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 Jewelry on October 22, 2019 in Mumbai. Sabyasachi Jewelry is his first standalone jewelry 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 Jewelry, 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, who seeks 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 Jewelry in Mumbai:

The opening of Sabyasachi Jewelry 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 Jewelry 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 jewelry 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 Jewelry has all of that to offer people.
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Are successful luxury brands like Sabyasachi Calcutta immune to the economical 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 jewelry 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 jewelry 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 jewelry?
I love sapphires, yellow sapphires because old Indian jadau jewelry 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 jewelry 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 jewelry, but what I also do is that I keep my sketches in my jewelry very organic. A lot of jewelry is completely dependent on produce. When I make jewelry, 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 jewelry 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 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.

If you ever sought outside investment, what would be the reason for you to do so? 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. A lot of my clothes actually come from Uniqlo. 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!

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 | 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 | 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 | CHIVAS 18 ALCHEMY 2019 IN NEW DELHI

A touchdown in New Delhi fires up all five senses of sight, sound, smell, touch and taste in a human, instanter, sensus communis (common sense) be damned. And the night of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16 was no different. Chivas 18 Alchemy’s majestic third edition traversed the sixth sense at The Pavilion, DLF Emporio, belying Aristotle’s postulations of the non-existence of it with inimitable ardour. The five virtuosos playing host to a splendorous evening of the undefined and the very refined, were actor Malaika Arora, fashion designer Manish Malhotra, artist Sudarshan Shetty, fashion designer Rahul Mishra and jewellery designer Siddharth Kasliwal. They interpreted the senses of Fantasy, Intuition, Love, Memory and Déjà vu, with their muse being the award-winning Chivas 18 whisky blend.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Fashion designers Ashish N Soni, Rahul Mishra and Manish Malhotra and Malaika Arora, jewelry designer Siddharth Kasliwal, artist Sudarshan Shetty and Chivas India’s Pulkith Modi attend the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Malaika Arora sets off flames of fantasy wherever she goes, so turning into an illusionist of fantasy, alongside fashion designer and curator of the night, Ashish N Soni, came naturally to her. She created an immersive and polychromatic world of the real and imagined, using the Chivas whisky drop, brimful of 85 notes. Arora (soon to be Kapoor) looked stunning in a white ensemble by Soni, accessorised with an emerald and diamond necklace from Siddharth Kasliwal’s Gem Palace, as she took guests on a tour of her fantasia wonderland.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Malaika Arora at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Malaika Arora and her installation are seen at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Malaika Arora attends the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Fashion designer Ashish N Soni at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Manish Malhotra created an amber-toned Chivas 18 bar, in what is now recognised as the Chivas Alchemy blue, to instantiate his sense of intuition. It was a glimmering mirage of mirrors, with glamorous people all around it, drinking to the night, and into the night.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: A general view of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Fashion designer Manish Malhotra attends the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: A view of the bar at Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Sudarshan Shetty interpreted the sense of love, by juxtaposing a shattered chandelier on a dining table against a celluloid version of the same table and chandelier, set to Indian ragas. The eight-minute odd film spoke of love in different languages, expressed by diverse people. It was as evocatively beautiful as it was unnerving.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Artist Sudarshan Shetty attends the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Artist Sudarshan Shetty’s interpretation of love with an immersive celluloid experience at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Siddharth Kasliwal designed an arresting Chivas 18 bottle in gold with precious stones, over period of three months. Just looking at it in all its golden glory was enough to tempt a heist among the women, ala Oceans 8. The bejewelled masterpiece was an ode to the lost art of Indian craftsmanship through generations – a revival of lost legacies so to speak. Needless to add, but it was the most photographed installation of the night.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: A bejewelled Chivas 18 bottle designed by jeweller Siddharth Kasliwal for three months to evoke the sense of deja vu, at an estimated value of $50,000 at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Parag Gupta with jewelry designer Siddharth Kasliwal and his mother Kalpana Kasliwal and brother Samarth Kasliwal attend the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: A view of the bejeweled Chivas 18 bottle designed by jewelry designer Siddharth Kasliwal at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Rahul Mishra’s installation for the sense of memory saw tambour frame hoops, creating a chandelier of memories in a play of light and shadows, blending layers of time with the ingredients found in Chivas 18. The unfinished embroideries on the ivory organza fabric was intentional to elicit one to add an element of one’s own memory to the pattern. To elucidate something as intimate and fleeting as memory, not to mention intangible, with something as simple as embroidery hoops was astounding.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Fashion designer Rahul Mishra’s embroidery patterns on organza are seen at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Fashion designer Rahul Mishra’s embroidery patterns on organza are seen at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Fashion designer Rahul Mishra poses with his work at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Fashion designer Rahul Mishra’s embroidery patterns on organza are seen at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Pulkith Modi – Chivas India with wife Teena, Samarth Kasliwal, Kalpana Kasliwal, Parag Gupta, Guillaume Girard-Redyet – CEO Pernod-Ricard India MD South Asia and his wife Cecille, Schulen Fernandes, Rajesh Pratap Singh, Nida Mahmood, Rajiv Makhni and Ruchi Malhotra and Vikram Baidyanath were just some of the fashionable guests in attendance at Chivas Alchemy 2019.  “This is undoubtedly the most sophisticated and refined luxury event in India with the most genteel guests,” said Schulen Fernandes, Creative Director of the fashion label Wendell Rodricks. Touché!

