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.

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2019


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

RUBINA’S RADAR

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

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

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.

653098F7-5169-4A99-8843-7AFA88802A61

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.

479035192

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

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

India Couture Week 2017’s 10th Anniversary Edition

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

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

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

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

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2017 

Fashion Design Council Of India Presents India Fashion Week Autumn / Winter 2017

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

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

655020342

Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium entrance

654664528

Schulen Fernandes | Wendell Rodricks

654664440

Schulen Fernandes | Wendell Rodricks

654664522

Schulen Fernandes | Wendell Rodricks

654633440

Siddartha Tytler

654633422

Siddartha Tytler

654664524

Alia Bhatt for Namrata Joshipura

654664530

Malini Ramani

654208312

Vaani Kapoor for Rina Dhaka

654208230

Pankaj & Nidhi

653597398

Nachiket Barve’s sari

653611768

Madhu Jain

653597380

Rara Avis sari

654188520

Golden Threads of Assam mannequin

655020392

Tarun Tahiliani & Amit Aggarwal’s Grand Finale

653597306

Opening Day

653597312

Opening Day

653611778

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

653577360

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

Getty Images

©Rubina A Khan 2017

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.

all-the-pretty-dresses-kate-middleton-wore-in-india-1727686-1460395827.640x0c

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 put together by Sunil Sethi, President of Fashion Design Council of India, was grandiloquent, with glamazons like Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan, Shilpa Shetty, Chitrangada Singh and Kangna Ranaut walking the ramp.

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

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

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

Girls Chase Ranbir, And He Runs After Samara!

Rubina A Khan interviews jewellery designer, Riddhima Kapoor-Sahni for Gulf News:

Whilst Bollywood superstar-in-the-making, Ranbir Kapoor, makes headlines for his box office hits and misses, his hookups and breakups in Bollywood and his current single status, his sister Riddhima Kapoor-Sahni has transitioned from being a star kid, to wife and mother, to an entrepreneur in her new role as a jewelry designer, launching her eponymous line, in the first half of January this year. Bollywood veterans’ Rishi and Neetu Kapoor’s first born is excited about stepping into her new shimmer and shine phase as a designer, and if the alluring Sahni’s quintessential minimalist and classic personal style is anything to go by, her designs will have you clamoring for more!

482787928

Riddhima Kapoor-Sahni

You launched a jewellery line, your first, earlier this month – Riddhima Kapoor-Sahni. What turned you into a designer vis-à-vis modeling for the Notandas jewellery brand with your mother, Neetu Kapoor, earlier on?
I have always understood jewellery and have an intrinsic flair for it, but I was never a jewellery person as such. I would wear small pieces but not really bling myself up! But I was mesmerized by the designs of Notandas, the brand my mom and I modeled for, and were the face of, for the past eight years. Their designs were at par with top international jewellery houses and we had a blast shooting for them. Every piece was stunning and was a pleasure to wear every single time and made a deep impression on me during that time period. After the contract got over, I started telling my jeweller to make this and that for me, designs that were mine, instead of buying in stores, for everyday wear. The result of that was that everyone started commenting on my designs and loving them, so I thought why not design jewellery for others too? No one has really tapped the mid-market segment in India for every day, fun jewelry that’s made of diamonds, semi-precious and real stones and 18 karat gold ranging from Rs 30,000 upwards and that’s how Riddhima Kapoor Sahni Jewellery came into being, along with my jeweler friend and partner, Anuj Kapoor in Bombay, where our pieces are manufactured. It’s wearable, affordable and light jewellery anyone can wear everyday to a lunch, brunch, coffee conversations, birthday party – be it your child (I’ve been getting so many orders for them!) teenager, mom or just about anyone who loves jewellery.

It’s just the beginning as RKS is only about two weeks old right now, and I am already overwhelmed with the fantastic response to the bracelets we launched this month, especially the four-leaved clover one and the evil eye one that was my first design. My plan is to launch ten pieces every month, and take orders on the same. I have been taking orders from India, London and New York so far, and hopefully Dubai soon, as I plan to go international with my brand. January has been about bracelets and February will be another exciting launch of pendants as it is the month for romance and Valentine’s Day.

