RUBINA’S RADAR: PPE FUNDRAISER FOR MUMBAI’S MEDIA PERSONNEL ON THE CORONAVIRUS FRONT LINES

A conversation with a photographer friend of mine on Coronavirus news duty every single day since March 2020, impelled me into thinking about the health risks our Indian media was being exposed to, whilst I stayed safely at home, in quarantine and the lockdown, on government orders. I often wondered how they’d power through the weeks, and now months of the reportage on the pandemic everyday, which seemed endless then, and continues unabated with its relentless savagery on humans. Everyone’s lauding the first responders and medical teams, the police, the hygienists and the cleaners, and very rightly so, but nobody seems to be taking cognisance of the indispensable and crucial work photographers, videographers and journalists are doing on the ground, outside. They’re the people bringing in the news and visuals of the virus every day, and the heart-wrenching devastation and strife it’s inflicting on humans across the world. By going out and reporting from containment and red zones, they’re risking their own lives, and livelihoods, in an extremely uncertain and broken economy and that is saying something. Everything we know about the virus, right from the whats and the hows to the vaccine developments and trials, is through the eyes and lenses of the media as everyone’s in lockdown and quarantined at home. Even as some parts of the world are opening up ever so cautiously after months of isolation and physical distancing of late, their work carries on. It is their photographs and stories that tell us what the new world looks like, how human behaviour has changed and will continue to evolve in the years to come.

On April 20th, 2020, when I heard that 53 press personnel in Mumbai had tested positive for the Coronavirus, and were incapacitated and hospitalised, I just knew I had to do something about protecting them on duty as staying safe at home or working from home wasn’t an option for them. I couldn’t bear the thought of people I know and have worked with going out to work, risking their all for their jobs, without any protection from the virus.

On April 23rd, 2020, I spearheaded a fundraiser by reaching out to my network for contributions as a collective, humane responsibility to purchase Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) as a preventive measure for Mumbai’s news photographers and media personnel covering the Corona crisis on the front lines, to shield them. I am ever so thankful to the people – from all walks of life in India – that responded promptly and empathetically towards the fundraiser with their fiscal largesse like industrialist Ness Wadia, businesswoman Natasha Poonawalla (Executive Director, Serum Institute of India, Pune), filmmaker Karan Johar (Dharma Productions), actor Amrita Arora, film costumer Ana Singh, businesswoman Eesha Sukhi and jeweller Siddharth Kasliwal (Director, The Gem Palace, Jaipur). Since then, the fundraiser has received contributions from jeweller Queenie SinghShalini Passi and filmmaker Gaurav Chawla, enabling the purchase of safety eyewear too for the media.

It is because of the financial support of these very people that the PPE’s reached Mumbai on May 5th, 2020 and were distributed to the media personnel from May 6th onwards. These PPE’s are certified by SITRA – South India Textile Research Association, Coimbatore for fabric and garment – and are for one-wear only. I feel the kindness of all the contributors needs to be highlighted and celebrated, and not go unnoticed as anonymous benefactors, because talking about them will go on to inspire many others to come forward in this crisis to help each other in our country. Every contributor has stepped up as a humanitarian to help our media community, and that is reason enough to laud any helping hand. All of them have made this little fundraiser of mine a bigger success that I ever envisaged it to be and the media community are ever so grateful for their kindness. The PPE’s and safety eyewear bought with the funds raised so far have been distributed to the Mumbai media personnel and I am in the midst of ordering more PPE’s from the second round of funding that has come around. I intend to keep raising funds to provide the PPE’s for as long as they are needed during the Corona crisis.

The PPE fundraiser has been chronicled in the Mumbai Mirror (07.05.2020 edition) and the kindness of the contributors has been sincerely appreciated. The PPE initiative was featured in the Urdu press and online, and I am grateful for people supporting the fundraiser. Encouraging words and tall praise from people I love and admire across the world has raised me up, gladdened my heart (which is rather dire nowadays!) and fuelled me to strive and do even more!

SHOBHAA DE: Rubina’ s spontaneous gesture to mobilise support and order the best quality PPE suits for media colleagues risking their lives to cover the pandemic, must be acknowledged as a gesture that led to many others following her example.

