Men and fashion! Two words diametrically opposed at one time.
Men’s fashion! Two words fittingly analogous, in today’s times.
There is no awkwardness when discussing men’s fashion in modern times; no underlying innuendos questioning the sexuality of the fashionable male and no hints of being a dandy.
Being a dandy has wrongly acquired a negative connotation in our society. Actually a dandy has nothing to do with having feminine characteristics or traits. A dandy is a man devoted to extreme elegance in clothes, style and manners. In short a gentleman, an aesthetic man, an elegant man.
With Pitti Uomo in full swing in Firenze, men’s most important platform for clothing and accessories in fashion, I reflect upon the evolution of men’s fashion.
Over the years our darker sex has not lagged too far behind women in fashion. They are galloping fast towards the ramp like thorough bred race horses with blinders on their eyes.
In a recent study it was found that in Asia men far outnumber women in consuming high end luxury goods. This is quite an eye-opener, as we mostly associate women with fashion; it is women who are usually seen toting high-end designer brands; in fact fashion brands in the past have mostly targeted women with women walking the ramps for major fashion houses, women in glossy ad-campaigns and women as brand ambassadors.
Times have changed and men are evolving.
Let’s take a stylish swivel back on the ramp and see how men have evolved.
Historically masculinity is identified as a concoction of brawn, sweat, sinewy muscles, deeply etched facial lines, a rich baritonic voice and dark tanned skin. All these physical characteristics are a sign of strength, courage, fortitude and power. Men are supposed to be rough, tough and gruff. Anything less is too feminine and not “man enough.”
However, since times immemorial, even if sub-consciously, men have paid attention to their physical attributes. Even the cave man used bucolic tools to groom himself. It is an innate desire in all human beings to look good, despite the gender divide.
For example take men in ancient Rome. They were the epitome of masculinity, vigor and virility. They wrestled lions with their bare fists, what could be manlier than that? Outwardly, they wore a basic garment in the form of a tunic or toga strictly for the purposes of necessity and functionality. It was used as a cover-up for the statuesque Romans for decorum and protection against elements of nature.
Despite such outward portrayal of machismo, inwardly the Roman man did pay attention to his looks. He used cosmetics! Can you believe that, even though it was frowned upon. There was a light use of perfumes and “moderate” hair removal. Note: not full hair removal but moderate hair removal because hair, even in modern times is associated with a man’s masculinity.
The Roman man evolved. Let’s fast forward to the 50’s man. The stylish male with the hat, overcoat, perfect tie, a sartorial dresser indeed. Manly and well-dressed.
But wait; do I smell a whiff of sweet lime cologne? Yes, indeed! He is wearing cologne to ward off uninvited female overtures. He is using a cosmetic.
In the mid-50s rode in the Marlboro man, with the deeply etched masculine lines on his face (most likely as a result of nicotine exposure rather than any andric potency!) Nevertheless, born was the rugged, un-harnessed masculinity.
Advent of the mid-60s. Gone were the uptight suits and ties, in came the “far-out” generation. A chilled-out generation, reflecting the same attitude in the fashion sense. No dress-codes, no rules, no restrictions and constrictions. A psychedelic lifestyle with a psychedelic attire to “blow” your mind.
This blog cannot be complete without discussing the decadent 1970s disco era. A vestibular fashion era with aerial platform shoes and flared pants. John Travolta epitomized the juxtaposition of flared pants and the three-piece suit. A sartorial “flare” for sure!
Miami Vice marked new-age 1980’s fashion. The over-sized blazer donned oh-so casually over the t-shirt, the sockless feet in loafers became a cult fashion statement, still followed by the fashion victims stuck in the 80s.
I cannot move away from the 1980s without mentioning the raw sexuality of Mickey Rourke in 9 ½ weeks. The stubble, the piercing eyes, the dangling cigar and the come-hither smile heightened male sexuality to another level.