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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.

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©Rubina A Khan 2019

 

RUBINA’S RADAR | DESI GIRL PRIYANKA CHOPRA’S OFFICIAL NEW CHOKRA IS PARDESI BOY NICK JONAS

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There’s been a lot of hip-holding of Priyanka Chopra’s pageant-winning waist by American musician Nick Jonas in New York, Mumbai, Brazil, Singapore and London that made for super photographs splashed across tabloids in recent months. Chopra was, after all, the Jealous singer’s and erstwhile Disney actor’s new love – he being the guy who’d dated Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus, Kate Hudson, maybe even the stunning Kendall Jenner and former Miss Universe Olivia Culpo before her. Chopra had only been dating the Dallas-born Nicholas Jerry Jonas for a haute second, and then, bam! An engagement!

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Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas | Photo: Instagram

She played desi girl to the hilt with her pardesi boy Jonas flying down to Mumbai with his parents, Denise and Paul Kevin Jonas Sr for the roka ceremony. The pre-wedding ceremony held at her Juhu home was all about honouring Indian family traditions and culture and loving an American guy, amidst family and friends. More family, less friends. It was attended by the 55th richest person in the Forbes World Billionaire list 2018, Mukesh Ambani, and his wife Nita and daughter Isha and Bollywood’s almost number one actor, Alia Bhatt among others. Bollywood’s presence of popular faces was minimal here. Even Karan Johar who is literally everywhere, was on foreign shores and couldn’t strike a pose and pout for the assembled photographers on the Juhu street, but his congratulatory bouquet of flowers did make it to the photo grids. Same difference. The claims that Chopra and Jonas wanted to keep it private and low-key don’t quite match up with the calculated release of information and photographs by the machinery. A supposedly quiet visit to an orphanage, St. Catherine’s in Mumbai the morning after the ceremony not only had pictures circulating, but videos of the same posted by Jonas himself. Millennial super girl Kylie Jenner fell in love with Travis Scott, made baby Stormi and racked up billions during her pregnancy more discreetly than the engaged adults here. And closer home, Salman Khan is being human sans any visual mementos of his philanthropy.

Chopra has a definitive style when it comes to her fashion stakes, aided by Hollywood stylist Cristina Ehrlich and of late, Mimi Cuttrell, the 25-year-old primary stylist to Palestinian-Dutch-American model Gigi Hadid. Interestingly, there was no fashion to talk about really at the ceremony or the subsequent party by Chopra, but the loved-up photographs of the newly-engaged couple made for the ultimate fashion statement here, with diamonds of course.

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Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas | Photo: Instagram

To go from being in love with an Indian man on the right side of 50 to a JoBro of 25 was a bit sudden, if anything. As far as her love life went, there was no talk of it in the West prior to her Jonas coupling, although Mumbai knew very well of a love affair, albeit unofficially, that was storming inside of her, never mind where she lived or where she worked – Bollywood or Hollywood. But she’s now spoken for and all that Bollywood tumult seems behind her today. And as their initials NP go, there seems to be no problem or objection to this coupling, aside from some favourable and unfavourable comparisons to her last unofficial superstar boyfriend.

Chopra conquered Bollywood armed with her Miss World crown and winning smile only to power through Hollywood headlining a television series, Quantico, and now, with this East-West coupling, she seems like she’s going to be settling down happily ever after in Grammywood. She wants it all – crowns, endorsements, films, television, music, love, marriage – and is sure getting it all too. The newly-engaged couple are looking to wed on Jonas’ 26th birthday on September 16 after he popped the question on her 36th birthday on July 18 in London. There’s no word on the city, country or venue of their wedding yet and what place on Earth they will call home either.