JACKIE SHROFF: The media has always been there on the forefront, come what may. The fourth estate are a brave lot and will have my respect, always. And, you keep shining Rubina!

FERN MALLIS: Rubina Khan is a Covid19 hero… as a photojournalist, she watched her colleagues out in the streets and in the trenches covering the story of this ungodly pandemic and no one had their backs… they put themselves in danger to keep us all informed. Her initiative to secure funds and thereby supply this vital press corp with all the necessary PPE’s was so smart, compassionate and right on. It’s now in its second round of providing more. Thank you Rubina from the epicenter of Coronavirus in New York City.

ANA SINGH: The press has always celebrated my work and my milestones and in this particularly grave time, I feel God chose me to give back to them and I feel grateful for the opportunity. When Rubina spoke to me about the PPE fundraiser, being a journalist and photographer herself, I got a sense of what the media personnel on the field were possibly going through and what it must feel like for them, and their families at home to work outdoors. Rubina’s empathy and concern for her colleagues made this fundraiser a success and she’s leading by example of how to get things done, even when you’re not out there on the field, without being self-serving.

ELEANOR COOKSEY: I am very proud to count Rubina as a long standing family friend. Her recent PPE fundraiser activity is testament to her diverse and unique skills; her thoughtfulness (it is too easy to forget about all those affected in different ways), her resourcefulness and her determination. Here in the UK, there have been endless discussions about how to secure adequate PPE’s with endless delays and excuses. This initiative was conceived and achieved so quickly – the funds raised and the PPE’s reaching the people who needed it in two weeks. A rare positive story amid all this fear and uncertainty.

PARRIS FOTIAS: During these surreal times where we are being constantly bombarded with fake news stories, we are more reliant than ever on responsible journalism bringing us the real facts. Yet no one really thought about the media and their fate during this pandemic. I commend Rubina for her foresight and determination to help protect her colleagues out on the front lines in Mumbai. We are all in this together so much thanks to you Rubina and your PPE fundraising efforts from Australia.

UPDATE: JUNE 2020
Ness Wadia has contributed generously towards the second round of funding end May and fashion designer Manish Malhotra and Delna Poonawalla in early June.

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 2020

RUBINA’S RADAR | REEL IS WHAT’S REAL TODAY

We humans thought we lived in an adamantine world controlled by us, until an invisible contagion microbe – the Coronavirus – showed us all we obviously don’t. The virus is killing humans harder and faster than any missile across the planet, halting an extremely self-serving, consumerist world, dead in its Earth-abusive tracks. The Earth seems to have quit us, albeit temporarily, leaving us to quarantine in our designated spaces and countries for a while – a while that feels more like an infinite uncertainty than a finite timeline with each passing day.

For those of us who are fortunate enough to have a home to quarantine in, and socially distance ourselves from our families in separate rooms, with running water, food and the familiar warmth of our beds – it is an ineffable bespoke luxury, one that is incomparable to any in the world. Millions of our fellow humans across are homeless, with no roof over their heads, jobless with no money for food or clean running water to drink, let alone to sanitize and wash their hands with, multiple times a day.

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Opera singer Andrea Bocelli looks on before his Easter concert at the Duomo on April 12, 2020 in Milan, Italy. Members of the public were not allowed in Milan’s Duomo Cathedral due to the ongoing lockdown to control the coronavirus outbreak. (Photo by Luca Rossetti, Courtesy Sugar SRL, DECCA Records via Getty Images)

I think the Coronavirus outbreak is the biggest performance art show of all time, where all human beings are a live act, me included, going about our lives in our tangible spaces and our paces. And, the world – a large canvas of pristine natural beauty and sounds stands still, watching us – the performative art on display. The lockdown takes me back to the first ever performance art exhibit I attended in the Hamptons in New York in 2013. It was Robert Wilson’s 20th Annual Watermill Center Summer Benefit called Devil’s Heaven. This was held at his performance lab for arts and humanities at the Watermill Center in Long Island. Devil’s Heaven was an unimaginable reality for me, with Lady Gaga, who I think is the quintessence of performance art herself and Marina Abramović, the most lasting of all performance art legends, in attendance.

