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!

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

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

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

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Gauri Khan at Chivas 18 Alchemy in New Delhi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Shah Rukh Khan

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

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

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

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

©Rubina A Khan 2018

In A Goa Glam State Of Mind…

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

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

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

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

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

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The glamorous entrance of the W Goa

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

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Baked Singapore Chilli Crab at Spice Traders

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Bamboo Charcoal Prawn Tempura with Mango and Wasabi

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

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Amit Bhosale, owner W Goa and Salman Khan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Rubina A Khan 2016

The Best Nightclubs In Dubai! #TGIT #DubaiWeekends

Rubina A Khan reviews Dubai’s best nightclubs, “bedazzling nights on Sheikh Zayed Road or as I like to call it, the Party Mile in Dubai.”

#TGIT is the Middle East’s #TGIF when the weekend rolls into the week with a bedazzling glamour that is quintessentially Dubai on a Thursday evening. When you’ve been TGIF-ing all your life with #FridayFeels #Friyay and #Fridaze Instagram hashtags, it feels like you stole Friday a whole day ahead on a Thursday in Dubai, and it’s thrilling. Maybe there should be a legit #ThrillingThursday hashtag for this part of the world as the #ThrowbackThursday hashtag seems redundant as you have to throw it all the way back, which is a little meh for now. The only shift here is that Sundays can NEVER feel like Mondays to me, but Thursdays are beginning to feel a lot like Fridays already. Convenient, right? I know!

It’s another Thursday night and as the pop culturist in me acclimatizes (real easy, this!) to the new weekend style in Dubai – a country most contemporary, with its incomparable vision of the modern world. I have a huge favorite on its explosive night scene. There are nightclubs and then there’s the Cavalli Club Dubai, ruling your nights and owning your days! The other favourites of mine  are mostly on Sheikh Zayed Road, or as I like to call it, the Party Mile in Dubai:

CAVALLI CLUB DUBAI | THE FAIRMONT DUBAI

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Cavalli Club Dubai | Photo: Rubina A Khan

This is undeniably the BEST nightclub in Dubai with its hedonistically dazzling interiors, replete with wild cats emblazoned on the doors of the lifts, designer Roberto Cavalli’s inimitable animal design flair resonating through the space, the glimmering ‘You are Gorgeous’ powder rooms notwithstanding, and of course, the eponymous Roberto Cavalli Vodka cocktails. The Cavalli restaurant serves Italian and international culinary fare, and is set on three levels, where you can dine on Roberto Cavalli crockery and cutlery (but of course!) under the scintillating crystal chandeliers.

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Cavalli Club Dubai | Photo: Rubina A Khan

Cavalli is where elegance and sophistication turn into a sexy beast of glamour called the Cavalli Club run by the Pragma Group. The only way to describe a night at Cavalli is to call it legend ‘cos it just is! Just last week, Drake hit up Cavalli on an extremely private visit to Dubai and it was unreal to dance to his tracks, especially One Dance, with him around! It just doesn’t get better than this, does it? Not in Dubai! You’ll only know when you dance to the last track of the night at 3AM and not want the music to stop, ever! Cavalli owns it with the best DJs and the greatest music lineup and is packed every night with the world’s most glamourous people. Well, not all, but I believe everyone is beautiful from the inside. I love the music here and Cavalli just gets my vibe.

THE ACT DUBAI | SHANGRI-LA HOTEL 

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The Act | Photo: Rubina A Khan

The Act Dubai is an experience and I love it! The Act, created by New Yorker Simon Hammerstein, is located on the 42nd floor of the Shangri-La hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road, making it the highest theatre venue in the world. The Act Dubai is akin to an artistic ménage à trios of fine dining, theatre and nightlife, in a space that sees risqué aerial theatrics right above your dinner table and looks just as effortlessly cool with a life size cutout of Kanye West on a hip hop night, amidst its Victorian decor. The Act Dubai serves serves Peruvian | Japanese fare for the dinner shows along with Pisco cocktails. There’s a great Californian Rosé I discovered here. The spectacular performances at dinner are mesmerizing and will leave you looking up at the performers for most part of the night but it will be a crick in the neck that’s definitely worth it!

VESNA RESTAURANT & LOUNGE | CONRAD DUBAI

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Vesna | Photo: Rubina A Khan

Vesna is a contemporary Slavic restaurant and lounge at the Conrad Dubai Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road. Deep purple and fuchsia pink hues dominate the space, with extremely warm, not to mention beautiful Ukranian hostesses, adding glamour to the royal vibe it’s shooting for, making the experience so intrinsically Ukranian you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d flown into the country for the night! Owned and operated by the Aston Restaurant Management Group, Vesna Dubai’s Karaoke Nights are just so much fun, especially when you’re singing your heart out on an Adele track, but not sounding even remotely like her! The singing and dancing (in all languages literally) start around 11PM, making it such a happy place, and go on till 3AM.

