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!

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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. Craft Revivalist and Textile Conservationist Madhu Jain was recognised for her work with bamboo silk and the President of the Fashion Design Council Of India, Sunil Sethi, was awarded the honour for Promotion Of Handicraft and Textile Design, for his Made In India ideology even before it became fashionable and his relentless pursuit of elevating Indian crafts and the handloom industry in the domestic and foreign markets, working in close proximity with the Textile Ministry over the years. When Irani lauded his efforts during her speech on stage, Sethi turned uncharacteristically bashful for five seconds.

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 | JULY HIGH

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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.

mulk-poster

“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.

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©Rubina A Khan 2018

RUBINA’S RADAR | THE FIRST WEEK OF 2018

RUBINA’S RADAR 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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@Rubina A Khan 2017

 

 

RUBINA’S RADAR | SHOBHAA DE’S BOOK LAUNCH IN MUMBAI & SUNIL SETHI’S INDIE EYE PREVIEW IN NEW DELHI

RUBINA’S RADAR

The magnificently restored Royal Opera House a historic address in Mumbai since its inauguration by King George V in 1911 and India’s only surviving opera house relegated to redundancy in the 90s, is now open to the culturati. It is no longer just a geographical landmark on the Uber app, but a live destination that’s marking up newer glories contrasting from its original, sepia-toned ones today. This vintage Baroque edifice was where author and columnist, not to mention “ready-to-be-lynched-for-anything” Shobhaa De launched her latest book, Seventy And To Hell With It on a fine December evening last Wednesday. At the garden gathering amidst family and friends, De was on fire, as a discerning hostess in a cobalt blue, custom couture blouse by Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla and a real zari Jaipur Kota Doria sari greeting her guests, with her luminosity lighting up the de riguer photo-ops and selfies. She then went on to breathe fire in her role as a celebrated author on stage, in conversation with journalist Barkha Dutt and Bollywood actor Kangana Ranaut.

The conversation revolved around sex, the celebration of age and beauty in every stage of a woman’s life, the empowerment of women and the power of speaking up, changing the patriarchal guard and living your life wholly on your terms to a full (Opera) House. De’s quintessential ability to turn anything on its head without so much of an arch of her eyebrows or her “De resting face” with a diverse point of view that could swing from radical to pure nonchalance is what makes her one of the most read and heard “Made in Mumbai” voices in India. Had I been in conversation with her about the book on stage, my opening question would have been “How is sex at seventy, Shobhaa?” because her immediate response would have been far more entertaining and memorable than the latest Bollywood film!

In Delhi, fashion’s most formidable force, Sunil Sethi previewed his collaborative design effort, Indie Eye sunglasses and eyewear, with artist Jayanta Roy and designer Tanira Sethi at a Lutyens lawn gig at The Lodhi in conjunction with designer Ashish N Soni’s celebratory 25 year milestone in the fashion business. Indie Eye will be launched in Milan in 2018. The mannequins wore the fashionXart eyewear dressed in Soni’s exquisite all-black Spring Summer 2018 line in a contemporary hard-metal open-air installation tent, alongside a white garment installation which was as enchanting as it was dreamy, exhibiting his structured and minimalistic design ethos beautifully.

There was Artificial Intelligence to talk to Soni, Sethi and Saif Ali Khan (Taimur’s father!) about all things fashion which was interesting, but the Glam-Cam was a monster fail. A garden gig on a Saturday night in the freezing cold temperatures of Delhi surprisingly brought out the warmth in all its glamorous guests, well, almost all. To attend an alfresco cocktail event like this is a Game of Thrones gamble – you either winter wing it in Uggs and cashmere or you whinge all night about the cold, over endless drinks, which is rather unfashionable.