Watching the various intense acts of stillness and exertion across the eight acre grounds, especially Trina Merry’s Magnolias and her Enchanted Forest silent performers slithering seductively around tree trunks, left me awe-struck, and wide-eyed. At the entrance of the event, two naked figures, stood statuesquely on a pedestal, embracing each other in silence, in glorious consonance, their male and female bodies painted with an almost Avatar-esque shade of teal with a pink floral design akin to the Indian lotus. This was Merry’s Magnolias that explored the clash between culture and nature – exactly what we are experiencing in the real world today.

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Trina Merry’s Magnolias at Robert Wilson’s Devil’s Heaven at the Watermill Centre, Long Island, New York. (Photo by ©Rubina A Khan 2013)

The Earth’s revolt – a silent warzone of microbial and economic devastation – has the human race feeling endangered for the very first time since its existence. Some of the models’ bodies, painted on to look like furniture, further conflated with material objects on the performer’s naked bodies, was Merry’s way of questioning human self-identities in relation to objects and the things humans own. Consumerist attitudes and human identities based on material things was almost entirely how the world ran before the Coronavirus outbreak. Merry seems to have latently manifested today’s unthinkable reality when it was anything but, seven odd years ago, when she created the series in New York, where she is based. Her artistic expression is a dominant, painful reality today and she flipped Oscar Wilde’s ancient notion from Life Imitates Art more than Art Imitates Life into Art Forsees Life perhaps! Never did I think, ever, that I would be living out my own performance act of a lifetime in these times. And, I am a non-conformist.

Art has always provoked us into a reactive state – be it shock, rage, bewilderment, exultation, agony, poignancy, exhilaration or just good ol’ gladdening. The Earth seems to have taken a break from us humans, to catch its own breath, whilst we are coming to terms with a new world – one that is brought to us by the eyes and the lenses of photographers across the world. Photography is art, frozen in time – almost like an entr’acte between the time when the photograph was taken to the current time of its viewing. Except today, all the photographs that we see are in real time of a very unreal, very unknown world that has fallen deafeningly silent and empty. In due course, these pictures will make for a historical archive for centuries to come.

The ability of a photograph to let one’s mind go back and forth, with meandering thoughts and shifting perspectives, never once losing the original, intrinsic essence of its frame is incredulous – it can be as active and as passive as you want it to be. Reel life is what’s real today. Apart from our first responders being doctors and health care workers who are on the front lines saving lives, it is the photographers who are risking their lives to bring the world to us, every single day. Images of empty streets and subways, empty places of worship, planes parked like Lego blocks in airport hangars, images of the heroic, live-saving first responders across the world from Wuhan to Italy to India to the US… are a reality thanks to the photographers out there, doing their job relentlessly, and serving humanity.

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An aerial view of the illuminated statue of Christ the Redeemer that reads “Thank you” as Archbishop of the city of Rio de Janeiro Dom Orani Tempesta performs a mass in honor of Act of Consecration of Brazil and tribute to medical workers amidst the Coronavirus pandemic on April 12, 2020 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

Mumbai-based photographer, Satyajit Desai’s imagery of the Janta Curfew in India on March 22nd to the stark containment zones in Worli after Mumbai’s lockdown from March 25th to the make-shift quarantine shelters in bus stands tells you the story of my city, and how the virus is affecting our lives, and our livelihoods, wherever you might be in the world.

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A bus stand in Versova, Mumbai, is converted into a temporary shelter for the homeless to quarantine and social distance in on April 5th, 2020. (Photo by Satyajit Desai / Mumbai Mirror)

SL Shanth Kumar’s shots Mumbai’s pride, the Queen’s Necklace, our Marine Drive – the most beautiful stretch of concrete, that languidly hugs 3.6kms of the Arabian Sea’s shoreline are breath taking. Gary Hershorn’s pictures of an empty Times Square and a lone Brooklyn Bridge in New York seem like the people have been photo-shopped out of it. Ollie Millington’s shots of the Shard skyscraper in London, lit up in blue in thanks and support of the National Health Service of the UK on March 28th as well as images of all landmarks in the US lighting up in blue from Boston to Vegas to thank their healthcare workers speak volumes of the intense work being done to contain the catastrophic virus everywhere.

