Fashion Design Council of India presents India Fashion Week Autumn / Winter 2017

The Fashion Design Council of India’s Fashion Week Autumn Winter 2017 edition celebrated India’s immense talent in the world of fashion, right from handloom revivalists to the unabashedly glamorous. Union Minister of Textiles Smriti Irani, Alia Bhatt, Sunil Sethi President FDCI and Union Minister for Women & Child Development Maneka Gandhi made for some great photo ops and the Delhi sunshine demanded iced lattes on the hour to keep up with the frenetic pace of the week.

Here is the FDCI presented India Fashion Week 2017 in pictures:

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Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium entrance

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Schulen Fernandes | Wendell Rodricks

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Schulen Fernandes | Wendell Rodricks

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Schulen Fernandes | Wendell Rodricks

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Siddartha Tytler

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Siddartha Tytler

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Alia Bhatt for Namrata Joshipura

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Malini Ramani

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Vaani Kapoor for Rina Dhaka

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Pankaj & Nidhi

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Nachiket Barve’s sari

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Madhu Jain

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Rara Avis sari

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Golden Threads of Assam mannequin

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Tarun Tahiliani & Amit Aggarwal’s Grand Finale

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Opening Day

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Opening Day

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Sunil Sethi President FDCI with Maneka Gandhi Union Minister for Women & Child Development

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Sunil Sethi President FDCI with Smriti Irani Union Minister of Textiles on opening day

Getty Images

©Rubina A Khan 2017

Jashn-E-Kaifi with Shabana Azmi at 25, Janki Kutir

Shabana Azmi celebrated the 98th birth anniversary of her late father, the legendary Urdu poet Kaifi Azmi, with an evening of music and poetry called Jashn-E-Kaifi at their family home, 25 Janki Kutir in Mumbai on the 14th of January 2017. Her brother, cinematographer Baba Azmi orchestrated the annual evening on a larger scale this year in a bid to bring back some of the cultural nostalgia of artistry that is not only reminiscent of their home, but an integral part of both, his and Shabana’s growing years – a home where legends like Begum Akhtar, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Guru Dutt, Chetan Anand, SD Burman, Madan Mohan, Balraj Sahni and MF Husain commingled with their parents Kaifi and Shaukat Azmi in a manner most concordant, in the pursuit of the arts. As she showed me around the house – her parent’s bedroom, her childhood room, resonant with memories of an era gone by, I was intrigued by the rich fabric of its familial history. As we walked around the house, every exposed brick seemed to whisper a couplet with the wafting aroma of tea brewing in the kitchen heightening its mystical, old-world aura. And then there was the music…

I heard Sonu Nigam, India’s most beloved singer and a fine musical talent – perform live – a big first for me. The stage was brought alive by raw musicians and singers as well as seasoned ones to an enthralled audience. I loved Javed Akhtar’s rendition of Kaifi Azmi’s poems which brought the house down, and understandably so. Some of Kaifi’s most famous written works in Indian cinema set to music are Tum Itna Jo Muskura Rahe Ho Kya Gham Hai Jo Chupa Rahe Ho (Arth 1982), Chalte Chalte Yunhi Koi Mil Gaya Tha (Pakeezah 1972), Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil Mere Kaam Ki Nahi (Heer Ranjha 1970) Waqt Ni Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam (Kaagaz Ke Phool 1959) Meri Aawaz Suno Pyar ka Raaz Suno (Naunihal 1967) Jhuki Jhuki Si Nazar (Arth 1982) and Tum Jo Mil Gaye Ho (Hanste Zakham 1973). 

Here is Jashn-E-Kaifi in pictures:

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Jashn-E-Kaifi stage

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Sonu Nigam

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Javed Akhtar

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Shabana Azmi with her nephew, Viraj Vishwakarma

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Sukriti and Prakriti Kakar

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Kaifs Azmi’s favorite chair

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Shabana Azmi

©Rubina A Khan 2017

To 2017 everyone! And to the seductive mystique of its adventures to come!

The year 2016 made for a hedonistic love affair with Dubai for my heart and soul. 2017 feels like another country already, and I can’t hardly wait to see which part of the wondrous world I will be LIVING, LOVING & LUSTING in next! Err, and working too 🙂 but of course!

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This is my favorite picture of 2016 that I shot in Dubai. A view of Horse, a 1.5 tonne bronze sculpture by Colombian figurative artist, Fernando Botero against the sheer magnificence of contemporary design and vision, and the tallest structure in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Downtown Dubai – a harmonious consummation of the cultural heritage of the Emirates and the “right now” of Dubai.