BILLIONAIRE MANSION | TAJ DUBAI

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Billionaire Mansion | Photo: Rubina A Khan

Italian businessman and Formula 1 bossman Flavio Briatore’s Billionaire Mansion, with its  panoramic views of the Burj Khalifa, has Dubai entranced since it opened in April 2016 at the Taj Dubai hotel in the Business Bay area. The Mansion is spread out into  five different venues – Sumosan – a Japanese restaurant, Billionaire Grill – an Italian restaurant, Karaoke Prive – a karaoke lounge, the nightclub and Diamond Kalian – a shisha terrace. The club pulsates with a thumping crowd and a busy bar every night and is a ‘go-to’ in Dubai with its varied dining and bar options, but I’m not so hot on the music at Billionaire, which I really think should be amped up, and fast.

I am sure I’ll find many more favorites to add to my Dubai nightlife list, but Cavalli will always own it!

©Rubina A Khan 2016

Love Fuels My Soul, Says Jewelry Designer & Photographer Nadine Kanso Of Bil Arabi

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

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

Rubina A Khan spoke to Nadine Kanso on a sun-dappled Sunday afternoon at her office in the Dubai Design District:

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Nadine Kanso

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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An 18K Gold Evil Eye Handcuff from Bil Arabi

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

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

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

©Rubina A Khan 2016

Varun Bahl’s Fantasy Bouquet Show At India Couture Week 2016

Varun Bahl has been showing at the Fashion Design Council of India’s India Couture Week since its inception eight years ago with Sunil Sethi as the President of the council. Tonight, he shows his Fantasy Bouquet line at FDCI India Couture Week 2016.

Your show last year was spectacular. What is the theme of your couture line this year?
We have renewed our commitment to reinventing traditional Indian silhouettes for the contemporary woman with our India Couture Week 2016 collection and are showing almost 50 looks. Delicate floral motifs make a prominent appearance in the entire collection, with sophisticated colours, textures and patterns mixed with the intricate craftsmanship that our brand is well known for. Dainty vintage inspirations meet opulent baroque influences in this line, which has a hint of tropical motifs as well. The colour scheme is versatile and varied, and imitates a bouquet of flowers.

unnamedVarun Bahl 

Whose show are you most looking forward to, apart from your own?
Each designer’s creations are so unique that to differentiate and pick one would be an exercise in futility. What I look forward to most is the post-couture-week time, when I can enjoy looking at all the collections in detail and appreciate everyone’s particular vision for the season.

Is there a celebrity walking for your show?
I feel a celebrity showstopper is not essential to a successful show, but I’m not averse to the idea either if it suits the concept of the collection. For this couture week, though, you’ll have to wait and see.

What is the most challenging aspect of doing a couture show, aside from all the other preparations?
The modern Indian consumer is evolving. She is well aware, has ample global exposure, and is extremely quality-conscious. She is also one on the lookout for designs that seamlessly marry Indian heritage with an international sensibility. The real challenge is to appeal to her nuanced tastes. Another imposing challenge is to stay true to the craft in the face of growing commercialization.

You are largely known for your couture and bridal lines. Do you think bridal and couture and clearly demarcated in India?
One can’t deny that the focus of the couture market in India is largely on bridal pieces — they are considered two sides of the same coin. That’s mainly because the wedding market in the country is one that cannot be ignored. Moreover, since couture is associated with hefty price tags, people are more likely to purchase them for wedding festivities. While the trend of considering couture and bridal as synonymous is changing, it will take a while before the two are clearly distinguished. As a brand, we’ve been paving the way for couture to be embraced as part of one’s daily wardrobe since the very beginning.

How many people pronounce couture right? Do you correct them, or you let it ride?
Almost everyone I meet can pronounce it right, but in case they can’t, I prefer to let it go. Getting a pronunciation correct is not the foremost thing on everyone’s agenda. Besides, they may be better than me at other things.

What is the most often repeated request for a Varun Bahl couture outfit?
There are many actually, like our sari-gown, our farshi-palazzo with a couture tunic, our anarkalis and of course, our haute couture saris.

unnamed-2What’s your signature style that creeps up in every collection?
Our focus has always been to blend the classic with the contemporary, and the antique with the new. We are constantly reinventing traditional staples to keep them fresh for the non-conformist customer of today, but without diluting its traditional essence. Innovative use of fabrics and florals are also mainstays of all our collections.