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TD Garden is lit in blue on April 09, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts, to show support for health care workers and first responders on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Right from the handout photo provided by Buckingham Palace of Queen Elizabeth II addressing the nation from Windsor Castle on April 5th in a special broadcast to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth nations pertaining to the virus outbreak to Abdel Ghani Bashir’s sombre image of the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, devoid of any human life and movement, on March 5th is very telling of the Earth and the Universe calling time on humans.

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Queen Elizabeth II addresses the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth in a special broadcast in relation to the Coronavirus outbreak at Windsor Castle on April 5, 2020 in Windsor, England.(Photo by Buckingham Palace via Getty Images)

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The white-tiled area surrounding the Kaaba, inside Mecca’s Grand Mosque, empty of worshippers on March 5th, 2020. Saudi Arabia emptied Islam’s holiest site for sterilisation over fears of the new coronavirus, an unprecedented move after the kingdom suspended the year-round umrah pilgrimage. (Photo by Abdel Ghani Bashir/AFP via Getty Images)

Lillian Suwanrumpha’s pictures of new-born babies in Bangkok, Thailand wearing mini face shields are as endearing as they are frightening of a new world, of a new reality upon us. The heart-wrenching photos taken by every news photographer, of India’s migrant workers, rendered jobless due to the lockdown, walking miles from cities to reach their homes in their villages tell you the story of India’s divided landscape of the haves and the have-nots – the have-nots that make up for the largest portion of our 1.3 billion people. Unsettling, but devastatingly true.

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A newborn baby wearing a face shield at Praram 9 Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand on April 9, 2020. (Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP via Getty Images)

Before Corona, advertisers paid top dollar to creative photography for digitally altered images of an empty Times Square or the Eiffel Tower for a fashion model to strike a pose against, but editorial news photography could never ever imagine shooting any architectural or historical landmark in the world, without people milling about in hundreds and thousands. I remember trying to take a frame in Beijing, China, of the Forbidden City without any people in it, and it was exhausting, and next to impossible! I cannot imagine not seeing the world with my own eyes, and I’m ever so grateful to my global community of photographers for bringing the evolving new world to us, at a personal cost to them that’s immeasurably invaluable, and very appreciated. This is art in motion, that’s unfolding every minute and every hour of every new day.

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Hagia Sophia and its surrounds are empty during a two-day lockdown imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on April 11, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images)

Once there is some semblance of the familiar to our new world that none of us have any inkling of right now, there are some things that will have changed forever, that we will be seeing through the eyes of photographers and their cameras yet again. For instance, a picture of two people shaking hands or kissing in public will be a coveted, unusual image as will that of aeroplanes taking to the open skies again. We might just feel like one of the Wright brothers when they sent up their first plane into the sky! Public spaces with people jammed in or huddled closely will make for unusual imagery too as will sport stars greeting each other without backslaps and hugs on a playing field when the games come back on. Bollywood’s come hither song and dance routines and Hollywood’s sex sequences will smack of sanitized physicality at its creative best, or worst, we don’t know. Personal space will be big on behavioural social etiquette amongst the human race, and it will be a prized priority that will dictate relationships at home, and at work.

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Grounded British Airways planes at Cardiff Airport on March 25, 2020 in Cardiff, United Kingdom due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

We stand stripped of our acquired behavioural nuances, our excessive indulgences, our obsessions with power and control and in the adorning of our external selves, in our raw, bare skin – bereft of any mask, in our private spaces. This reaffirms that we are all the same, never mind if you’re black, white or brown – if you are human, then you’re a locked target for the virus. We need to stop saying that we are stuck at home, and wonder when life will go back to normal because firstly, how can you feel stuck or bored in your chosen space that you call home, that you have nurtured over the years to make it a home, and secondly, life is never going back to what is was – it’s like wishing we could go back to our babyhood and giggle and gurgle at inanities with our parents. The world pre Corona has ended as we knew it, and we will all emerge as one human race, altered forever in world that will have evolved since the first outbreak, whenever that might be.

NOTE: The photograph of the Versova quarantine shelter for the homeless in Mumbai shot by Satyajit Desai (Mumbai Mirror) have been used only after procuring rightful editorial consent and permissions.  

