RUBINA’S RADAR | THEATRE. ART. DESIGN. FASHION

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, Javed Akhtar and Shankar Mahadevan during rehearsals for Raag Shayari. Photo: Rubina A Khan
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

Businessman Shom Hinduja’s home in Juhu, Mumbai, is a consummate realisation of art and design by his older sibling, Ambika Hinduja. Her impeccable imagination made the first live cover of Architectural Digest’s India edition this January, with Irishman Joseph Walsh’s Magnus at the heart of her art. Hinduja created the space around the bespoke Magnus‘ universal energies. Nothing screams in the consciously designed space, but the people in it, in sheer wonderment of the art that is congruous to her sustainable design métier. I’ve never met a more self-effacing design virtuoso like Hinduja. Her visual artistry here is a master stroke of her own inherent genius, which understandably, her parents, Ashok and Harsha Hinduja, are very proud of. It’s not only her imagination that’s impeccable, but it’s also the name of her art and entertainment company, with offices in India and the UAE. Impeccable Imagination represents artists from Belgium, Brazil, Iran, Ireland and the United Kingdom and the company’s only just getting ready to launch Blue Beet, a multi-sensory design and culinary space in Dubai in the coming months.

Joseph Walsh and Ambika Hinduja in Architectural Digest. Photo: Andrew Bradley
Joseph Walsh’s Magnus in Shom Hinduja’s living area. Photo: Andrew Bradley

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 and Sunil Sethi, President of the Fashion Design Council of India. 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.

Lakshmi Rana in Rohit Bal’s Guldastah at Bandra Fort. Photo: Rubina A Khan
Sidharth Malhotra in Rohit Bal’s Guldastah at Bandra Fort.
Photo: Rubina A Khan
Models in Rohit Bal’s Guldastah at Bandra Fort. Photo: Rubina A Khan

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!

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 | JULY HIGH

RUBINA’S RADAR

The world’s been running on a baller adrenaline rush during FIFA 18 that finally came to a head with France winning the coveted trophy against the very able Croatian football team in Russia. Life seems to be quieter without the hysterical screams and words like game, Alireza, Portugal, goals, Ronaldo, England and the like being thrown about like chump change. While on sports, 18-year-old Hima Das from Assam won a gold medal at the IAAF Under-20 World Athletics Championship in Tampere, Finland clocking the 400m event in 51.46 seconds. Das made history as the first Indian woman to win gold at an athletic meet on a global level. This Indian girl is definitely going to run the world!

Couture’s got game this season with the eleventh edition of India Couture Week 2018 being co-presented by the Sunil Sethi Design Alliance in New Delhi. The indomitable Sethi, India’s most formidable fashion force, has been headlining the fashion extravaganza for a while now, and this is his company’s independent foray presenting the week.

Sunil Sethi

ICW 18 showcases ten designer collections from July 25 to July 29. Only the runway will tell who will cut it as a couturier this time around as most Indian designers, caught in their own shimmering threads of bridal wear, unrealistically assume they are couturiers when they are anything but. After all, fashion is an artistic evolution every season.

A chance encounter with a Bond girl in an elevator turned into a whale of a good time. Her name is Bond, Lisa Bond, and she works with Whale Watch in Kaikoura, New Zealand. Whale Watch was formed in 1987 at a time when Māori were casualties of Kaikōura’s declining economy. At the time, Ngāti Kuri leaders like the late Bill Solomon believed the local sperm whales held the answer to the unemployment problems of the Māori community. The Māori community’s ancestor Paikea had journeyed to a new life in New Zealand on the back of the whale Tohorā. It seemed appropriate for Paikea’s descendants to again ride on the back of the whale to a new life and prosperity. Due to the phenomenal success of Whale Watch, Kaikōura is now one of New Zealand’s leading eco-tourism destinations. Bond is in love with her job, her country and whales obviously.

Bond’s travelling in India with a Tourism New Zealand contingent, Kiwi Link India, that started with Mumbai and went on to Bangalore, Delhi, Nagpur, Kolkata and Ahmedabad  promoting their beautiful country. “It has been amazing to travel to India over the years and see the changes that have been taking place especially in regards to taking steps to caring for your environment especially with the recent move towards reducing the amount of plastic being used. New Zealand is a very sustainably-minded country so to see this is wonderful. Two highlights from this trip were taking part in an Indian cooking class – 24 of us did this and it was so much fun and so delicious. Then 10 of us took a day trip to the Taj Mahal on Saturday which was amazing! What an incredible piece of architecture,” says Bond.