©Rubina A Khan 2017

Wendell Rodricks On aLL Primero, His First Ever Runway Collection For Plus Sized Fashion Forwards

Wendell Rodricks is a cultural revivalist with a cause. Conferring the sole status of just a fashion designer to Rodricks, a Padma Shri winning Indian icon, would be a tad indecorous. His is a career of many fashion firsts – from exhibiting a sustainable collection, that’s du jour today, back in the 90s, to being an advisory voice and key player in the first edition of LFW (2000) to working with white cottons and linens to reviving the Goan Kunbi cotton sari weave to writing incisive books on fashion. Rodricks was the first Indian designer to open Dubai Fashion Week (2001) and today, he’s turned into a museologist, converting his private residence into the Moda Goa Museum for all things fashionable and cultural to the state. This Goaphile is doing it all, the aLL Primero collection for plus sizes this season being yet another first in his exemplary career.

Ahead of his August 19 showing at Lakme Fashion Week Winter/Festive 2017 in Mumbai, Rodricks spoke exclusively to Rubina A Khan | Gulf News tabloid! 

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Wendell Rodricks with his Creative Director, Schulen Fernandes

The aLL Primero show is the first of its kind in India for plus-sized people at LFW in Mumbai. Does the line adhere to the minimalistic métier of your label?
The aLL Primero Collection by Wendell Rodricks is the first Plus Size line to be shown in a Main Show Area at Fashion Week, bringing it to the public’s attention. The line is similar to our label in terms of minimalism. There is no embellishment, very little sparkle and the aesthetic is in harmony with the Wendell Rodricks philosophy of design. I believe in fashion democracy –  it is for everyone, no matter what age, colour or size. In fact, when we showed the sketches to some of our clients, they wanted to buy them in regular sizes too. I am confident of the Primero line doing very well at LFW and in the aLL Plus size stores. When I see the unnecessary drama and chaos in fashion, I’m amazed and amused. The sycophancy, paranoia and insecurity are surreal. For God’s sake, we are just glorified tailors, not Messiahs of a new religion!

How did you and your label’s creative director, Schulen Fernandes, go about setting up the aLL Primero line, which is in sharp contrast to the vibrant, geometric silhouettes of the AW17 Cubist Rose runway collection?
Primero was conceived entirely by Schulen. She has imbibed my method of working without a mood board as I find them restrictive and they “lift” old concepts and one tends to copy past eras, fabric treatments and colour combinations. I prefer keeping a clear mind.

What is the essence of you that Fernandes has brought into the aLL collection?
Schulen has my DNA very firmly in our collections. It is for this reason that I appointed her my successor. When the media and public look at the new collections, they can’t tell that there is a new person spearheading the collection. It looks like Wendell Rodricks all the way from colour to concept, styling and silhouette.

How does designing for plus sizes vary from a runway collection for slim and lithe bodies?
It’s easier to make runway clothes for regular models as they’re almost factory produced at 34-25-36. With Plus sizes, I love the challenge. People imagine that curvy is all there to Plus sizes, but that’s not true at all as there are hour-glass, apple, pear, carrot and rectangular shapes too. For the aLL show, we chose models that fit every one of these shapes so that voluptuous people can find clothes that suit their shape.

The Cubist Rose collection was loved instantaneously. Do you think Primero will hit a fashion frontier for plus-sized fashion forwards?
I’m certain she will score a hat trick with Primero. She did so with Trapezoid and Cubist Rose. Now it is time for the aLL Primero collection to shine and send out a vibrant, fashion statement. I’ve chosen the music, and the backdrop and I think curvy will be the next trend from LFW. This collection has a happy vibe, quite like the happy people that will wear them.

Will this collection break runway stereotypes in India and encourage more designers to design plus-sized fashion?
There are many myths that we will shatter with the aLL Primero collection. Whites, bright colours, colour blocking, neutrals… most people feel that Plus sizes should stay away from all this. Not at all! We made it a point not to include black in the collection. Black is boring and safe. When I first said ‘white’ for Plus sizes, people gagged. After the show they won’t be gagging, but applauding.

It sounds like you’re bringing voluptuous to the fashion fore with Primero, where skinny takes to the shadows…
Whoever said dogs like bones and men like flesh knew what they were talking about, and 60% of the world’s population of Plus size women will agree. This is a real show for real people and therein lies the strength of the collection. This is real, not virtual fashion fluff.