In the 1990s the tables turned. Women were not the only ones who portrayed sexuality; men romped in their skivvies too. The six-pack was no longer associated with a beverage and a male paunch was not a sign of wealth and success. Men hit the gym, started shopping at organic stores and became “eye-candy.”
From the 2000s and onwards men have come a full circle. They have reverted back to being a dandy. They use lotions and potions; eat diet products; work on problem areas at the gym; are androgynous; shop online at Barneys; get manicures and pedicures; get waxed, stripped, threaded and shaved. He is beautiful.
In fact, the gender divide has become so blurry that it is perfectly acceptable for a pouty, porcelain skinned male model like Andrej Pejic to strut down the runway giving Kate Moss a run for her euro! The uomo has evolved.
I am out of my hibernation. The reason: The cruel, barbarous, brutal mutilation of a $100,000 Hermes alligator bag! For a worshipper of FAME (fashion, art, music and entertainment), the act is as abhorrent as the destruction of the 6th century Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan by the Taliban. Okay, maybe not of that magnitude, but still a destruction of a beautiful piece of art!
Nevertheless, the annihilation did wring my heart and make my knuckles white. Oh the horror! For those of you who have not heard of it, the act was performed by Clint Eastwood’s daughter on the reality show, Mrs. Eastwood and Company (the specific use of the last name obvious for rating purposes). In the show, Eastwood’s daughter cuts and burns an alligator Hermes bag with a ferocious beastly expression on her face, in the name of performance art. Really, destruction of art in the name of art, justified? (An idea to be explored at a later time).
The heinous act performed on the reality television show stirred the following thoughts in my brain: First, what is it that attracts a person like me (with discriminatory tastes and a reasonable level of intelligence, to watch reality television); second, what are the limits/parameters that reality stars have to cross week after week to get viewers like me return.
Between the Kardashians, Shahs of Sunset, Jersey Shore and now Mrs. Eastwick and Company, there is an overdose of reality television. They have become part of a pop-cultural phenomenon. The shows have high ratings, so even if we are closet watchers, the fact remains that a good number of us are watching. In an intellectual tete-a-tete, most of us decry the social evils that such shows are breeding, yet we watch them.
One reason is voyeurism. It is titillating to spy on the intimate behavior of others. A spy-like feeling is evoked while watching such shows-their highs and lows, their make-ups and over-dramatized break-ups, entering their homes and boudoirs, seeing what they eat or not, how they look like with gobs of mascara running down their cheeks while crying, hearing the profanities they use, Bentleys they drive, mansions they live in etc.
Vicarious living is another reason. An average person’s life between work, chores, home responsibilities, running errands is bound to take a tone of monotony, no matter how hard one tries to spice it up. It becomes rote living. There is no way around it. Reality TV provides that dose of glamour, excitement, enchantment and razzle-dazzle that an average person lacks in day to day life. It is the same as buying a Tattler magazine to get a peek inside the lives of the “oh-so-exciting” crowd.
Yet another reason for such viewing is because it makes us feel good about ourselves and our relationships. Most of the reality shows have a high level of disfunctionality (rightly so, otherwise why would I watch it!!) Despite all the wealth, fame and glamour, there is angst, anger, treachery, heartbreak and a degree of mental retardation (not from a medical standpoint of course!) This makes us feel good about ourselves and for some of us even provides hope. After all, if a dysfunctional, limited intelligence person can reach the pinnacles of success, why not me.
Such shows, also provide a certain amount of social interaction in our very isolated, heavily dependent on the World Wide Web, modern lives. The stars invite us into their drawing rooms and bed-rooms and there is an element of reel human interaction, even if for a fleeting moment.
Whatever the reason, reality TV is here to stay. There is certain stickiness to it.
Now, the question is how far do the reality stars have to go to create the stickiness. What do they have to do or more appropriately “out do” in order to get me back on that couch week after week? What boundaries do they have to cross? In fact, are there any boundaries?