It was wonderful talking to Bond about my love for whales as I reminisced about my time whale watching on the Nā Pali coast in Kauai, Hawaii. I can still hear the humpbacks singing from that trip – it’s a sound like no other. But the best memory of my life in Hawaii was watching a humpback blow under me whilst I was parasailing in the Kewalo Basin in Oahu (Honolulu) about 750 feet in the air. I don’t need a picture to remind me of the serene silence in the sky and the gush of water from the magnificent blue Pacific that thrust heavenwards towards me. I love humpbacks and I’m aiming for a “whalefie” the next time I’m in the Pacific waters.

Filmmaker Anubhav Sinha, he of Ra.One directorial fame, sent me the trailer of his latest film, Mulk, that sees a theatrical release on August 3. Rishi Kapoor has lent his stellar acting skills to the film alongside Taapsee Pannu.

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“I thoroughly enjoyed playing Murad Ali in Mulk. The film is about the atrocities Muslims are facing the world over and the repercussions. It’s a voice waiting to be heard all over. People have taken to the trailer in a big way – at least we have made a bang which was necessary. Rest, of course, is upto God. As a matter of fact, this is the right kind of film that can be called an ensemble film. All the actors in it contribute to the film; none are hanging about loosely,” says Kapoor of the film even as Sinha takes on naysayers on social media.

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

India Couture Week 2017’s 10th Anniversary Edition

The Fashion Design Council of India’s annual event extraordinaire, India Couture Week 2017, celebrates its 10th edition this year with a seven-day fashion extravaganza in New Delhi. The luxuriously indulgent runway week commences on July 24th with opening shows by designers, Rohit Bal and Anamika Khanna, and a grand finale on July 30th 2017, with a viewing of Rina Dhaka’s line and a closing show by Manish Malhotra with his Sensual Affair

“2017 is a momentous year for us at FDCI, a non-profit organisation and the apex body of fashion design in India, represented by over 350 members, completing ten years of India Couture Week this year. It’s the only event in the country to offer a prestigious platform to couturiers to showcase their talent in offering irrepressible indulgence. It has been an incredible journey that would not have been possible without the support of the board members and the FDCI team. We look forward to presenting many more editions of this magical event as we take it to a new high with seven days this time around. What has been most interesting is that our couturiers have influenced the evolution of the luxury consumer. They have not just been revivalists, but also innovators. Our embroideries and handmade crafts have found a place on the world map, and that is why it is imperative to promote the Make in India endeavour. We hope to create a new language of high definition glamour through our celebrations,­­” says Sunil Sethi, President FDCI and Founder, Sunil Sethi Design Alliance

A legendary vanguard of Indian fashion and a headliner for all things luxurious, couturier Tarun Tahiliani, will exhibit his Tarakanna collection on July 26th at 9.30PM at the Taj Palace Hotel, New Delhi. “This year our India Couture Week show is about lightness, borne by a new construct and a conscious desire to make the most floaty couture that women desire to wear a hundred times over. Tarakanna is stardust,” says Tahiliani in his quintessential smoky voice. 

Rohit Bal’s ICW show is offsite, at the restored Bikaner House on opening night at 9.30PM. “My collection is an ode to lost craft and tradition. A journey from the past to the present with a gentle nudge of contemporary influences. It is an effort to revive heritage pieces from the costume collections of royal Mughals which have been immortalised in museums. The collection highlights an amalgamation of traditional craft with modern sensibilities preserving its timeless beauty,” says Bal of his new collection.  

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 

Tarun Tahiliani’s Back At India Couture Week 2016 With The Last Dance Of The Courtesan Collection

India Couture Week last year was a fashion symphony extraordinaire, with Sabyasachi and Christian Louboutin taking collective bows amidst a bedazzled crowd of fashion forwards on opening night in New Delhi. The eclectic showing of couture by India’s finest designers put together by Sunil Sethi, President of Fashion Design Council of India, was grandiloquent, with glamazons like Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan, Shilpa Shetty, Chitrangada Singh and Kangna Ranaut walking the ramp.