To 2017 everyone!

And to the seductive mystique of its adventures to come! 

©Rubina A Khan 2016|2017

In a Goa Glam State of Mind…

Rubina A Khan reviews the North and South of Goa and the beaches in between “in a glam state of mind…”

It’s the last few days of 2016 and everyone’s talking about New Year’s Eve parties and where they’ll be ushering in the first sunrise of 2017. But it’s Goa with its warm sun, salty sea and shaken and stirred patterns in the sand, where the beach-erati are at this holiday season, bidding 2016 adieu with a beachy bang. Goa fulfills the three most sought–after F’s of life – fun, food and fashion in a manner most susegad (living and enjoying life to the fullest with a relaxed attitude). And there’s no celebratory time quite like Christmas and New Year’s to be in Goa to make it a fiesta to remember. Here are the top five reasons to hit Goa, apart from its innumerable beach parties and music scene, from the North to its South to the beaches in between, making it an unrivaled party destination in India, every year, all year round:

GLAMOUROUS FUN: The opening of the first W hotel in India earlier this month, the W Goa in Vagator in North Goa, has flipped the olde Goan susegad mood board into a glamorously sassy one. W Goa is spread across 25 acres of luxuriant greens along the Arabian Sea, with unparalleled views of swaying coconut palms and the idyllic Vagator Beach shore from its elevated Rock Pool. The Goan red laterite stone is dominant in the hotel’s contemporary architectural style with installation artist, Subodh Kerkar’s art works from his Indigo and Chilli series occupying places of pride in the hotel’s design métier.

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Installation artist, Subdoh Kerkar’s art from his Indigo series

But it’s the W that shines bright like a gleaming diamond, at the entrance of the hotel, embodying its edgy and fashionable spirit that sets the tone of the heady times ahead.

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The glamorous entrance of the W Goa

The Kitchen Table, an all-day diner overlooking the pool, serves the best Goan thali ever! The Bamboo Charcoal Prawn Tempura with Mango and Wasabi, a signature dish of Chef Tanveer Kwatra, Director of Cuisine, W Goa at Spice Traders, the hotel’s Pan-Asian restaurant is just exquisite, as is the Baked Singapore Chilli Crab and the Tuna Truffle Tostadas with Caviar.

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Baked Singapore Chilli Crab at Spice Traders

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Bamboo Charcoal Prawn Tempura with Mango and Wasabi

The food at W Goa is exemplary in its distinctive tastes, flavours, finesse and technique and is poised to become a culinary haute spot in Goa very soon. The neon-hued WeeKids, a kids club, a first for the W globally, is immensely popular, almost as much as the music and DJ line-up at the Rock Pool bar. And what’s a little glamour without some Bollywood thrown in? Bollywood superstar, Salman Khan and his family, were one of the very first guests’ in residence during the W Goa’s inaugural run in India. So, if you ever wanted to sleep in the same bed as Khan (without him in it, of course!) well, now you can in the W villa!

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Amit Bhosale, owner W Goa and Salman Khan

EPICUREAN TRAILS: The culinary scene in Goa is as incredibly diverse as its people, not to mention addictive. There’s no dearth of restaurants and bars in Goa, with world cuisine available right from a beach shack to a luxury hotel. The coolest places to hang out and actually eat in, rather than just be seen in, are undeniably Thalassa Greek Taverna (Greek / Mediterranean) on Small Vagator and Gunpowder The Peninsular Kitchen (South Indian) in Assagao. Eating here is akin to a food pilgrimage in Goa. Thalassa is always bustling with people, enjoying their Lamb Gyros, Feta Moussakas and Risotto Prawns, taking in the spectacular views from the restaurant, at any given time of the day or night. The blue and white Greek village environs add to the charm of Thalassa that entices you to eat (a lot!), laugh and shop without a care in the world. Gunpowder’s cuisine ranges from flavours from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Goa and even some parts of Maharashtra. From Syrian Christian Beef, Kerala Mutton Curry and Andhra Prawns to their famous fluffy Egg Appams to a South Indian must, a steaming plate of idlis with gunpowder, it’s like a little bit of India on a very big, rotating plate. You might just run into Twinkle Khanna riding in on her yellow scooter here as it is one of her favourite restaurants in Goa.

