Nicholas Coleridge, author of the famous book, the The
Fashion Conspiracy flew to Madras in January 85 to
interview Tamil terrorists for a television programme. While killing
time between interviews at the steam bath he met Mr. Kumar who
initiated the conversation with Are you acquainted with Her
Majesty the Queens dressmaker, by appointment Mr. Hardy Amies?
At one time I had the honour of manufacturing in my factory
accessories for the Hardy Amies boutique, but lately we hitting the
big time and working with Liz Claiborne of New York. Each day we are
manufacturing 1000 garments for Liz Claiborne.
Truly intrigued by this Nicholas Coleridge rode down
with Mr. Kumar to a suburb in Madras called Shenoynagar where the
warehouse was situated. Eighty girls worked and Nicholas remembers
one young girl of 13 who smiled shyly at him as she fed a length of
pink and blue check material through her machine.
Coleridge recalls eight or nine months later
when I had all but forgotten my excursion to the Madras warehouse I
happened to be in Manhattan one Sunday morning and was reading the
New York Times when an advertisement for Macys departmental
store caught my eye. A teenage American with blonde hair was smiling
out of the page in a familiar pink and blue check jumpsuit.
The caption read Herald the season with gifts and gladness
Something for little girls to celebrate in the
terrific holiday collection from Liz Claidorne. In dusty pink and
blueberry cotton $ 43.
This journey from a Rs. 40/- outfit in a backstreet
sweatshop to a fullpage advertisement for a major departmental store
seriously intrigued Coleridge and resulted in his book The
This is no phenomenon, it is happening all the time
all over India. If Coleridge had happened to go to Fridkot near
Delhi, he would have stumbled upon a modest workshop that imports
soles from Italy and makes shoes which are eventually sold by Gucchi.
Like in China it is difficult to match the keen
workmanship and herd labour that re easily available in India.
Pierre Cardin, the leading Paris haute couturier, has cleverly
exploited this aspect and his licensees in India make his clothes
which are promptly sold in Russia.
Haute couturier Zandra Rhodes had heard and seen so
much so the skilled karigars (artisans) from India that she
catwalked into the country a couple of years ago determined to
transform the traditional Indian saree into a high fashion garment.
Her creation when modelled produced an utter gasp of disbelief as
viewers watched with rising horror the graceful saree cut, serrated,
over-spangled, heavily motified and worn every which way but the way
it should be. Her outrageously priced designer sarees
were bought by jet-set socialites. Zandra amused more than she
charmed with her outlandish ideas.
It is the way of the haute couture world to create
bizarre out of the way fashion garments which are appreciated as a
salute to the designers imagination but are never worn. This
the students of NIFT had learnt very well. They had come form Delhi
to the fashion capital Bombay to hold their haute couture
fashion show and displayed some tremendous talent but also some
alarming selection of themes and costumes. In one scene they
literally went potty with matkas (earthen-pots) scattered
around the stage as the model strolled stylishly amidst them wearing
a matka outfit-mud brown in colour-studded with mirrors and
structured to look like a real matka-this creation has found
its way to the fashion house Glitterrati.
James Ferreria, a leading fashion designer, who
pioneered fashion in India, slipped into the matka skirt and swayed
around saying its a good creation, imaginative, a good outfit
to come up with in your graduation year but wearability has to be the
key point when designing fashion garments.
Over the last 14 years James has been slowly but
surely instilling an awareness of international fashion with his
select group of industrialist and filmstar clients who swear by him
and wear only designer outfits.
James, in his formative years as a designer worked
with Zandra Rhodes and this probably resulted in his creation of
designer sarees. James designer sarees are priced
at Rs. 6000/-upwards. His latest is the double palla sari with both
pallas designed differently, while one flows down the back the other
is taken round the shoulder or neatly tucked into the waist. Another
of his interesting saress is the zip up sari which is cut and
tailored in a manner whereby the minute you zip into it the pleats
automatically fall into place from your knees to your feet.
Indians are growing increasingly fashion conscious
and are buying designed clothes. This is evident from the fact that
the personal darzi is nowan extinct breed. Cities are dotted
with clothiers, boutiques and designer studios. A walk down Kemps
Corner which could well be termed Indias Fashion Avenue
confirms this. You have Litolier with their exclusive
designer sarees, Ravissant who sell an entire life-style
and Glitterrati down Kemps Corner. Ensemble
truly stands apart tucked away in a quiet corner in the heart of the
Ensemble and Glitterrati
both have a team of talented young dress designer displaying their
creations. Ensemble is just a fashion saloon modeled on
the lines of big fashion houses and sells only designer clothes
whereas Glitterrati is situated within Inter Plaza which
sells everything from shoes to jewellery to chinaware.