Mere providing of glamour, hot surgeried-up botoxed bodies, designer clothing, long fluttering stick-on lashes is not enough anymore. The ante has been upped, the stakes are higher. Gone are the chaste days of MTV’s Real World. The audience needs bombshells, hysteria, shock and awe and the studios are ready to dole our dollops of it. Extravagant weddings are broken up in less than 3 months, a gay Jewish Persian man is united with his conservative Islamic father, paternity issues are raised and resolved. Over the top tactics such as the mutilation of a $100,000 Hermes bag get the necessary notoriety necessary for a hit reality show.
In the case of the Eastwood show, other than Mr. Eastwood who even knows or cares about the other members of his family. If they portray themselves as a normal (synonym for functional) family, why would we want to watch them. There will be no ratings and in turn no renewal for the next season. So, the demolition of the Hermes bag provided the necessary shock and awe element for a hit reality show. Proof is in the pudding, I am writing about it, even though I am least interested in Mrs. Eastwood or her Company. The studio execs used the obliteration of the Hermes bag as a perfectly strategized move to Bite me with this Reality!
A walk down the lingerie department of any store shows the “weight” that is placed on big breasts. There is a head-spinning variety of chest contraptions designed for the sole purposes of “enhancing,” “lifting,” “enlarging,” and “amplifying,” the female bosom. Words that conjure up images of torture at a concentration camp are used such as inserts, adhesives and tapes. There is even a bra named “dramatic/extreme lift.” I call it a neck-a-boo, the merger of the boob and neck!
Descriptive culinary words such as “cutlets” are used to achieve the décolletage effect that is apt to describe the ample bosom of culinary goddess Nigella Lawson.
Plastic surgeons are laughing their way to the bank by performing multiple enlargements, enhancements and pronouncements per day. Breast enlargements have become so ubiquitous that you see hoardings and billboards of women laboriously stooping on the expressways flaunting toll free numbers of such clinics; strip malls have breast enhancement clinics alongside of take-away Chinese dim-sum; magazines are splattered with ads for procedures at throw-away prices with very little to no downtime. To add legitimacy to such procedures articles are written as to how breast enlargements can lead to elevation of the self-esteem, self-confidence and self-worth.
YouTube has videos demonstrating a whopping Nine Steps to breast enhancement!! How could it possibly take 9 steps, I mean squeeze, push and voila va-va-voom!!
The old trick-of-the-trade of stuffing toilet paper down your bra for a cheap, non-intrusive lift continues to flourish.
Women’s vernacular consists of phrases such as “filling the dress,” “creating an hourglass silhouette” “perking it up” etc. etc.
There are many facets from which a blog on flat-chested versus “enhanced” chested women can be discussed. However, I will limit my discussion within the parameters of fashion. If enhanced breasts are appealing to you for “lifting” your spirits, “enhancing” your self-esteem or “enlarging” your ego, then Bon Grandes!!
Time for a disclaimer here. Some of you may be thinking right about now that this is a “case of sour grapes” blog for me. Maybe, I the writer of this blog has always brewed a deep-seated resentment for the well-endowed woman due to my biological misfortune of “inability to fill my dress.” Let me reassure my critics, this is not the case. I have always been big-chested and believe me I still find the grapes to be sour!!
The irony is that these “enhanced women” tend to idolize women who are themselves flat-chested!! Most women look at fashion magazines, runway shows and models as an inspiration for beauty and fashion. Flip through any magazine or watch any runway show and you will see model after model with a pancake chest, displaying the latest styles and trends. Fashion runways are strewn with flat-chested models walking sullenly down the ramp.
To add to the irony, most of the large-chested models you may see on the runway or in magazines are usually associated with eroticism and definitely not with style or fashion. Most of such “enhanced women” are either posing for some erotic product such as condoms or in politically correct terms for products related to “horizontally challenged” women. I am sure this is not the effect the fashionable woman is aiming for.