This year though, Sabyasachi will not be showing at India Couture Week 2016 and previewed his Firdaus line on Instagram on Monday, the 18th of July. But the week’s schedule smacks of fashionable excitement as the ICW sees Anita Dongre, designer of the immensely popular Gulrukh tunic dress that Kate Middleton wore on her trip to India in March this year, making her couture line debut and Tarun Tahiliani returning to the week after a six year hiatus.

Two of Bollywood’s most beautiful faces, Deepika Padukone and Fawad Khan are walking for Manish Malhotra who is kicking off the fashion extravaganza on July 20th at the Taj Palace Hotel, with a finale by Rohit Bal and the de riguer smattering of famous faces lending their celebrity to the runway for various designers. “Tarun and Anita have been influencers and trend setters in the fashion space and will present defining looks through their sartorial rendition of what a modern woman desires at ICW 2016. From the year I became the President of the FDCI eight years ago, I take great pride in the quality of designers who put their best designs on the ramp each year. The fantasy and dream of these designers turn into reality for the customer at couture week each year and I take great pride in that,” says Sethi, making it sound like the thrilling fashion carousel of India’s best designs on the runway that it’s expected to be.

Excerpts from the interview with Tarun Tahiliani ahead of his upcoming show on July 21st at India Couture Week 2016:
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You are back at ICW after 6 years since it shifted to New Delhi. What made you participate in the ICW this year and what is your couture line all about?
Yes, I am. I am not sure if ICW was ever in Bombay, it is just that I had started with India Bridal Week, and so I stayed with the platform that I had started out with. However, over time I felt that India Couture Week being officially backed by the FDCI was the correct one to be involved with and it happens at a consistent time and at a consistent location, with a degree of professionalism that I have come to expect at the FDCI events so, it made sense for us to switch back since we are a Delhi based design house. We are very happy to be back and looking forward to having our first show with ICW next Thursday.

How many pieces are you showing?
We are exhibiting 28 couture pieces and 16 couture bespoke pieces for men as well from our Last Dance of the Courtesan collection. In addition, we will show the Ready-To-Wear bridal lehengas which will come out in a separate section and are styled to look different, as we do not have a separate platform for the RTW Bridal. We understand that couture is very linked to Bridal in this country. In view of that we are doing it in this manner.

Whose show are you most looking forward to, apart from your own?
Apart from my own show, I am most looking forward to seeing Anamika Khanna’s show, who is a friend and colleague. I don’t think will have time to watch the other shows because I am travelling thereafter. I am sure there will be a wonderful standard in many shows this season. It’s been a long, slow summer and people have had lots of time in their workshops.

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Is there a celebrity walking for your show?
No, there is no celebrity walking for us. We have tried the trick and it gets us tremendous eyeballs, but unfortunately, that’s all that’s talked about. We’d much rather have the star of a couture show be the clothes themselves with people noticing the finesse, fit and the embroidery on them. It is very easy to fall into the celebrity trap and we are trying to resist that for as long as we can because honestly, it’s better for the reportage of the clothes if they are the real stars as they should be. Too often, I have seen very mediocre clothes get a lot of splash because it’s been worn by, let’s say Kareena Kapoor, and I don’t think that’s what we want to be associated with.

What is the most challenging aspect of doing a couture show?
The beauty about couture is that it is made to particular bodies and for a show, you get your models at the very last minute in a way, although you do fittings, it is not pushing the envelope as much as one could normally have had one got one the models right from the start. To me, that is always the greatest challenge and how to differentiate the couture and RTW shows, besides the costs, price ranges and the finesse of the embroidery and the quality of materials we use.

Describe how you are feeling right this moment, despite the vast experience of being one of the most legendary and reputed designers the Indian fashion industry has ever seen?
I would be lying if I said I am not a bit nervous, I am actually very nervous. I have got a lot riding on the show and I worked on it the whole summer, and we have 25 minutes to show the line, so I am very concerned about all the components coming together to portray it exactly as I see it in my head.

