about 15 years ago and they asked me at the time to join them and so did my friend, Kajal (Anand), as she knew I was passionate about art and design. But I wasn’t ready for it. Then Sussanne (Khan) asked me to do a collection for her store launch. So, it’s been a slow and steady pace for me into the world of design with friends.

What draws you to design – the creative pursuit of it or the final outcome?
Creating a first impression is what I set out to achieve when I start designing a space. Being creative and imaginative in my everyday life is tremendously exciting. All aspects of design, right from my drawing board to the actualization of it all enthralls me. When the thoughts in my headspace integrate seamlessly and are realized into tangible and tactile reality, from the inception stages to the final outcome, it gives me a great sense of accomplishment and it’s the most wonderful feeling.

How did you turn into an alchemist of sight for Chivas 18 Alchemy?
Fashion designer Ashish Soni approached me with the idea to participate in the second edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy as the alchemist of the sense of sight as the concept is based on the five human senses of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. Given that I love the creative space that Alchemy mounts their campaigns and the way they format and execute them with immense style and finesse, I was immediately attracted to it and now I’m an alchemist too! I added the touch of blue velvet drapes to turn the outdoor garden space of Alchemy into an indoor one, akin to a palatial living room. It was challenging, but it turned out rather fluid as the velvet lent an indoor vibe to the space and the artisanal glass bottle chandeliers, custom made especially for Alchemy, added the molten hue of inviting warmth. Lighting is the key to all my spaces. It’s been a fantastic experience with Ashish, Pulkith and the Alchemy team and it was a joy to work with them. This is one of the best events I have attended and now, participated in, right from the venue to the scale and the exceptional invites… everything about it is extraordinarily stunning.

What is the key component to the alchemy of sight?
The key component for me is when I design a space on paper. When the eye visualizes what can be, which then manifests into a real space – that’s a visual delight for me. Subsequently, for it to then come to life exactly the way I envision it, to becoming the heart and soul of the design endeavor – that’s the key to my alchemy of sight. What I did for Alchemy on paper, and to now see it come to life in this luxurious and seductive a manner, makes me extremely happy.

What is your signature design move?
It depends on the project really – if I’m doing a restaurant, a young boy’s room, a nursery, a middle-aged couple’s home – each space is different. But I make sure every space I design is warm, easy, inviting and comfortable. That’s the quintessential design move that I adhere to in all my GKD work. I absolutely abhor cold, model homes.

How many hours do you work everyday?
I don’t work all the time. It is an artistic pursuit wherein I can create anytime and anywhere, whether it’s at home or at a site visit or a set. I spend a lot of time at home and I don’t have any fixed hours or schedule per se. That’s the beauty of my job.

Some Gauri Khan Designs’ tips for homes?
When I am doing up a residence, I try to make the elements come together in such a way that the owners feel comfortable and at peace in their home. My design aesthetic is luxurious and glam as I love these aspects of good living, but that doesn’t mean the home loses its warmth and comfort or that I’d put chandeliers in a baby’s nursery.

a) Make any space your own, where you belong, with your own distinct individualism. It could be anything from lights to an art piece, something that tells the story of your personality.

b) Don’t try to make a touch-me-not home where it becomes more like a museum and less of a warm, inviting home. When a home has super fancy elements with a trying-too-hard feel, the fear of disturbing the elements keeps you from enjoying the space and creates an uncomfortable aura in the home for you as well as your guests.

c) Luxurious and glamorous homes should be designed such that the owners should not find the comforts of their own homes even in luxury hotels. Despite all the luxe elements, the comfort of a home should never be compromised.

Who loves your work the most?
Shah Rukh loves my work the most. I have been attending award functions with him for 30 years and now, I’ve won my very first Excellence in Design Award this month; we both couldn’t be happier.

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Shah Rukh Khan

What’s the biggest love of your life?
Design is my biggest love! It consumes me.