FASHION: Fashion in Goa is refreshingly personal. It’s you and your vibe, but a new outfit on New Years Eve is de rigeur, wherever you might be in the world. Fashion designer Malini Ramani’s vibrant store in Calangute can help you get your Goa glam on with everything resort – from shimmering off shoulder dresses to feather flirt tops to sundresses to sequined shorts and bikinis. So whether you’re going to a sundowner at the W Goa or a fireworks and bonfire NYE party on the beach, or just taking a selfie with a cow on the streets, you’ll find something that works, and dazzles on you. Bold-hued outfits line the racks in Ramani’s store, with a large black and white embellished artwork by her on the wall, that balances the color play, reflective of the designer’s definitive sense of style, that is loved and worn by Bollywood beauty Deepika Padukone, who makes her Hollywood debut in XXX: Return of Xander Cage with Vin Diesel in the new year.

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Malini Ramani’s store in Calangute | Photo: Rubina A Khan

RELAX: What’s a holiday without a round of golf ala Rory Mcllroy on the Double T 9-hole golf course on the beautiful greens of the Lalit Golf and Spa Resort in South Goa or some good old soccer on the beach? Spread over 85 acres, the Baroque-Portuguese styled resort has an imposing hand-painted tile mosaic of Sao Rafael, the first Portuguese ship that landed in Goa, steered by Vasco De Gama to add to its cultural charm. With sweeping views of the Sahyadri mountain range, along the confluence of the Talpone river, the Lalit’s manicured grounds are ideal to commune with yourself. If sport is your idea of a relaxing holiday with the family with your kids running wild, then the Lalit has everything from Lawn Tennis to Table Tennis, Squash, Volley Ball, Badminton, Cycling, Zorbing, Parasailing, Archery, Air Rifle Shooting to fuel your athletic side. And if you love spas, then Rejuve at the Lalit is an added must to your itinerary!

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DETOX: The pursuit of a vibrant and energized spirit is on everyone’s mind for the new year and the Detox Detour at the Alila Diwa Goa set amidst luxuriant rice plantations and mango, banyan and peepul trees, along Gonsua Beach in Majorda, South Goa offers just that. Just the idea of a detox detour is so appealing that it does not take any persuasion to check right in, straight into the serene and soothing environs of Spa Alila. Specially designed as 3,5,7,10 and 14 night packages right from a body composition analysis to holistic and ayurvedic treatments to nutritionally balanced meals, the Detox Detour at the Alila works at correcting imbalances and health deteriorations due to the stresses of modern living and enhancing your optimal wellness. After all the hedonistic partying and food indulgences during the holidays, Spa Alila’s bespoke treatments infuse elements of Ayurveda, yoga, massage, fitness, hypnotherapy, pranic healing and nutrition to nourish and cleanse your mind, body and soul so you can take on 2017’s exciting new adventures with renewed fervor.

There’s a little bit of Goa for everyone, and in everyone’s heart, and the glamorous new Goa is where it is all really at!

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on December 29, 2016

©Rubina A Khan 2016

W Goa, The First W Hotel In India Opens In Vagator Today

The first W hotel in India, the W Goa opened today, the 12th of December 2016, turning up the glam on the idyllic landscape of Vagator in Goa with it’s dazzle-me-baby vibe.

Here’s the W Goa in pictures:

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A bedazzling W at the entrance of W Goa

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A very W bedroom!

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Backyard | W Goa

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Amit Bhosale, MD ABIL and owner W Goa

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Poolside chillin’

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The sun sets on the Arabian Sea and Vagator Beach

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Baked Singapore Chilli Crab at Spice Traders | W Goa

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Fantastic Sea Front Villa | W Goa

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Woobar | W Goa

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Tuna Truffle Tostada at Spice Traders | W Goa

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A very W Welcome Desk

Getty Images

©Rubina A Khan 2016

Twinkle Khanna launches her second book, The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad

Rubina A Khan interviews the multifaceted author Twinkle Khanna for Gulf News:

Twinkle Khanna’s first book, Mrs Funnybones went into reprint over 25 times, and her second book, The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad, published by Juggernaut Books has already gone into its second print run of another 50,000 copies in the first month of its launch! The book was released on Tuesday evening at the JW Marriott Juhu in Mumbai and had Shabana Azmi, Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt reading excerpts from the same, with Karan Johar in conversation with the author. Khanna has evidently got the business of funny right, not just in her bones, but also in the literary world, with her distinct voice being read and heard, and most importantly, loved. The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad, currently at the number two spot on the Amazon India bestseller list, is a collection of stories that stem from inspired experiences in her life.