13529002_1124943444232195_4408707928758731629_nLast Dance of the Courtesan India Couture Week 2016 collection

Do you think the blurred lines between “couture” and “bridal” are becoming clearer over the years, or does most of the fashionable populace think they are one and the same in India?
I think that’s one of the best questions I have heard. The lines between couture and bridal are becoming completely blurred because the only time people really indulge in couture without even realizing it is during weddings. Most people think that if something is expensive, it is couture. It could be entirely machine-embroidered or machine-stitched and they still think it is couture. They don’t understand that it’s a bespoke experience, designed to mould to every body. We are probably the only design house that has a separate couture studio, though we think it might be time to merge the two now. I am not sure whether the fashion conscious want the same thing, but they don’t have a specific regard for handmade v/s machine made and I think the designers who don’t do a special couture line have used this to their advantage to keep propagating the myth that it is the same thing. The fact is that it is not.

How many people pronounce couture right?
Most people can’t pronounce the word couture correctly. If it is relevant, we try and teach them the correct pronunciation but there are many who will never get it because phonetically they can’t say certain things, and it is okay if we call it what it is as long as we understand what it is and uphold the standards in every which way, namely, in the fit and on the quality of the garments, I think that is more important than how it is pronounced.

Tarun Tahiliani’s show is at 9.30pm on Thursday, July 21st, 2016 at the Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi, India. 

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on 19 July, 2016

©Rubina A Khan 2016

From Couture To Carats, Bibhu Mohapatra Designs His First Jewelry Line, Artemis For Forevermark India

Each season, New York based, Indian fashion designer, Bibhu Mohapatra’s collections play out a new, olde world story on the runway, a historical throwback to some of the most fascinating men and women that ever lived, and this year is no different.

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       Fern Mallis with fashion designer Bibhu Mohapatra 

Annemarie Schwarzenbach, a journalist and photographer in Europe during the 30s fueled his Bauhaus inspired SS 16 line and the audacious Empress Dowager Cixi, a concubine of Emperor Xianfeng, who went on to become a ruler of the Chinese Qing dynasty, his Fall RTW16 collection with dominant hues of red, at New York Fashion Week in February this year. He couldn’t be more paradoxical in his design approach, elegantly consummating the past with the contemporary, with the visual flourish of an artist. What made him embody the spirit of Empress Dowager Cixi in his collection this time around? “Courage and confidence are the two qualities that I admire the most in people. My muses always have these qualities in common and Empress Cixi was a dreamer. With her focus and perseverance, she went from being a young concubine to a ruler of the Chinese empire for half a century. My clothes, inspired by her, are meant to bring out those qualities in women and empower them,” said Mohapatra of his current muse.

Mohapatra is not the biggest name in the fashion business, yet, or the go-to designer for the coveted Met Gala or the Cannes red carpet photo-ops, but his designs are worn by some of the most influential and ingenious women in the world – the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, Jennifer Lopez, Eva Longoria, Priyanka Chopra, New York Fashion Week creator, Fern Mallis and the stunning model du jour, Kendall Jenner. It is an incredible triumph for his young eponymous fashion label that launched its first collection in Fall 2009.

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Kendall Jenner in a Bibhu Mohapatra outfit (2015) Picture Credit Unknown 

From dreaming up fashion runways in his hometown Rourkela, in Odisha, India, to designing for Halston and J Mendel, his Economics degree from Utah turning fashionably expendable in the interim, to settling down in New York with his own atelier in the Garment District, Mohapatra’s heart is “most humbled and gratified” with the distinguished set wearing his designs. Interestingly, it was fashion connoisseur Fern Mallis and author of Fashion Lives – Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis, who suggested his name to Michelle Obama’s stylist when they were exploring young, new designers, making the initial connection for Mohapatra, and that’s how the most famous woman in the free world came to wearing, and loving his designs. “I love Fern! She is one of my closest friends and a huge supporter,” said Mohapatra, who recently launched a jewelry line, his first, in collaboration with Forevermark India called Artemis in Mumbai.