Interestingly, most fashion designers opt only for flat-chested models. The fashion industry lauds flat-chested women. They are an indispensable and integral part of fashion houses. The primary reason is that these women carry off the clothes better than big-chested women. Flat-chested women look modern; they look fashionable and uber stylish. My point is further endorsed by the fact that I have never ever seen a big-chested girl walk down the Grand Palais runway for the Chanel show, or have seen one in a cerebral Prada dress or in a convoluted pose for a Marc Jacobs spread. Now in all fairness, high-end designers do want stick-thin models and unless you defy the norms of nature, it will be an oxymoron to be stick thin and also have big breasts.
I personally have never ever understood the lure flat-chested women have for big breasts. Maybe indeed it is a case of sour grapes. In my opinion big breasts are not fashionable or stylish. They can be erotic, seductive, sexy but significantly hinder your fashion and style choices.
Most clothes do not fit well on big-busted women. They are fashion-restrictive. They hamper a full exploration of fashion as the styles are limited. You are limited to only a few types of necklines and silhouettes, unless you want to walk around looking like you are perpetually ready for an audition for the Playgirl magazine. Stylish, edgy clothing is not designed for big-chested women. Buttons pop constantly and you have to have a limitless supply of safety pins for security purposes.
In addition they even put a damper on enjoyment. Dance moves are limited to avoid looking like a clip from Girls Gone Wild. Sports and aerobics in particular require extreme contraptions.
To top it all, big breasts add weight to the overall frame and no fashionable woman wants that!
In the end, all my blogs return to the running theme of conformity. Conformity dictates being big-breasted; non-conformity states shun the rules. If you are blessed with being flat-chested enjoy it and consider yourself in the elite group of the likes of Kate Moss and Karlie Kloss.
As I was putting on my make-up, I was reminded of my childhood days of coloring in color books. It is the same concept. Arrays of colorful pencils are used. There is a wide use of electrifying colors from vibrant fuchsia to smoky green to petunia pink. The coloring rules are the same too. Stay between the lines, blend the colors, don’t over-color.
Fashion is like child’s play. True, it is a multi-billion dollar industry and run by mega corporations. Intimidating abbreviations are used such as CEOs, CFOs, COOs to describe titles of very important people. Serious terms such as stocks, IPO offerings, listings on the NASDAQ are used to gauge the worth of a company. Board meetings are held behind intimidating mahogany double doors where board members sit around tables that are longer than the train of Kate Middleton’s McQueen gown.
Shiny silver haired men and women attend the meetings wearing Savile Row tailored pin-striped cashmere suits; .walking with a determined and purposeful stride in their John Lobb loafers and Jimmy Choo heels and toting Birkin bags with such ease and comfort that one would think that the proverbial “born with a silver spoon” was replaced by “born with a Birkin bag.”
Despite all the gravity and sternness there is a silly, delicious, lighthearted playful side to fashion. One possibly cannot take fashion seriously. In fact, if you do take fashion seriously it ceases to be fashion as the laxity of creativity is lost. It becomes regimented and constrained. Rules restrict creativity.
To be truly creative the adult inhibitions need to be curtailed. True fashion icons or for that matter even designers, embrace the child in them. They have fun with fashion without inhibitions. In fact, multiple fashion campaigns and advertisements appeal to the child within us by depicting a comic book, mischievous, even cartoonish element.
Givenchy’s “Cat” cap for a measly $2,124 is a purrrfect example. I was so drawn to its devilish charm that was almost on the verge of cashing out my IRA until NPR’s analysis on the state of fast dwindling economy acted like an allergic reaction to cat dander, thereby deterring me from cashing out my nest egg. The Givenchy cap intrigues the child in us and plays on the age-old clichés of the black cat, naughty cat and maybe even the superstitious cat.