©Rubina A Khan 2020

RUBINA’S RADAR | FRIEZE IN LONDON, PUMPKIN SPICE SEASON IN NEW YORK AND BESPOKE BUSINESS IN MUMBAI

RUBINA’S RADAR

It’s time to Frieze in London. Nicky and Robert Wilson, co-founders of the Jupiter Artland Foundation are hosting a cocktail at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London tomorrow, October 4, to celebrate ten years of the Scottish sculpture park and the launch of their anniversary publication, The Generous Landscape: Ten Years of Jupiter Artland at Frieze 2018. Artists Phyllida Barlow, Charles Jencks and Antony Gormley will be toasting to the Wilsons’ artistic decade alongside Maria Balshaw CBE, the first female Director of the Tate art museums and galleries since January 2017 and Iwona Blazwick, Director of the Whitechapel Gallery who discovered Damien Hirst in the nineties, the UK’s richest living artist today.

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Jupiter Artland

It’s pumpkin spice season in New York and Meera Gandhi of the Giving Back Foundation hosted an afternoon soiree on September 22 in honour of HRH Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, at her Park Avenue townhouse, more famous as the erstwhile historic home of former US First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. The guest of honour, Prince Edward, tenth in line to the British throne, was in the United States to promote the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award that supports physical fitness, mental strength and advances sports amongst the youth. Gandhi’s foundation works with empowering women and children with education and investing in their well-being, so it was an advantageous meeting between Prince Edward and her, with the future of the youth dominating the conversation.

“It was indeed a big honor and privilege for my family and my guests to receive Prince Edward at my home. It was a wonderful gathering, enjoyed by all the guests who attended like Marla Maples, Jill Zarfin, Peter Brown and many more,” said Meera from New York. Aside from her philanthropic endeavours, Gandhi has been creating a fragrance in France called Giving with notes of Sicilian Bergamot, Myrrh Oil Nambia, and Sandalwood from Mysore that she launched only recently.

Hasleen Kaur, Miss India Earth 2011, is a regular on fashion runways. But she took on a new avatar recently turning into a master of ceremonies at the Tissot x Virat Kohli Chrono XL launch. Looking statuesque and beautiful in a midnight blue Pankaj and Nidhi dress, Kaur compered the evening with a congenial flair that is quintessentially her. “I was very nervous as it was my first time compering an event. As a model, I am paid to walk the ramp, but this was fun getting paid to talk on stage. It’s another dimension of my personality that I can now explore,” said Kaur.

Kaur is also a big proponent of returning clothes that she wears for work events, which is rare in the entitled times we live in. “I truly don’t think one should keep the garments that stylists pull for you for events because it’s a loss of revenue to the designers and brands and I’m not comfortable with that. And honestly, even if I were to keep the clothes, I probably would not wear them again and then where would I keep all these garments anyway with my overflowing wardrobe?” It’d be a fashionably sound world if the gratis brigade would just talk and walk like Kaur.

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

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

RUBINA’S RADAR 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUBINA’S RADAR | HOLLYWOOD ONE NIGHTS IN MUMBAI TO CHAMPAGNE PAPI DRAKE PERFORMING LIVE IN INDIA SOON?

RUBINA’S RADAR

If anything is hotter than the summer of 2017, it’s Drake! The Canadian Grammy award winning artist who swept the Billboard Music Awards with 13 honors earlier this month in Las Vegas, Nevada, surpassing Adele’s record of the highest BBMA wins, is allegedly headed eastward to Mumbai for a concert. The legitimacy of this claim is as thin as paper, and damp too, in Mumbai’s humid weather forecast, but this seems to be the trend du jour. After Justin Bieber’s live gig in the city, anyone, and I mean anyone with a bank account (the many advantages of PM Modi’s demonetisation in the country) is dropping big tickets names like Drake performing in Mumbai, akin to these artistes’ dropping their platinum selling hit tracks! Except their music is real, but these flighty murmurings, not so much. Such is the residual fever of Bieber’s Mumbai trip that getting Canadian, Barbadian and British pop icons to perform in the country is now a conversation opener that can at best be described as delusions of pop grandeur of the highest kind. Vague as the conversations might be, with ambiguous overtones that could throw serious shade on US President Donald Trump’s speeches, they’re definitely in vogue, riding on names like Drake, Ed Sheeran, Rihanna and gasp, even Adele!