The future Mr and Mrs Jonas are sure to make great music together, and make even better pictures in the times to come. The very fact that she’s an accomplished singer herself having cut a few tracks of her own, to fall for a musician, comes as no surprise really. And, he’s handsome and clearly smitten by her charms. I’m sure Chopra will not just be content cheering on her fiancé from vantage points at his live shows and performances but will be making some real music with him soon. I can’t wait to hear the single or album they’ll cut. And better still, a duet for a Bollywood film too.

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©Rubina A Khan 2018

RUBINA’S RADAR | BAD GAL RIHANNA IN MUMBAI, SOON!

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The delirium for everything Justin Bieber hasn’t abated in the least with his engagement to model Hailey Baldwin on July 7 earlier this month. If anything, it’s only gone up after the official coupling. Bieber’s live performance in Mumbai last summer left the city sweating, quite literally, and lusting (he was single then!) for more music from him. After Bieber, it’s the bad gal for every season and ALL fashionable reasons, Rihanna’s turn to run this town with her vocals and savage moves.

Rihanna at the Ocean’s 8 UK Premiere held at Cineworld Leicester Square on June 13, 2018 in London

The multifaceted fashion (Fenty x Puma, Savage x Fenty Lingerie, Rihanna Loves Chopard) and makeup (Fenty Beauty) mogul is scheduled to perform at an Indian wedding in Mumbai, to be followed by a public performance soon after. Anti (2016) was Rihanna’s eight studio album and it celebrated 100 weeks on the Billboard 200 chart, breaking yet another record as a solo female artist. Mumbai cannot wait to see the Barbadian pop star live!

One of India’s most spirited, not to mention successful models, Diandra Soares, has launched a new enterprise, the National Academy of Modelling and Grooming (NAMG).  Soares started modelling when she was barely 15-years-old at a time when it was considered unconventional, but then she is anything but.

Diandra Soares | Photo: Rubina A Khan

“I was mentored by the best in the fashion business who gave me their time and made extraordinary efforts to give me me a solid foundation to build my modelling career on, which I went on to do. All the models from my time had definitive personas and distinct looks which is lacking today. It is rather sad that everyone looks the same with zero experimentation. We need to bring back versatility, personality and unconventionality and encourage people to be themselves, sans the fair skin / white skin syndrome. I am obviously very passionate about modelling and with the academy, I want to mentor anyone who wants to model by enabling them with the know-how and the grooming required to sustain longevity in the business. We all are working hard and with great passion and hopefully, we will bring about a positive change in the world of modelling and the fashion business at large. I think we Indians are beautiful and we have a lot of talent but there is a lot that needs to be done in educating and grooming people who want to make modelling a career in India,” says Soares.

Going through an obsessive phase with Banner Day’s linen tees on one end of the American fashion spectrum to almost everything Alexander Wang on the other ain’t easy, with tempting food thrown in for fashionable measure, or not. I couldn’t have been happier wearing the designer du jour on my special day with my go-to Ralph Lauren jeans, devouring Japanese cuisine at Yuuka, my favourite restaurant in Mumbai.

Friday night was all about fun, friends and food – Avocado Tartare, Spicy Salmon Tacos, Popcorn Shrimps, Spicy Salmon and Tiger Tear Maki, Lamb Rack Chops and Silken Tofu with Chef Ting’s Fried Rice with endless rounds of a bespoke vodka cocktail crafted especially for me, called Rubina’s Radar and boisterous conversationsA memorable Wangover indeed with my family and friends. A Cake Moss situation with the decadent chocolate cake made for a laugh riot that is best not written or ‘grammed about!

The first two nights at India Couture Week 2018 in New Delhi will see two of Bollywood’s sexiest “K girls” scorch up the capital – Kangana Ranaut, the invincible fashion forward and Kareena Kapoor-Khan, now popularly known as Taimur Ali Khan’s haute mom. And what’s a couture week without Bollywood stars lending their swaying hips to the  runways really? Couture dazzles, but Bollywood stars bedazzle Delhi.