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Twinkle Khanna at the launch of her second book, The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad

“I was doing some research for a column when I chanced upon Arunachalam Muruganantham’s life, and his incredible work of making low-cost sanitary napkins for women. His story gripped me and that’s when I sat down, wrote the first few pages and sent them off to my editor to take a look. Then I began chasing Muruga and after innumerable, lengthy interviews, he agreed to let me fictionalize his story and that is how this book came into being. The other stories then followed, as they were all topics I had briefly touched upon through my columns and now, I could weave substantial tales around them,” says Khanna of the book’s existence.

The elemental difference in the narrative style between Mrs Funnybones and Lakshmi Prasad is that Khanna wrote the former in first person, in a “laugh-a-minute sort of narrative” and the latter in third person, “touching upon social issues in a light-hearted manner.” Khanna expands on her choice of publisher for Lakshmi Prasad, with a whimsy that is quintessentially her. “Chiki Sarkar was my editor and publisher at Penguin when I wrote Mrs Funnybones and so when she left to establish her own publishing house, Juggernaut Books, I just followed her like Mary’s little lamb.” She plays down her irreverent sense of wit, with a real, grounded sense of self. “My family is filled with oddballs and we all indulge in playful banter and pull each other’s legs. It’s not as much as them enjoying my company, as much it is for all us to just be together, making each other laugh. It has been a gratifying couple of years now since I wrote my first book. I bump into readers everywhere I go and I think the greatest compliment is that people have stopped asking me about anything else except my writing and I love that.”

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Karan Johar in conversation with Twinkle Khanna at the launch

A strong black coffee in the morning, followed by endless cups of green and peppermint tea throughout the day fuel the mother, wife, daughter, interior designer and writer in her. But it’s the coffee she had recently with Karan Johar on his show, Koffee With Karan Season 5, alongside her husband Akshay Kumar that’s got everyone talking. From her husband’s size (shoe-size!) to Johar’s preference of keeping his mike in a part of his anatomy that’s best left unseen and unwritten, gave viewers an almost uncensored version of her unabashedly humorous and mocking self. If there was any doubt in anyone’s mind that she was not the brain behind her writings, KWK dispelled it all with one clean and hilarious swipe on the show that left even Johar and the viewers stumped for words. “I don’t think a brain has been established inside my head; everyone has a brain and I just looked after mine pretty well by feeding it lots of books. I am really not concerned with how people, men as well as women, perceive me, whether I am sexier now that I seem to have a brain or otherwise.”

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Akshay Kumar and Ranbir Kapoor

Now that she’s a bestselling author, her words are platinum, especially to an aspiring writer. “I would tell anyone who wants to get published to read everything they can get their hands on and that they establish a routine of writing every single day. Literary agents look for something they call a ‘voice’ that’s distinctive, remarkable and defining and the best writers have one, and you can hear it echoing in your head when you read their work. A writer needs to have a distinctive style as well in order to make it easier for them to find a publisher for their works.”

When she’s not busy observing the world and writing on it, Khanna loves reading to her four-year-old daughter Nitara. “I read every single day to her. Nitara shares my love for reading and also has a curious mind like mine. She is fascinated by Julia Donaldson’s books at the moment,” says the glamorous mother of two.

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Ranbir Kapoor read an excerpt from the book

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on November 17, 2016

©Rubina A Khan 2016

Rohit Bal launches his first home collection & apparel line, Husn-E-Taairaat with Good Earth

Rohit Bal’s fashionable silhouette cuts through his own luminosity of an evolving design métier, with a celestial force that is quintessentially maximalist like him. India’s irrefragable and original master couturier, appositely so, has designed a luxurious home décor and apparel line for Good Earth, an indigenously Indian design house like his own eponymous label, called the Husn-E-Taairaat collection that launched in Mumbai today. Not only can you wear the designer now, but also drink, eat, admire, entertain and sleep in Bal with his exquisitely designed tableware, vases, scarves, espresso and tea service sets and more from this jewel-toned capsule collection.

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The original master couturier Rohit Bal

ROHIT BAL:

How did the Husn-E-Taairat Home and Apparel collaboration come about with Good Earth?
I’ve always known that if I designed a home décor line, it would only be with Good Earth, India’s leading design house, simply because it’s a beautiful and aesthetic match of our sensibilities. It was either this or designing a home line for my own store. Home décor is virgin terrain for me, and a completely new and exciting category that I have stepped into with my design métier with Good Earth. My Husn-E-Taairaat (which means ‘beauty of a bird’ in Persian) collection for Good Earth is a reinterpretation of the themes that inspired my 2015 couture line, that was a tribute to the rich crafts of Persia that drew parallels with renaissance and post-impressionism art movements, in the form of a fine home décor and a capsule fashion line. It’s a juxtaposition of my thoughts, influences, art affiliations and a deep, personal love for Indian textiles and the collection celebrates the beauty of wildlife, birds and flowers. The signature motifs of this collection are inspired by vintage Pichwai paintings, one of the most intricate styles of Indian temple art hailing from Rajasthan. The apparel collection in Habutai silk resonates a contemporary aesthetic, with modern silhouettes and a relaxed style, which is very Good Earth. Together, we have beautifully captured my maximalist style and nature inspired motifs in a gorgeous set of home art collectibles accentuated by Good Earth’s rich design language and technical creation expertise.