Fashion legend Iris Apfel who is 90 years old continues to wear the grandma oversized glasses with her designer duds and the overload of clunky jewelry. She reminds me of the animated series Daria- smart, acerbic and eccentric.
Kim Kardashian is a perfect example of Betty Boop with the ample buxom and the oh-so long fluttering lashes. Except, Kim’s are most likely courtesy of Shu Uemura!
Bryan Boy ups the Aladdin factor with harem pants. Instead of a rope tied around the waist, he uses the Hermes belt. If you can give a plug to a product while embracing the child in you, why not!
The Row designer looks innocently delicious with the Heidi style braid.
How can one forget Minnie Mouse and her contribution to fashion at large. Between the polka dots and the head piece her contribution is unmatched. Marc Jacobs ad campaign featuring Helena Bonham Carter is a distorted, gnarly, modern homage to Minnie Mouse.
The sartorial Carine Roitfield’s French sensibilities of fashion noir are similar to Elvira’s.
And the hot Rooney Mara who will bring to life Stieg Larsson’s nail biting thriller is a Dora gone wild! Very wild!
And finally the style icon herself, Anna Dello Russo, whose mantra appears to be fashion without boundaries. She changes her looks faster than a chameleon. Here she is lovable as the animated Dalmatian with the black and white dots and the burst of red.
So, have fun with fashion. Forego boundaries and rules. Play with fashion and release the child in you.
Horror vacui means fear of empty spaces or fear of the empty.
The term is usually used in art, for example Victorian or Arab Islamic art. It is ornate and opulent but abundantly busy and cluttered!
The opposite of Horror vacui is minimalism, negative space, silence, emptiness and a vacuum.
The term has a strong psychological connotation for me. Its origin is “fear.” Fear is usually considered a “negative” emotion, a phobia, a condition that needs remedy.
Is Horror vacui truly a phobia, in need of a remedy? Let’s analyze and try to reach a deduction.
I interpret the term beyond the parameters of art. It can be applied to fashion, architecture, interior designs and most interestingly to human behavior. In fact, it is most intriguing when applied to humans as our emotions are a bundle of complexity worthy of a million interpretations.
We all have met people who speak incessantly. A ceaseless chatter, flitting from one mundane subject to another with nothing concrete to say. They talk as if their life depended on it. One has to be on a high-level of vigilance to grab an inhalation break in order to escape. It is an example of Horror vacui in speech-fear of silence.
Or people who have a compulsive need to be surrounded by other people all the time. Constant socializing, parties, get-togethers, vacations with friends, dinner with friends, coffee with friends, lunch with friends and the list goes on. They may describe themselves as being extremely sociable, but doesn’t it reek of Horror vacui-fear of being alone?
An addiction in any form-alcohol, drugs, food, sex is Horror vacui. An attempt to avoid facing the internal vacuum.
Fashion is a form of art and the principle of Horror vacui is relevantly applicable. I was recently at a Roberto Cavalli store. As I entered, I gasped and my jaw dropped. I felt my visual perception being assaulted by prints, patterns, colors, lines, shades in every shape and form. The minimalist in me felt suffocated and wanted to escape. The only visual escape was the white ceiling, except it too was covered with ornate patterns. An illustration of horror vacui in fashion.
What about women who imbibe the fashion mantra of more is more. True, we all have our own fashion sensibilities and fashion is a form of expression. So, who am I to sit in judgment. But really do we need all that adornment? Is it truly self-expression or is it confusion that is making a feeble attempt at expression? The bracelets, the rings, the necklaces, the danglers, the French nails. Help, I am horrified! It is Horror vacui, fear of toned down or minimal fashion.
Interior design is a form of art as well. I was recently told by an acquaintance that she wanted to buy a statue as there was only one corner in her house that was empty and needed to be filled. We engulf our homes with objects d’art, furniture, tapestries, carpets, rugs, pillows, candles. After sometime the aesthetic beauty becomes so diluted that it looks more like clutter. It is Horror vacui, fear of empty spaces.