What’s your dream project?
My most exciting dream project is Karan Johar’s new home. I’ve done the nursery for his kids and the terrace in his current home. Karan’s always been my inspiration and he’s been my support, in my personal and professional life, so I’m super excited to start this project. He’s a creative being himself and when I create something for him, and he appreciates it, it makes me feel like I’ve got an ‘A’ in a school report card. It makes me very happy when Karan “approves” of my work.

Any plans of opening a store in Dubai?
Dubai is home to us and I love coming to our home in Dubai. I’m looking forward to bringing Gauri Khan Designs to Dubai very soon. It’s already in the works.

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on 18 March, 2018

©Rubina A Khan 2018

New Indian Kidswear Line, Sam & Friends, Is Making Some Cool New Friends Around The World

The fashion playing field in India is rather adult with an emphatic intensity on bridal lines masquerading as couture. In India, the word fashion in itself conjures up blush visuals of shimmering Tarun Tahiliani couture, Anita Dongre’s prêt-à-porter lines and reigning Bollywood stars in designer threads. Fashion for kids is not of any relevance really in the massive Indian design scape, despite it bringing in some serious money to international brands that carry kidswear lines. In an evolving fashion landscape, pre-teens and teens are walking and talking fashion louder than adults globally, something that international fashion house, Zara, understood a long time ago.

Rishi and Neetu Kapoor’s first born, Riddhima Kapoor-Sahni, a jewellery designer and her businessman husband, Bharat Sahni, launched their indigenous new clothing line for kids, Sam & Friends, in December 2017 in a bid to change the fashion stakes, and styles, of kidswear in India. And

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Riddhima Kapoor-Sahni with daughter, Samara in Sam & Friends apparel

Rubina A Khan spoke to Riddhima Kapoor-Sahni in New Delhi:

Why did you think of doing a kid’s fashion line and not one for adults, given your inherent style and persona?
My husband, Bharat, has been in the kids’ clothing business for over fifteen years now and he is very passionate about it and I trust his business sense implicitly. This is why we chose to do a fashion line for kids only. Sam & Friends is for children between the ages of 0-16.

Why is the line called Sam & Friends?
We have named it after our adorable daughter Samara. Sam stands for Samara.

How much is Samara involved in the design and style aesthetic of the line?
Samara is too young to be involved at the moment. Yet she still gives her likes, dislikes and preferences on the collection.

Who has she taken after in the fashion stakes in the Kapoor / Sahni family?
Me! (laughs)

Sam & Friends is not frilly and flouncy, nor is it inspired by what Bollywood stars are wearing. Was it an intentional move to steer away from flamboyant fashion for kids?
Kidswear is one of the fastest moving segments in India and today’s kids are well informed and aware of fashion due to social media. As I mentioned earlier, Bharat has been in the business of fashion for kids for a while now and he truly understands kids fashion, so technically we have stepped into the arena a level ahead of the others. With our unbeatable price points and an uncompromising quality for the fabric, finish, style and design in the garments, Sam & Friends is being loved by both kids, and their parents. All our garments are made with international quality and safety standards which I reckon a majority of Indian customers are not aware of.

What are the pieces you wish you could wear today?
I wish I could wear the bomber jackets with flashy sequins, party skirts and sequinned dresses!

What is Samara’s favourite piece from the collection?
A pink jacquard dress with a beautiful corsage.

Who is Samara’s style icon?
Her Nani (Neetu Kapoor) 

What is the future of Sam & Friends?
As of now, we are trying to make Sam & Friends reach the maximum number of  Indians and the response so far has been overwhelming. Furthermore, we will be launching our own website in January 2018 to reach all our online shoppers and retail through online portals.

PS. I’m a new friend of Sam too. Interestingly and not quite by design, I wore my Sam & Friends tee to a screening of the Hollywood film, The Greatest Showman, a title associated with the late Indian legend, Raj Kapoor, for his achievements in the cinematic world – leaving me in a total Bollywood state of mind. If you’ve seen the Zac Efron/Hugh Jackman/Zendaya circus theatrics, you’ll know what I’m talking about! 

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

@Rubina A Khan 2017