How easy or difficult was it re-imagining your couture line into Cushions, Espresso and Tea Sets, Tapas Plates, Glasses, Trinket Trays and Vases?
There are a multitude of common inspirations in my work and that of Good Earth’s – most importantly a common love for nature, wildlife, decorative arts and crafts and the need for reviving and preserving indigenous fabrics and techniques. This enabled us to work with an inspired and synergized design language, without losing our individual design essence that is clearly visible in our capsule collection. It was a joy to create a line of exclusive collectibles and select accent pieces for home décor and dining. We have used detailed hand decoration of artwork decals and placement of motifs on fine bone china, ceramic and glass, accentuated with 24 carat gold and platinum. Vibrant shades of royal blue and jade are offset with creams and natural tones to bring this collection to life. Again, all the products feature my signature motifs – multi-colored lotuses, long-tailed birds like peacocks, fruits, beauty, nature, wildlife, flora and fauna. There is a very limited range of pieces in both, home décor and apparel. The collection features less than ten unique styles and pieces and some of the pieces are very few in number, for example the tall vase which is really special, and we have only made three of the same.

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Husn-E-Taairaat home collectibles

What are price points for the Rohit Bal Husn-E-Taairaat line?
The collection ranges from gifts starting at $85 (AED 310 approximately) to limited pieces that go upwards of $1500 (AED 5500 approximately).

Who will this designer home collection appeal to and why?
This collection will appeal to young, urban, tasteful millennials around the world, including Dubai of course, looking for everyday luxury and a slice of Rohit Bal, presented in Good Earth’s signature style and that too at very attractive price points. This line has been designed with a strong focus on individual, stand-out pieces and not complete product sets, making it highly versatile and immensely appealing to a wide variety of age groups and home settings.

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Rohit Bal & Simran Lal of Good Earth

SIMRAN LAL:

How is it that a 20-year old indigenous Indian brand like yours did not collaborate with Rohit Bal earlier on and now that you have, why him?
Gosh it’s sometimes hard to believe that myself that Good Earth turns 21 in January 2017! I can’t imagine what life was like before Good Earth and where we shopped ourselves. We’ve never gone out strategically seeking or courting collaborations. It’s always been an organic process for us – a natural extension of conversations about shared inspirations and style and that is how the Rohit Bal Husn-E-Taairaat collection came about right after his 2015 couture collection. There’s a natural synergy between Good Earth and Rohit Bal. We share a commitment to craft traditions, a passion for Persian art and culture and love of nature. Being Kashmiri, Rohit has an understanding and deep reverence for flowers and wildlife, all of which are at the heart of our design vocabulary and language. We also share an audience, but for different occasions, and that makes this collaboration particularly exciting. Good Earth is known for everyday luxury and thoughtful gifts while Rohit Bal couture is aspired to for milestone occasions. So we thought it would be fun to make his couture collection relevant in an everyday context. The collaboration with Rohit has been a very enriching experience and I’m sure this association will continue for a very long time.

When will the Husn-E-Taairaat line be available to purchase online, particularly in Dubai and the Middle East?
The collection will be available Nov 21st onwards on http://www.goodearth.in and we ship to over 50 countries, including Dubai and the Middle East. However, for limited edition pieces like the tall vase, which we only have 3 pieces of, one can make the purchase by emailing us directly. Given the Rohit Bal design history and extraordinary demand, we expect the Husn-E-Taairaat collection to go down extremely well in Dubai and the Middle East, which has always shown a penchant for our classic and decorative design aesthetic.