I am working on customizing orders with people I share a personal rapport with – I will emboss, engrave and add elements to my designs for them and will even revamp a wedding ring for them, but in my style and design aesthetic. You just have to leave it to me and trust me on that. And no, I will definitely not be doing the whole “copying the Cartier” kind of customizing at all! Online is the future and I am promoting my work through social media. I don’t want to open a store as of now, but you never know.

Who is the woman who wears your designs?
Me! The woman who wears my designs is someone like me. My designs are an extension of my personality and who ever wears them can then reflect their own personas on them.

From a star kid to wife and mommy to now jewellery designer and entrepreneur… what role is the most exciting for you?
Being a mother is by far the most exciting, satisfying and rewarding role in my life.

Your sense of fashion is classic minimalist. You are always dressed for the occasion you’re at without the Bollywood or the Delhi fuss. What are your must-dos for your look?
I like to make a statement with my look, but in a classic style. You’ll never see me in a set or wearing my entire jewellery box blinding people everywhere I go! I’m a big watch collector – a classic, vintage Rolex person – it’s my jewellery. So, a watch is mandatory for every outfit that I wear and then I’ll add my chain bracelets as I am in love with all my RKS bracelets or a cuff or earrings to complete the look, whether I am wearing jeans or a dress or an Indian ensemble.

What is your favourite gemstone to wear and now, to work with, for your designs?
Rubies are my favourite gemstones. I wear a small sized one on my little finger.

How did a beautiful girl like you not ever think of doing movies being Neetu and Rishi’s daughter? And how are you so comfortable being away from the spotlight given you grew up in the thick of it?
At 17, I went off to London to study and was away from all the filmi brouhaha. I came back home to Bombay at 22, and got married, soon after, to Bharat (Sahni) who I had met in London, and moved to Delhi. If I had stayed on in Bombay, maybe the life of stardom might have hit me, but staying away, I was unaware of the effect it could have had on me. My parents were swarmed and bombed with film offers for me but I’m really glad I didn’t do films and the way my life has played out. I love my life and I love my husband and my kid and the way things are.

You just celebrated your tenth wedding anniversary on the 25th of January, but you look like a newly married girl. How has it been being Mrs Sahni?
Bharat and I have come a long way – ten years! It’s an amazing, ongoing journey together, and our precocious daughter, Samara, is almost five-years-old now. It’s incredible just thinking about it. I do miss my parents because I live in Delhi, and they are in Bombay, but it’s not too far geographically, so it’s not that bad. My parents just celebrated 36 years of being together on the 22nd of January this year and it’s been inspiring to see their marriage, looking up to them and seeing them surviving it all. I’m very close to both my parents and of course my brother. Family comes first for my dad and he’s very big on that. So I’ve learnt to keep family first in everything I do.

Your daughter Samara is a summation of all the Kapoors, and the dubsmashes you post of her on Instagram are very popular. Who does she take after?
Samara loves herself! As soon we are ready to step out, she makes me take selfies of us in the car, pouting and posing with her. She loves the camera and loves singing, dancing, dressing up, putting on pretend makeup, enacting dialogues from my dad and Ranbir’s films and imitating just about anyone. She’ll keep asking me, “Mamma, why do I gave to go to school? Let me help you in your jewellery business. Mamma, why do you get to wear pretty clothes, jewellery and makeup everyday and why can’t I?” I indulge her, as does everyone in the family, to a large extent, but I just want her formal education to be completed, as besides her naughtiness, she’s very bright, a thinker, with an elephantine memory and sometimes, her thought processes befuddle me and get me wondering if she’s really only five years old? These days, kids only teach you everything. Samara is just like my dad – she is totally like him. She has him and Ranbir wrapped around her little finger and she means business. Girls chase Ranbir and he runs after Samara!

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on 28 January, 2016

©Rubina A Khan 2016