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Drake at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas, Nevada with his 13 honors

It is suffice to say that May has been all about one nights in Mumbai as far as Hollywood goes. Brad Pitt flew in on Wednesday, May 24th to promote his film War Machine on Netflix, along with his director David Michôd. The visit was so short that even calling it a quickie feels abusive to the word itself. It was almost a guerilla surprise, with the film being screened at PVR Phoenix Mills, and Pitt and Michôd’s subsequent interaction with Shah Rukh Khan. Pitt had promoted the film earlier on in the month on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in New York by lying down with Colbert on a blanket on the CBS set to talk about the film, which was unusual and weird, but very entertaining nevertheless. Before he landed in Mumbai, Pitt posed for selfies and signed autographs for his fans at the film’s premiere in Tokyo, Japan but chose not to interact with his fans in Mumbai which was rather strange. Unless of course the one night in Mumbai was a part of some sort of nouveau stealth strategy, which is extremely doubtful.

Justin Bieber was all set to explore Mumbai on his first trip to India for his Purpose Tour concert, but his visit lasted a mere 20 hours with him spending one night in the city at the St Regis Mumbai, despite being booked for four nights and five days. He came, he performed and went straight to the airport to fly off to South Africa for his next show from the concert venue right after his gig. Confidential details of Bieber’s contractual asks and obligations made their way into the press as a “leak” prior to his arrival in the country and that wasn’t exactly the smartest move, making Bieber look like an extremely demanding artiste, not to mention it was a total breach of trust too. Bieber chose to respond to the screaming headlines of his exaggerated tour demands and party plans by staying on in Dubai post his gig there, enjoying the decadent Arab hospitality at the iconic Burj Al Arab hotel, arriving in Mumbai only past midnight on May 10th, the day he was scheduled to perform and left before the date changed to May 11th. Touché Bieber!

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Justin Bieber exiting the Mumbai airport at 1.20AM on May 10, 2017

Mumbai has always had Hollywood and celebrities from around the world falling in love with the city, and definitely for more than just one night. Pitt was visibly charmed when he’d visited Mumbai back in November 2006 with Angelina Jolie and their adopted kids, Maddox and Zahara. So if Champagne Papi Drake does come to Mumbai for a live concert, despite all the ambitious conversations that do not seem conclusive in the least, I hope it’s third time lucky for Mumbai this year and the Hotline Bling singer stays on for more than just one night only, and One Dance.

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 

 

 

RUBINA’S RADAR | FROM RED SOLED LOUBOUTINS IN NEW YORK TO THE CANNES RED CARPET IN THE FRENCH RIVIERA

RUBINA’S RADAR 

Fashion’s boldest bodies and brains know how to work the fiery haute month of May, especially on the French Riviera. The 70th annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals in Cannes, France is on fire, the summer temperatures notwithstanding, with beautiful and glamorous women walking the red carpet in breathtaking couture and bespoke jewels at the world’s biggest playground for photo-ops. Cannes is truly all about women, with men in tuxes running behind them, holding up their dresses and patting and settling them down to picture perfection. And what’s the most photographed fashion parade in the world without a wardrobe malfunction, inadvertent or otherwise? Day one saw Bella Hadid in a champagne Alexandre Vauthier gown with an underwear flash that was blinding. Eating an icecream cone in the gown after her red carpet strut, cemented Hadid’s nonchalance at the gaffe, that seemed more designed, than accidental. The red silk “barely there” gown, by Vauthier again, that she carried off so elegantly on the red carpet last year, clung on to her like second skin, with no slip up. That’s the reason Hadid stole the show primarily because nothing happened to the dress that everyone thought, or was hoping rather, would fall off her, and it pushed the fledgling model’s career forward the way it was orchestrated to. Just like this year’s “malfunction”.

Bollywood’s most poised actor, Deepika Padukone made an absolutely stunning debut at Cannes this year as part of L’oreal’s international glam girl squad. On opening gala night, Padukone looked fresh and completely at ease as she worked the red carpet statuesquely in a jewel-toned Marchesa gown with a seductive glimpse of her derrière and legs through the sheer of the fabric, for the screening of Ismael’s Ghosts (Les Fantomes d’Ismael). The following day, she wore a dark green Brandon Maxwell one-shoulder gown with a thigh-high slit for Loveless (Nelyubov) and Wonderstruck. With bold green eye makeup, green velvet heels, and her hair in an updo, it was impossible not to love her chic style, despite being head-to-toe in one solid colour.