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Husn-E-Taairaat apparel and home collectibles

What is your favorite part of the Rohit Bal Good Earth collection?
We are bringing a quintessentially Rohit Bal ‘look’ to home décor with his maximalist style with our maker expertise with quality, pattern play and gift ideas. There is also a charming high tea service. We’ve never done one in such a crepuscular palette and now I wonder why! It’s so rich and opulent in jewel tones and hand decorated with glimmering 24-carat gold accents. It’s very festive and very Rohit Bal and I love it. My favorite hostess gift for the season would be the jewel glass candles with a heady tuberose fragrance. In the apparel collection, I think my first buy is going to be the jacket. Maybe it’s just the weather, but I love the versatility of this statement apparel piece that can be styled with saris, dresses, pants and farshis alike.

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on November 12, 2016

©Rubina A Khan 2016

Mohammed Ben Sulayem at the First Emirates Motorsport Expo 2016 in Dubai

598742568Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile & Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE) and Vice-President of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) at the first edition of the Emirates Motorsport Expo 2016 in Dubai, UAE. 598733280McLaren MP4 Sprint Experience at the Dubai Autodrome Club Circuit at the first edition of the Emirates Motorsport Expo 2016.598733544598733222FIA Formula 4 ATCUAE (Automobile & Touring Club of the UAE) championship car at the first edition of the Emirates Motorsport Expo 2016. 598733526598733502

His Highness Sheikh Rashid bin Saud bin Al Mu’alla, Crown Prince of Um Al Quwain and His Excellency Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile & Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE) and Vice-President of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) at the first edition of the Emirates Motorsport Expo 2016 in Dubai, UAE.

©Rubina A Khan 2016 

Love fuels my soul, says jewelry designer & photographer Nadine Kanso of Bil Arabi

Nadine Kanso is not just an artistic being; she’s a vibe. The sparkle to her vibe is as luminous as her incredible Bil Arabi jewelry designs, which I think are works of art. A celebrated photographer too, having exhibited at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the B21 Gallery in Dubai, Kanso was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon and lived in Canada and the Czech Republic after her marriage and has been living in Dubai for the last 16 years. She started her jewelry line with the idea of demystifying the presence or absence of a ring on a finger, that declared a marital or single status. And she chose to say it in Bil Arabi (which literally means In Arabic) with a handcrafted ring in 18K gold back in 2006 with a “noon” or “N” in the English language.

A proud Arab, the culture and heritage of her roots drove her to create a contemporary visual language for the world through her jewelry. An incarnation of the Emirati expression of endearment, Fdeytak, turned into a bangle studded with rubies, diamonds and emeralds that was auctioned off at Christie’s Dubai. The Bil Arabi line today, a decade after its launch, includes rings, earrings, bracelets, pendants and cufflinks that draw on the inherent beauty, calligraphic shape and lyricism of the Arabic alphabet in Yellow, White and Rose gold, along with precious and semi-precious stones.

Excerpts from the interview: 

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Nadine Kanso

Are you the only jewelry designer in the world who does Arabic calligraphic designs on metal?
I was the first one to start the Arabic  letter in jewelry and I have used words like Hubb which means Love and Bhibbak which means I Love You which no one had really used or done before. Designers had done non-religious verses, sayings and proverbs from the Arabic language, but not the Arabic letters. So I sort of dazzled it up with my designs and made the Arabic language more contemporary.

How did you decide upon this as a career?
I’m an artist photographer and I did a photo exhibition called Meen Ana which means Who I Am and it was about the Arab identity. This was it after the 9/11 when we were looked at and perceived in a bad way, which unfortunately, still stands today. I showcased people from the region from the Arab world in my photographs in a different way, with a different view. People from different backgrounds held up sentences in calligraphy that I wrote saying My Love is Arabic, My Language is Arabic, My Future is Arabic, Talk to me in Arabic with collages. A Saudi with blue eyes and blond hair was holding up a sign saying I Look Arab but don’t judge us. So from here, I felt I needed to do something that is more spread out globally because photographs showcased in a gallery can only be viewed by a certain number of people and the reach is limited. I did cushions, scarves, teeshirts… and then I said to myself “why are we wearing Latin letters and not Arabic ones” and that’s how the first “Noon” for Nadine started and Bil Arabi was born.

What about the Arabic script fascinates you the most?
I have nothing to do with religious stuff. I’m a proud Arab and I try to keep my work and designs related to our heritage, culture and our Arab roots and the language we speak. That is what is the most fascinating part to me. There are two ways to look two ways to look at my collection – you have some designs wherein I do my own calligraphy and then there’s the classical font – I use both and people have appreciated both styles.

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The City & Birds is a limited edition, 18K Gold Handcuff, made by Nadine Kanso for DRAK / Dubai Design Week 2015, reflecting the contrasting elements of Ras Al Khor, the oldest industrial area of Dubai and its flamingo reserve and the Burj Khalifa symbolising the concrete development in the country

What is the most unusual request you have received for a custom Bil Arabi design?(Laughs) A couple of words that are slightly risqué that were made into a pendant and a ring. And we did it in diamonds as well.