Day Five - Amazon India Couture Week 2015

Kangana Ranaut

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©Rubina A Khan 2018

RUBINA’S RADAR | THE FIRST WEEK OF 2018

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2017 ended with a thunderous affirmation of Salman “Tiger” Khan being more than just alive with ₹300 crore and counting at the box office with Tiger Zinda Hai. 2018 opened with a worldwide reverberation of Oprah Winfrey’s acceptance speech, in Atelier Versace in Time’s Up black at the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards in Los Angeles. Add a celebrated Sri Lankan/Japanese masterchef to that and the first week of 2018’s been all about film, fashion, food and fiercely female.

Sri Lankan chef, Dharshan Munidasa of the famed Ministry Of Crab in Colombo, Sri Lanka, is finally bringing his restaurant to Mumbai in May 2018. Munidasa, of both Sri Lankan and Japanese descent, owns Ministry Of Crab, one of the World’s Top 50 Restaurants 2017, alongside business partners and cricketing legends, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakarra in his home country. The masterchef was in the city for a day with Jayawardene to announce the opening of the restaurant, in collaboration with Gourmet Investments Pvt Ltd at the newly opened, The Runway Project, in Phoenix Mills. The signing of the partnership amidst flashbulbs was rather unfashionably Trump-esque, but aside from that, it was a mirthful evening. There’s always a story behind everything and everyone famous today, including Munidasa. India’s best known wine connoisseur, Sanjay Menon, chanced upon Munidasa’s culinary skills at his standalone Japanese restaurant, Nihonbashi in Colombo, about a decade ago, when Ministry Of Crab did not even exist. Menon is a friend Munidasa values highly as his word of mouth, and a private pop-up dinner at the ITC Parel that he organised with Munidasa in the kitchen some moons ago, created the Munidasa magic that subsequently led to the opening of the first Ministry Of Crab. Mumbai will be the second outpost of the restaurant, the location of which still being a classified secret, and the third is slated to open in Bangkok, Thailand later this year. Mumbai is ready for some “crab excellence” Munidasa style, this summer.

A new resto-bar, Mashhad is opening this January at a first-of-its-kind location in Mumbai. Mashhad is situated right inside the entrance corridor of the Taj Santacruz hotel at the city’s domestic airport in Santacruz. Comprising of Persian-Lebanese-Indian cuisine, it is an unusual spot to open a fine-dining, only by reservation, restaurant and lounge. Mashhad was scheduled to open on Salman Khan’s birthday on December 27th, with him as the guest of honour, but it had to be postponed to January due to unforeseeable circumstances. Khan will be at Mashhad on opening night, supposedly on the 10th of this month, alongside a smattering of celebrities and wannashines who’d like to reaffirm their own existence in the presence of the elusive Tiger.

And the United States created fiercely female history that stands testament to the fact that America is a land where dreams and aspirations come true. Oprah Winfrey received the Cecil B. DeMille Award Lifetime Achievement Award at the 75th Annual Golden Globes in LA with an acceptance speech that will reverberate for years to come, not to mention the long standing ovation she received from everyone in the room at the Beverly Hilton. Winfrey is the first African-American woman to receive this award, bestowed by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment”. “In 1964, I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother’s house in Milwaukee watching Anne Bancroft present the Oscar for Best Actor at the 36th Academy Awards. She opened the envelope, and said five words that literally made history: ‘The winner is Sidney Poitier.’ Up to the stage came the most elegant man I had ever seen. I remember his tie was white and, of course, his skin was black. And I’d never seen a black man being celebrated like that. But all I can do is quote and say that the explanation in Sidney’s performance in Lilies of the Field, ‘Amen, amen. Amen, amen’. In 1982, Sidney received the Cecil B. DeMille Award right here at the Golden Globes, and it is not lost on me that at this moment, there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award. I’d like to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association because we all know that the press is under siege these days, but we also know that it is the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice, to tyrants and victims and secrets and lies. I want to say that I value the press more than ever before as we try to navigate these complicated times, which brings me to this: what I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I’m especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories,” said Winfrey on stage.

If the rumblings of Winfrey running for the US Presidency 2020 are true, and she does run, I will be the happiest girl in the world. I too, was once a little girl, watching The Oprah Winfrey Show every chance I got, being mesmerised by her work, her kindness, her humour and laughter and her unflailing faith in the fabric of humanity. I learnt a lot from her talk show – right from serious issues plaguing the world, exposes on the macabre practices of mankind, every fun fashion and makeup item on her favourites list, what books to read, Maya Angelou poems, her philanthropic work across the world and every celebrity I should know of, and wanted to meet, through her show. She made me believe I could do anything I wanted to, and in the greater tomorrows to come.

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