Who selected the models for the aLL Primero show and was there any training involved for their “runway strut”?
aLL and IMG Reliance had an audition where we chose 21 models from almost 300 entries. We chose them based on their confidence with their own bodies. They are a happy, excited lot. I loved them at first sight. Our choreographer Anu Ahuja, doesn’t want them to do a runway strut. At the fittings she told them, “At the end of it all, comfortable models are happy models”. I second that.

Have you ever had a muse?
Malaika Arora was my first and only muse, till I made all women a collective muse. I have a job to do and I’m obliged to please the public muse. My job is to make them look slimmer, taller and feel more beautiful – that’s all women want.

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Jerome Marrel and Wendell Rodricks at the Poskem book launch in Mumbai

You have the Moda Goa museum opening end 2018, you’re an impassioned traveler, author, you’re designing silverware, gourmet coffees and the Goa Police Band costume and you love food. How do you maintain your fit persona and sense of self with your diverse creative pursuits?
I am a creative spirit. I guess some people are just made this way. People ask me how I do so much all the time. It really is no effort. I am a Gemini and an expert at multi-tasking. But I am also extremely disciplined. After IHM, a career in hotel management in Mumbai and my sweat and blood years working with the Royal Oman Police, handling Sultans, Sheikhs, Presidents, Prime Ministers et al, I realized one can take on the world in a disciplined, restrained and orderly manner. I learnt discipline from a young age. Give me a 24-hour challenge and I will strive to deliver it in 12 hours. As for loving food, I am an epicurean for sure. Since I lived in Paris, I learnt to ‘indulge in limitation’. Do not believe that I eat everything I post on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. I taste, but don’t gorge, except for dark chocolate.

What achievements in your life are you most proud of and what do you love the most?
I don’t think about myself or my past glories at all. For that, there is google and my website, wendellrodricks.com to refresh my memory. There is much to do without thinking of one’s self and developing an unnecessary ego. I would like to learn Sanskrit and Latin. After aLL Primero, I will be focussing on Moda Goa Museum.  I live in a real world in a small village in Goa. Life in an ivory tower is just so not my vibe. Apart from my partner and my dogs, I love this journey called life. I am on a constant high with life and this big, beautiful world.

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on 17 August, 2017

©Rubina A Khan 2017

RUBINA’S RADAR | FDCI’S INDIA COUTURE WEEK 2017

RUBINA’S RADAR 

The 10th edition of the Fashion Design Council of India’s (FDCI) India Couture Week 2017 (24th-31st July), orchestrated by Sunil Sethi, President, FDCI, was a splendacious celebration of India’s fashion vanguards at the Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi. India Couture Week has earned its laurels for the past decade of being the best in the country with its marked excellence in fashion. And what’s a fashion week in India without some Bollywood stardust thrown in? ICW 2017’s couture catwalk had actors like Alia Bhatt, Ranveer Singh, Aditi Rao Hydari, Shilpa Shetty and many more walking for the participating couturiers.

TARUN TAHILIANI | Tarakanna:
Tarakanna was an alluring experience with an “evolved vocabulary of design” befitting the legendary status of Tahiliani and his majestic consummation of couture. His design constructs were fluid, almost seamless, in silk, velvet, brocade, Italian tulle and georgette, in hues of burnished rose, gold, olive, black, ivory, midnight blue and the de riguer bridal palette of red.  The unparalleled artistry of Tahiliani’s craft shone on the runway. As the models glided on to the breathtaking autumnal leaved set, designed to semble the end of autumn, Central Park in New York perhaps, the earthy tones came alive with the shimmering Swarovski crystal-embellished ensembles, all 85 of them, taking over the runway. The line alluded to a bride’s lightness of being, akin to her dancing in the glory of her marital coupling in bespoke designs, fitted not just to her body, but also to her soul. Scenographer Sumant Jayakrishnan’s visual aesthetic lent itself beautifully to the magnificent confluence of the Tarakanna line and the buoyancy of the human spirit it embodied. Throughout its duration, the show appeared to have suspended the audience in the most exalted place of happiness and wonderment, that stayed on long after it had ended. 