Cannes’ most beautiful habit for the last fifteen years, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan seems to have gotten her fashion game on this time around. She pleased everyone, well almost, as she walked the red carpet in an icy blue Michael Cinco ball gown from his Impalpable Dream of Versailles collection, looking effortlessly flawless! But interestingly, about two weeks ago, Cinco, a Dubai based designer with an atelier in the Dubai Design District, was in fittings with the Swarovski heiress and singer, Victoria Swarovski for the same dress in the exact same colour, so it wasn’t exactly a couture debut on the Bollywood star. Though, Bachchan took Cinco’s creation from mere princess level to Disney queen, if there ever was one in the fairytale kingdom of dreams. Her daughter Aaradhya must have loved seeing her looking like a beautiful Elsa in the ball gown. Bachchan was definitely in a royal state of mind given her wardrobe choices thereafter, with her engine red Ralph & Russo gown on day four of the fest. It was just another red dress with frills and stones, with a clumsy fit on the sides, sans any custom couture attributes, aside from the famous face wearing it.

While in New York, Fern Mallis the award-winning creator and organiser of New York Fashion Week and now a Director of the Fashion Institute of Technology Foundation, interviewed Paris based shoe designer, Christian Louboutin. The conversation took place at the prestigious 92nd Street Y on Wednesday, May 17th, for her Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis ticketed series. Needless to add, it was a sold out event that was live streamed as it always is, for those who want to listen in. This conversation will undoubtedly find its place in Mallis’ second edition of her first book, Fashion Lives: Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis, published by Rizzoli in April 2015. It was a marvellous interaction between Mallis and the shoes designer of Egyptian and Lebanese descent, wherein he talked about his soul, and his famous red soles.

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Christian Louboutin and Fern Mallis | Photo: Michael Priest Photography

Expelled from school at age 16, Louboutin went to work as an intern at the famed Parisian cabaret Folies Bergère and did odd jobs for the dancers, but the one that fulfilled his dream was making shoes for them, he told Mallis. “I was all about shoes; I was not about fashion. I had cinema and music but not fashion. When I first started I wanted to design shoes for showgirls. But it was a very good way to learn about shoes because for showgirls, they’re very important. They have very little costumes in general, so shoes are a strength, a weapon, a posture,” he said. He was curious why all the dancers ate veal carpaccio, and he was told by them, “You’re so stupid. We’re not eating it. We’re putting it in the shoes,” rolling it up for cushioning, explained Louboutin.

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Christian Louboutin and Fern Mallis | Photo: Michael Priest Photography

At 18, an interview at Christian Dior led him to an internship with Charles Jourdan in the early 80s, wherein he learnt about the business of shoes, followed by design stints at Yves St Laurent, Chanel and Maud Frizon. Along with two of his friends, he opened the first store in Paris in October 1991, with $150,000, including the price of the lease. Louboutin found the inspiration for his trademark red soles in 1993 in red nail paint. The inspiration he describes as “a courtesan living out her life in a circus” turned his surrealistically beautiful shoes into an international success story. Known for his sky-high heels, he thinks flat shoes can be sexy, as proven by the legendary French actress Brigitte Bardot. He went on to tell Mallis that his “Love” flats were created after he saw a photo of Prince Charles staring at Princess Diana’s size 42 shoes.

Today Louboutin also has his own beauty line of nail polishes and lipsticks. “You have to give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. The red sole, which is my trademark and a sign of my ambition, started with the nail polish. It’s nice to remember in your flesh exactly where you started,” he said.

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

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

 

Fortune: What You Can Buy With Saturday’s $700 Million Powerball Jackpot

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Photograph by Rubina A Khan / Getty Images

©Rubina A Khan 2016

Award Winning Creator & Organizer Of New York Fashion Week, Fern Mallis, With Her First Book, Fashion Lives – Fashion Icons With Fern Mallis

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Fern Mallis | Mumbai

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Fern Mallis | Mumbai

Fern Mallis | Getty Images

©Rubina A Khan 2015