I Don’t Play Games: Ajay Devgn #Bollywood #Throwback

Back in 1991 when a tall, dark, and not really conventionally handsome man stand-riding two bikes (a foot on each) made an entry on screen with Phool Aur Kaante, India sat up and took notice. And we’ve been noticing ever since as Ajay Devgn morphed effortlessly from mean action hero to the intense, brooding loverboy to the comic caper king. In an industry dominated by camps, he’s managed to hold his own against the Khans and Bachchans and Kapoors and Roshans. On the eve of his big Diwali release, the much-married Mr Kajol Devgn tells Rubina A Khan how much he dislikes the ‘I-me-myself brigade’, making omelettes with daughter Nysa and the intriguing spelling change in his surname.

Ajay Devgn

All The Best releases this week, your first film in almost a year. Why did you choose to produce this film? 
I loved the script of All The Best and felt it was a sure bet at the box office, which is why I decided to produce it. It’s releasing now as planned, but due to the theatre strikes and the congestion of films ready for release, I have London Dreams with Salman Khan also coming out on 30 October, though it was scheduled to release much earlier. Not an ideal scenario, though, but it’s all good. Salman and I worked in London Dreams after Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam in 1999, a decade ago.

You changed your name from Vishal to Ajay when you debuted in Phool Aur Kaante in 1991. Recently, you changed your surname from Devgan to Devgn. Why?  
Back then, when I was being launched, there were three other Vishals debuting at the same time and I had no choice but to change my name to Ajay so I wasn’t lost in the crowd. My old friends still call me VD (yeah, I know it sounds weird) and I changed the spelling of my surname at the behest of my mother, Veena, who has asked me to do it for many years. It makes her happy.

Despite Golmaal Returns being a top grosser last year and you being one of the highest-paid actors in the business, you keep a very low profile and prefer to not club yourself in the Top 5 or Top 10 categories like your contemporaries… 
I’ve been accused many a time of not promoting myself enough, but it’s not my style to scream and shout about my achievements. Even though I want to change from my reticent nature and be more ‘out there’, I find it cumbersome. The media knows my worth and what business which film of mine did, but even then, they choose to ignore that and write what they want. I am doing my job as an actor and I expect them to do theirs in all fairness. I don’t want to learn how to play these games and schemes just to get noticed, or be bestowed with some fancy title. It’s too late, anyway. I have no desire or inclination to waste my time over self-proclamations of greatness. I look down upon those who do and I feel far superior to most actors. I am very satisfied and extremely proud of the work that I do and the success that I’ve achieved subsequently. I live by own code of conduct that deters me from singing my own hosannas and I would hate myself if I did and I’d much rather not get into that space.

Your cold war with Shah Rukh Khan—fact or fiction?  
It is not fact at all. But just because Shah Rukh and I are not the best of friends doesn’t mean we are enemies either. Both of us are fed up of answering this question time and again. My wife, Kajol, is friends with him and Karan Johar for a very long time, and I respect them as her friends as she does mine. I am not a very social person and stick to home and work largely.

Do you and Kajol influence each other’s film choices? 
We always talk about our projects and seek each other’s advice, but we do what we individually want in the end. There is absolute freedom for both of us. We don’t take each other for granted and understand each other completely. 

You are very traditional and conservative when it comes to family… 
My sense of family is very strong and if that means I’m traditional, then I am. We all live in one house, and despite it being a four-storey bungalow, which we moved into about two years ago, my parents, Kajol, Nysa and I live on one floor. All our bedrooms and family rooms are on this floor and it stems from the fact that I feel everyone should try and keep the family together, if they can.

You have been married for a decade now and have a daughter, six-and-a half-year-old Nysa. Are you planning another child? 
I have balanced my life between work and family perfectly, but I still feel I am losing time since Nysa is growing up so fast. I want to spend as much time with her before she gets too busy with her friends to hang out with her father. Kajol wants another child, but I am still thinking about it.

You are a closet chef of sorts too… 
How did you hear about that? I only cook for my family and Nysa loves everything I make. I like to experiment with world cuisine. My daughter actually makes the best omelettes in the world, albeit under supervision, for her parents. And the best part is Kajol can barely boil water. So, Nysa takes after me in this regard.

Your looks don’t exactly constitute a stereotypical ‘sex god’ tag for you, but your reputation as a great lover, has been resoundingly endorsed by women over the years… What do you have to say about the latter? 
What can I say except the obvious, that it is every man’s dream to have such a ‘sexy’ reputation among women. I’m flattered.

There haven’t been any romantic link-ups with your heroines of late… And boy, am I glad. And that’s because I am not having any affairs. Earlier, when such reports would do the rounds, Kajol never reacted to them because she trusts me implicitly. My life is work, office and home, no detours on the way.

This feature first appeared in OPEN on October 17, 2009 and is a part of my #Bollywood #Throwback series 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Best Nightclubs In Dubai! #TGIT #DubaiWeekends

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

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

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

CAVALLI CLUB DUBAI | THE FAIRMONT DUBAI

IMG_8290

Cavalli Club Dubai | Photo: Rubina A Khan

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

IMG_8268

Cavalli Club Dubai | Photo: Rubina A Khan

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

THE ACT DUBAI | SHANGRI-LA HOTEL 

IMG_8124_2

The Act | Photo: Rubina A Khan

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

VESNA RESTAURANT & LOUNGE | CONRAD DUBAI

IMG_8401

Vesna | Photo: Rubina A Khan

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

BILLIONAIRE MANSION | TAJ DUBAI

IMG_0056

Billionaire Mansion | Photo: Rubina A Khan

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

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

©Rubina A Khan 2016

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

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

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

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

586910264

Nadine Kanso

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

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

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

586910290

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

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

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

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

586910312

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

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

586910284

An 18K Gold Evil Eye Handcuff from Bil Arabi

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

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

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

©Rubina A Khan 2016

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

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

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

unnamedVarun Bahl 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Rubina A Khan 2016

 

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

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.

unnamed

       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.

0f860f69351a4206f8cb8c95b8496247-2

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.

3112329211

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. 

Salman Khan Walks The Runway For FDCI’S Huts To High Street Fashion Show To Promote Khadi | Gujarat

495005196

Salman Khan

494989112494989120495005296495005218

Salman Khan | Getty Images

©Rubina A Khan 2015

Christian Louboutin And Sabyasachi’s Glamorous “Sole” Collaboration At FDCI’s Amazon India Couture Week 2015

482290020482290046

482290042482286472

Sabyasachi 

482286462

Christian Louboutin and Sabyasachi

©Rubina A Khan 2015

Ranbir Kapoor And The Mumbai City FC Footballers – Nicolas Anelka, Sunil Chhetri, Andre Moritz & Subrata Paul

484838872

Ranbir Kapoor

484839940

Nicolas Anelka

484838860

Nicolas Anelka, Andre Moritz, Sunil Chhetri and Ranbir Kapoor

 

484838886

Subrata Paul, Nicolas Anelka and Andre Moritz

©Rubina A Khan 2015