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A piece from Bibhu Mohapatra’s Artemis line

Mohapatra is ecstatic about this new creative dimension his design sense is roused by. He finds designing for both, couture and carats, “very different, with the only similarity designing for both being the ultimate target consumer who wants the same finesse, style and quality in the fine jewellery that is intrinsic to the garments I design. I have always dreamt of working with diamonds and designing a fine jewellery collection and this collaboration came about from a casual meet and greet with the Forevermark team in India about two years ago. So, before I actually got around to discussing this opportunity with the Forevermark team, I was reassured by the brand about the responsible sourcing of its diamonds, which was one of the most important and key deciding factors for our collaboration. It took more than a year to put the Artemis collection together and we have about 35 pieces in all and the collection is growing.”

Is the Artemis line an extension of his creative pursuits as a women’s wear designer? “Artemis is an extension of my brand as a lifestyle brand. When I had my first meeting with the Forevermark team, it became apparent to me that not only will I get to work with the finest of diamonds to create some unique pieces, but I will also get the opportunity to create something that will be available to a broader clientele, rather than just to a select few. Artemis is a collection of iconic pieces that are eternal. The sun, the moon and the stars play a powerful role in our lives and our loves and all creations in the world. For over 5,000 years, Vedic Astrology has provided a method of understanding the compatibility of couples. I have combined the forms and phases of the sun, moon and the stars to create a sensual, romantic line that brilliantly comes to life in the Artemis collection. The different shades of gold represent the sun, the moon and the stars and the Forevermark diamond at the heart of this collection embodies all the closely held secrets of the universe. The muse of this collection is someone who is well exposed to the world and appreciates the craft of fine jewelry and believes that these pieces are not merely for decoration; but that they represent a state of lives together.”

There is almost always a celebratory female power, barring the odd male, in the characters Mohapatra picks out from historical archives for his mood board that resonate in his arresting, structured designs that stems from a deeply personal, feminine chord. “I have been shaped by women in my life, namely my (late) mother and my sister. My mother gave me everything I have today. She not only taught me how to sew, but she instilled the design sensibility in me. My sister indulged me by wearing my hand-stitched designs at home, but it was a gold jacquard top with a pale yellow chiffon skirt that she wore out at a function that got people talking and gave me the feeling that I was doing something right. I was so proud of my tailoring in that outfit. My sister has refined taste and she only wears select pieces of mine that suit her lifestyle. I am always inspired by women, not only professionally and creatively, but also personally,” said Mohapatra, who likes to describe himself as an “emotional designer”. “I call myself an emotional designer because I see clothes as tools to improve and empower the lives of the wearers by providing them with confidence. I am inspired by real people and deeply moved by their stories. The stories that shape the character of a person become my key sources wherein I draw my references from whilst working. Sketching and designing are both emotional processes for me.” If he had no creative or financial restraints and were asked to run free with his imagination to create a spectacular dress, who would he make it for and how expensive would it be? “Well, it would have to be for someone really special and the value would be priceless.”

Mohapatra is the only Indian designer based in the United States with an atelier in New York’s Garment District, an enviable international clientele, and stores like Bergdorf Goodman, Saks, Neiman Marcus and Lane Crawford in China retailing his designs, but he does not have flagship stores in India or anywhere around the world, yet. “It’s in the pipeline. It’s my dream to open my first store in New York. All good things take time,” says Mohapatra, who desires “to be present in many parts of the world, touching as many lives as I can with my clothes, jewellery and other products.” Given that he loves cooking and traveling his “two passions after designing”, he could very well expand his brand into a home and living line soon.

The designer finds the fashion sensibility of the Middle East “incredibly refined and interesting”. Will the Artemis line retail in Dubai soon? “We just launched in India and our focus will be the Indian market for now. Dubai is a great city and the women there have such a definitive style. We will definitely look at launching Artemis in the Middle East in the future.”

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on 25 May, 2016

©Rubina A Khan 2016

Disclaimer: Kendall Jenner’s picture is from an unknown source on Google. If you own this picture, we’ll be happy to rightfully credit it to you. 

Christian Louboutin And Sabyasachi’s Glamorous “Sole” Collaboration At FDCI’s Amazon India Couture Week 2015

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Sabyasachi 

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Christian Louboutin and Sabyasachi

©Rubina A Khan 2015

Fashion Design Council Of India’s Amazon India Couture Week 2015 Rohit Bal | New Delhi

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©Rubina A Khan 2015