What do you think makes your designs different from the others?
Our designs take global cues, but are not run-of-the-mill. They have a unique quality that makes the wearer stand out. We also believe in creating classics that will serve the wearer for years to come. We have stayed to true to our artistry even in the face of commercialization of the design business in India. Moreover, we introduced the concept of black and ivory bridal wear even when they were considered taboo colours in India. It may be de rigueur today, but we championed the concept when it was unheard of. Our treatment of the traditional embroidery crafts of India — like zardozi, aari, dabka, muqaish, chikan, etc — in contemporary motifs and colours is also our signature.

Varun Bahl’s show is at 8pm on Saturday, July 23, at the Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi.

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on 22 July, 2016

©Rubina A Khan 2016

 

Anita Dongre Makes Her India Couture Week 2016 Debut With Epic Love

India Couture Week 2016 kicks off in New Delhi today. You are debuting your couture line at ICW 2016 this year. Have you been doing couture all along in your career, as you are largely known for pret lines under various labels?
It is our debut at the India Couture Week this year. I started couture five years ago. I believe fashion should be affordable. Everybody deserves to own a label and our pret brands are doing just that. We are very excited to unveil the bridal couture collection in the capital at such a prestigious event on the fashion calendar. The Epic Love collection is inspired by Mughal gardens and architecture. Our muse, a young gypsy princess is free-spirited, yet embraces tradition in her own special way, much like young brides today who enjoy what they wear rather than being weighed down by it. Traditional silhouettes like the lehenga choli and saree are reinvented in contemporary and individualistic styling. We are exhibiting 55 pieces from our Epic Love line. unnamed-2                                                                                  Anita Dongre 

Whose show are you most looking forward to, apart from your own?
India Couture Week showcases the most selective and the best talent that the fashion industry has to offer. ICW is the event that dictates the bridal couture trends for the season. It is exciting to see every designer’s work because each one has put together his or her best creations of the season.

What is the most challenging aspect of doing a couture show, aside from all the other preparations?
There is a lot of work that goes into putting a collection together for the ramp. The whole team works together on this. We have hundreds of people who are working very hard on the collection and the event. Coordinating with so many people is challenging, but it is all worth it in the end. For me, every show we do is exciting.

You are one of the most successful and popular designers in India, fiscally even more. How are you feeling right before your first couture show? 
For me, every show we do is exciting.

Do you think the blurred lines between “couture” and “bridal” are becoming clearer over the years in India?
I think in India, couture means bridal. Weddings are when people look towards buying couture labels.

What has kept you busier – the production of the Kate Middleton Gulrukh dress or the couture line you are showing at ICW?
I know we have sold about a hundred pieces of the Gulrukh tunic dress after the Duchess of Cambridge wore it, and orders on that are still pouring in. I am in charge of the design process; my production team takes over from there. I am always busy with creating the next line, which is the bridal couture line of 2016 – Epic Love.

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Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton in Anita Dongre’s Gulrukh dress on her first trip to Mumbai, India | Getty Images

How much of a difference has the Duchess wearing one of your designs made to the Anita Dongre brand globally?
Of course, it is a matter of immense pride that I am the only designer who dressed the Duchess on her maiden visit to India. It was a wonderful experience for me personally; and the label made headlines across the world.

Anita Dongre’s show is at 8.30pm on Thursday, July 21st, 2016 at the Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi, India.

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on 20 July, 2016

©Rubina A Khan 2016

 

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

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

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

Two of Bollywood’s most beautiful faces, Deepika Padukone and Fawad Khan are walking for Manish Malhotra who is kicking off the fashion extravaganza on July 20th at the Taj Palace Hotel, with a finale by Rohit Bal and the de riguer smattering of famous faces lending their celebrity to the runway for various designers.

Excerpts from the interview with Tarun Tahiliani ahead of his upcoming show on July 21st at India Couture Week 2016:
unnamedTarun Tahiliani

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

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

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

13718553_1132045066855366_6494982334806720601_nLast Dance of the Courtesan India Couture Week 2016 collection

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

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

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

13529002_1124943444232195_4408707928758731629_nLast Dance of the Courtesan India Couture Week 2016 collection

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

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

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

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

©Rubina A Khan 2016

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

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

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       Fern Mallis with fashion designer Bibhu Mohapatra 

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

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

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

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

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A piece from Bibhu Mohapatra’s Artemis line

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Rubina A Khan 2016

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

Fortune: Uber Is Testing An On-Demand Helicopter Service

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Photograph by ©Rubina A Khan / Getty Images

©Rubina A Khan 2016