From making only rings, you now make all kinds of jewelry today. Is it both for men and women?
We just launched a men’s line a year ago. It’s a silver line, so the price point is different and it is more accessible. The font is designed by me and another designer from Milan, Italy who happens to be my cousin and it is more modern and contemporary. Even if you read and write Arabic or you don’t, it’s very difficult to make out that the font is in Arabic letters.

Where can one buy Bil Arabi?
Bil Arabi is mostly available in the GCC but I would say Dubai is the home and heart of Bil Arabi. This is where I live and this is where I started. It’s available in Harvey Nichols, Bloomingdales Dubai and Sauce which is the first store I started with and they promoted me so well and pushed me and were very supportive of the local talent. Then there is SAKS Bahrain, Eye Candy Oman and in Saudi Arabia, we do pop-ups and anywhere else in the world too.

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An 18K gold handcuff designed by Nadine Kanso for DE.Fash.Struction 2015 (Telling Stories Through Fashion) outlining the UAE’s rich pearl diving heritage, using deconstructed diving nose clips, UAE pearls and gold wires for the contemporary design called ‘Taba’ meaning dive in Arabic

What is the source of inspiration for your collections?
It is about being proud of who we are, today and yesterday, and I try to make the world look at us Arabs in a different way with everything I do.

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An 18K Gold Evil Eye Handcuff from Bil Arabi

What makes you the happiest?
I find great joy in what I do and I love seeing my kids following their dreams.

What feeds your soul, to fuel your creative energy?
Love fuels my soul and creative energy. For me, the basic thing is to love life and to love everything you do. Love for me is very important, in all its forms. From loving a person to loving what I do, it all has to be very positive and fulfilling. This is where things come from and creativity comes. It’s hard to be productive when you’re sad, at least for me.

What about misery creating art and artists?
This is so typical, people thinking that you should not have money to be an artist or that you should be sad in order to be creative. I mean why?  These are connotations that applied to artists a long time ago and they were right at the time, because they felt that way perhaps, and thats’s what fueled their creativity, but that does not apply to everybody, especially today. I should not be begging on the streets to take a picture. Come on! In my photography, a lot of socio-political things form the base of what I do, but alongside that, there’s always a twist of a hopeful future in all my work. In my black and white photo series, there was a splash of color somewhere in the picture which was my way of expressing that there was hope for a better future for Lebanon. You have to always hope, otherwise it does not happen.

©Rubina A Khan 2016

I get this amazing positive energy from Salman Khan and I’m very inspired by him, says Indian fashion designer Vikram Phadnis

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Salman Khan

Indian designer Vikram Phadnis has held fashionable ground, and successfully at that, in the Indian fashion industry’s fiercely competitive and evolving landscape, for the last 25 years.

It is a prodigious victory, transitioning from a film choreographer to fashion designer, that called for a celebratory commemoration of the same with a special runway show held in January in Mumbai. None other than Bollywood legend, Amitabh Bachchan, walked as the designer’s showstopper, amidst enchanting and glamourous attendees.

Phadnis’ impervious and composed countenance and his single-minded focus on actualizing his dreams of dressing up the world in his designs, contributed largely to this accomplishment, but not without a few steadfast friends, Bollywood superstar Salman Khan being the most formidable influence in his life. In Dubai for the Aaraish show, the designer spoke exclusively to Rubina A KhanGulf News tabloid!

What is your biggest strength, surviving and thriving for 25 years in a ferociously competitive and predominantly Bollywood driven fashion business in India?
I don’t think I can call it my strength as such, but I am a very driven and ambitious person inherently, and I think inadvertently, that has become my strength over the years. Whatever I have achieved in my life as a choreographer in the entertainment business and the last 25 years as a fashion designer, is due to my ambitious drive and that I am almost never satisfied or content with my work. If you are not driven or focused and are not willing and able to deliver every single time, and slip up, there are a dime a dozen people ready and waiting to take your place. You have to keep at it constantly, be consistent and innovative and strive for new goals and benchmarks with each collection or outfit. Like in a Bollywood actor’s life, Friday is the most important day at the box office for every film of his to determine his value and worth, for a designer, it is every single time he makes an ensemble or puts a collection together for a showing. It is a constant endeavor every day.