In fact the entrance to Inter Plaza is very
disconcerting. Beyond the glass door off the entrance is parked a
tiny red sports car with FUS painted on it in big bold black letters
with a darwan standing guard. I have yet to figure out why
that little sports car is parked within as they certainly dont
sell designer cars.
For Vijay Mehta of Inter Craft Exports it has been
an interesting climb. A few yers back he began Inter Shoppe for the
fashionable young teenagers but as they grew and began demanding
better clothes at their favourite retail outlet he began Inter Plaza
and has now added Inter Mezzo Linea for Italian mens wear.
At Inter Plaza as you travel basement upwards to
Glitterrati no doubt you are stepping up to high fashion
but it also definitely inclines towards higher prices. Naturally as
they are virtually selling one piece per style.
On your way up to Glitterrrati the one
kiosk that demands your attention withits display of traditional
India dresses, presented in all its Indianness, yet totally
fashionable, is Pallavi, Jaikishans Boutique.
Her ethereal and feminie flowing muslin
kurta-pyjama-duppatta with pastel embroidery studded with pearls is
irresistible. Though mulmul (cambric) is only Rs. 16 a metre her
finished products are easily sold for Rs. 3500/- a set.
A fantastic commercial success Pallavi has been in
the fashion business for the last eighteen years. Film-star Mumtaz
has blind faith in Pallavis creations and continues to buy her
clothes even though she now lives in Africa. Pallavis client
list ready like an Indian Whos Who. Twice every year
Pallavitakes her collection abroad and her agent arranges for buyers
to vieiw her designs and soon her clothes find their way to well
known boutiques in New York and London. Her daughter Bhhairavi who
designs for Glitterrati looks after the French exports as
she studied show the obvious French influence.
At Glitterrati all four designers sell
different looks. Lester Manuel is into mod clothes, Bhairavi
Jaikishans, is the French appeal, James Ferriera goes totally
Indian and Shahab Dorabji is very very British.
Shahab Dorabji is a name to watch out for. His well
structured impeccably tailored classic creations can be repeated year
after year as they will never be démodé. Already
popular with the expatriate Indians he is also sought after by
Indians who travel widely. His clothes more suited to a cooler
climate re finished beautifully and come closest to being haute
Pallavi Jaikishan rightfully says, what Id
call Indian Haute Couture are our bridal outfits. These clothes for
the bride specially designed and fitted may never again be worn.
Pallavi specializes in designing bridal trousseau and her bridal
dress by itself costs anything from Rs. 250000/- to Rs. 80000/-
depending on the budget. The sky is the limit for a trousseau.
Exclusive designer bridal wear is the most
fashionable requirement with the moneyed set today. Inter Plaza is
openly gleeful about having pinched the Amaia designers from
Ensemble for their new outlet at the Plaza called
Jamaizari will cater only to a brides trousseau.
Glitterrati is hoping that Amaia will
bring with her, her rich film clients. Ensemble down Apollo Street
is the citys latest status symbol. It is undoubtedly the only
designer studio which comes closest to being a couturier with its
brilliant team of designers Tarun Tahilianni, Rohit Bahal and
Rohit Khosla. Rohit Khosla has already made it to Harrods in London
with his fine Kashmir paisley shawls and silk scarves.
Harrods it is said is planning 1990 as an India Year
and Indian fashion designers are being invited to display their
clothes. This is hardly startling as followers of followers of haute
couture have noticed that in 1989 all fashion ramp showed an Indian
influence. Sensational haute couturier Christian Lacroix of France
this year used a lot of minakari work, Indian motifs and colours.
Rifat Osbeck, a Turkk, created a forceful impact with his use of the
eastern influence. Jean Paul Gaultier and Katherine Hemmett came
with a total Indian look with fabrics that looked like cheap saris
picked up from an ordinary market.
Here in India all the fashion houses work at a
furious pace to come up with collections for display and eagerly
await the arrival of their faithful buyers-the Sindhis form Hong
These exclusive clients from Hong Kong and Indian
will treated to a special in-house fashion show where models will put
and pirouette in the newest creations and champagne flows freely with
hors doeuvrs. Lets hope this desire to be a la Paris
does not extend to the clothes because as designer Wendell Rodricks
says now when the whole world is turning toward us and the West
is learning to appreciate the East it would be Disastrous if we took
to imitating the West.