MONISHA JAISING | Opera:
Sexy is a vibe Jaising shoots for consistently, and her Opera collection wasn’t left wanting in the least. The clothes were tantalising and edgy, and a tad theatrical too, primarily made in lamé, velvet metallics, Italian organza, banarasi brocade and metallic satins. The light and set design of the runway didn’t really take you into the world of operatic tenors and high octaves that inspired her line this season, as the models walked in her evening dresses and gowns, cocktail saris, crop tops and ball skirts. The multi-faceted actor-turned-businesswoman-turned-yoga-guru, Shilpa Shetty – a flawless showstopper who nails it every single time, tripped on the brocade train of her gown, not once, not twice, but four times, as it kept getting caught on the runway floor. To say that the runway nailed Shetty, rather than the other way around, would be an understatement here. Shetty of course, let it slide and slayed it forward on the runway, with a strut only her enviable body is capable of, coupled with the radiance of her persona.

ANITA DONGRE | Tree Of Love:
Anita Dongre is a relatively new entrant in the Indian couture and bridal wear landscape, having started her couture line, Bridal, only six years ago. But, she is a veteran player, and a very successful one at that in the prêt-à-porter business of fashion for the last two decades, with her labels – AND, Global Desi, Pink City and Grassroot. Dongre opened her first Grassroot store in Manhattan, New York, recently and will be opening the doors to her Bridal store there subsequently. Her Tree Of Love collection was inspired by the Bishnoi community and their spiritual reverence for nature. Dongre married her “love for trees, rich Indian craftsmanship and music into one joyous collection” with dominant shades of blue, green and red. 
Beautiful SEWA (Self Employed Women’s Association) embroidered tabards, paired with tulle skirts, mushroo and hand-embroidered tea-length dresses with gottapatti lehengas, obi belts, embroidered flat shoes and cross-body potli bags made up the very desirable contemporary bridal line. The uncut diamond jewellery from her Pink City line as stunning. Dongre’s runway felt like an Indian summer wedding, with the metallic trees adding dramatic flair to the aureate mood board.

GAURAV GUPTA | Moondust: 
Gaurav Gupta’s knows how to haute couture the runway up. Structure and form are Gupta’s forte and he plays that well, like a consumed installation artist, with “blurred boundaries of traditional and modern couture”, choosing to “sit on the cusp of both worlds”. The Moondust collection is Gupta’s interpretation of a surreal ball Cinderella went to, in sculpted ensembles created from translucent textiles in pale tones of grey, blue, green and teal, playing with shadow and light. Handcrafted embroideries and silhouettes accentuating one aspect of the body – either the legs, the back, the arms  or the shoulders – but never all at once, kept the collection elegant and sassy. Though he was going for an immersive experience with this line, it was anything but immersive. Aditi Rao Hydari was Gupta’s showstopper and surprisingly, she was one of the best ramp walkers in the lineup of Bollywood stars.

MANISH MALHOTRA | Sensual Affair:
Manish Malhotra’s exceedingly mirrored runway for his Sensual Affair collection, seemed to be asking, “Mirror mirror on the wall, on the ceiling and on the floor, Who is the grandest couturier of them all?” Satin organzas, silk tulles, satin velvets made up the fabric for Malhotra’s lehengas, sherwanis, voluminous skirts and gowns with trains and the gorgeous fitted corsets, in ivory, soft grey, vintage rose, burgundy and teal tones. The models swirled around on the gleaming catwalk, left, right and centre in a fast-paced, synchronised rhythm, showing off 85 ensembles, with not a second to breathe. It left you wanting to see more of the clothes, with just a little bit of stay. Rapturous glamour is what Malhotra does best, be it sensual, sexual or unusual. There is no one grand couturier of them all, but t
he grandest finale to a decade of couture at the India Couture Week 2017 was undeniably Malhotra’s, with Alia Bhatt and Ranveer Singh walking for him. The raucous screams that erupted throughout the show area were deafening and most definitely burst an eardrum or two amidst the audience in the excitement of it all. Tears were shed at not meeting Singh, who seems to be the star, no, superstar of Delhi. Sure he’s popular, but really? Bhatt was an enchanting delight on the runway as always, looking like the Bollywood belle of the ball. 

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©Rubina A Khan 2017