Did you feel taller than Amitabh Bachchan, who was your showstopper, on your very well-attended commemorative show, Adhvan, in January?
I just felt completely humbled and I felt so blessed walking down the runway with him. I have worked with him on films like Waqt, Hum Kisi Ke Kum Nahin and Bade Miyan Chhote Miya and I can just say that there are no more men like him anymore. He is truly exceptional. He’s the only man I call Sir in the world.

Would you consider yourself among India’s top three talents in fashion?
I don’t know. There are far more commercially viable and well-known names in India’s flourishing fashion business than me and I have never measured my success with the strength of others’ success. There’s always someone ahead of you and there’s always someone behind you in the business. It depends on the perspective you see it from really.

Who, according to you, are the top designers of India?
Tarun Tahiliani, Sabyasachi, Anamika Khanna and Monisha Jaising.

Who were, and still are, your biggest supporters in your career path?
People like Hemant Trivedi, Mehr Jesia-Rampal, Priyanka Chopra, Malaika Arora-Khan, Kareena Kapoor-Khan in a big way, have supported me enormously, and still do, and are a very important part of my successful journey as a fashion designer and undoubtedly Salman Khan, without whom I don’t think I would be who I am today.

How has Salman Khan impacted your career?
Whatever I am today is really because of Salman. He showed me a whole new world, when no one understood me. I worked with him for 13 years as a designer, and he gave me so much without expecting anything back. He gave me a standing in the entertainment business, his professional support and backing, and personal strength. When I wanted to quit choreography and go and study at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, USA, he convinced me to stay back in India and helped me find a footing as a designer. He took me in all his film projects, and opened my first store in Mumbai. He was never selfish about anything, allowing me to work with other actors alongside working with him, not restraining my creative freedom, and gave me more than even I could imagine. Till today, there’s a picture of Salman that hangs in my cabin in my office. I am inspired by Salman and get this amazing positive energy from him, always. Salman is the older brother I never had. He made me travel worldwide with him and introduced me to people everywhere. In fact, the first time I traveled abroad was to Dubai with Salman! I had never sat in an aircraft before or had any idea of what a plane even looked like from the inside, and I had obviously never been outside India either. This is 30 years ago! It was a stage show Salman was doing back then that he had taken me for. Dubai was not even remotely like what it is today. It was on the verge of the modern and magical explosion that Dubai is today. Dubai feels like home to me and every time I travel to Dubai, it has a newer dimension to it.

What, or who, has been a constant muse for your designs?
I don’t create clothes with one particular muse in mind. I make the garment according to the person I am working for, or the collection that I am putting together. I don’t think a single inspiration or muse can transpire into an entire collection or a garment for different kinds of people.

Which is your favourite, and most memorable contribution, as a designer to the fashion world?
I think everything that I have designed and created for Salman Khan – be it the dhotis, hot shorts, sarongs… made an impact on Indian fashion, because prior to him wearing them, no one was wearing these garments on screen, and the fact that he carried them off so well made them extremely popular and on trend all of a sudden. Also, getting the opportunity to dress up international model Naomi Campbell, the South African President Jacob Zuma and cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar in my clothes have also been memorable moments for me as a designer.

Is there anybody rich and famous in India who does not wear you?
There are so many people who have not worn my clothes! And I do not run after the rich to wear my designs or even think like that. You never know who your ultimate buyer is when you’re creating a garment anyway. I like to make wearable and affordable clothing that is essentially commercially viable. I do not make impractical clothes for the runway that a person can’t wear off it. I like to see people, all kinds of people, wearing my clothes in the world, and not see them hanging on the walls of my studio.

What is it about Dubai fashion that intrigues you?
Fashion is more forward in Dubai than in most other countries. Like I said earlier, Dubai is the first international place I set foot in and it is home to me and I feel I understand the fashion landscape here quite well. When it comes to fashion, the people in Dubai know it all and more! And the best part of Dubai is dressing up its women! They are just so fashion forward and clued in, that it keeps me on the edge constantly and drives me to give them my best. And it also helps that I have a great fashion network and database in Dubai.

Are designs in Dubai driven largely by what Bollywood is wearing, or your designs and craftsmanship?
No, I don’t think the fashion in Dubai is necessarily driven by Bollywood trends. The taste here is very diverse – some like their fashion ethnic, some prefer fusion, some go for the quintessentially traditional designs and some stick to haute couture. There is not one set pattern that the fashion here adheres to and that is what keeps it, and makes it, so fashionably exciting. It’s like a year-round fashion runway, from prat to haute couture, celebrating fashion globally.

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on 13 February, 2016

©Rubina A Khan 2016