For centuries, artists have been painting and drawing detailed, ornate and intricate work. The talent is evident, but an inordinate effort is made to cover every miniscule part of the canvas or the art medium. Wouldn’t it create a better contrast if the medium had a vacuum or blank space? Horror vacui again-fear of negative space.
So, to answer the question whether Horror vacui is a phobia in need of a remedy? My answer is that in most instances yes. It requires confidence to forego the fear of empty spaces whether related to emotions, fashion or art. Emptiness is beautiful, courageous and non-conforming!
Travel is the spice of life; it is crème fraiche on a basic sponge cake; it is the vibrant lipstick on a bare face, it is the statement necklace on a basic black dress, it is the bold stroke on a plain canvas.
We live our daily lives performing various duties, chores and activities. Some we enjoy some we don’t. In any event no matter how exciting our daily jobs and lifestyles are after some time, well they become “daily” or “routine.” The familiarity even though comforting brings with it some vacuous boredom.
Travel jolts us from the quotidian routine and infuses the requisite amount of fervor and excitement to get back into the “routine” upon return.
Upon her return from a world tour, my friend told me that she could not find the food that she is accustomed to in her home country and hence from that aspect it was a little hard for her to travel.
It made me think, what is the point of traveling if you cannot immerse yourself in the culture, the traditions, the food, the style of that country and get a true feel of its soul. When I travel I have a ritual, I visit the grocery store and the pharmacy of the new place. It provides me an opportunity to get a true local feel of the country. I also try to buy at least one small traditional clothing item and incorporate it with my daily wardrobe. It enables me to take a nostalgic trip down memory lane when my life returns back to being “daily.”
When we travel, we all visit the famous sites recommended by Lonely Planet. The key to travel is to diverge from the well-traveled “touristy” path at least once and get a true flavor of the country.
Travel is about exploration and getting out of your comfort element, stepping out of self-imposed parameters and crossing boundaries literally and metaphorically.
If you are in Istanbul, you will of course visit Hagia Sophia as you should, but also take the time to sit in the little cafes and drink umpteen cups of cay with shakkar (tea with sugar). You truly get a feel of the old culture watching the men play board games.
If in China, eat the dumplings from the enormous steamed bamboo baskets.
If going to Italy, do buy at least one sartorial outfit from Via Condotti (no matter how small) to be a part of the most stylish culture in the world.
In Mongolia throw caution to the strong Gobi desert winds, ride a yak and later drink its warm milk! No need to crinkle your nose, it is delicious!!
So, pause your hectic itinerary for a few minutes, take a long breath, inhale and envelope yourself in the essence of the country you visit. You will get more out of it than visiting every miniscule “must see” site written in the travel book.
I am from India. Hence, befalls upon me the duty to blog at least once about the industry that is the beating heart, deep soul and the throbbing pulse of India-The Indian Film Industry aka BOLLYWOOD.
Indian film industry is based in Bombay (now known as Mumbai). It is fondly known as Bollywood, possible name origination from Hollywood. It is massively influential not only in the home country but has a growing popularity internationally as well. With India being on the global map, Indian cinema’s popularity has exponentially increased.
Bollywood churns out twice as many movies as Hollywood in a span of one year. With movies such as Slumdog Millionaire and exports like Freida Pinto, an increasing number of Western audience are becoming familiar with not only the colorful song and dance routine that is so integral to Bollywood movies, but thanks to the portrayal of slums, the debilitating poverty in India as well.
For the purposes of this blog and because I am an insider, I will introduce you to a quintessential theme in Indian cinema that is patently latent for the foreign eye, yet prevalent in most Indian movies. It is also a little insight into the pre-disposition of the Indian brain, especially the male brain.
It is the Madonna-Whore theme on celluloid.
Women are an integral part of Indian cinema. In most Indian films women are portrayed in two ways. Either they are shown as a pious, sacrificing, maternal figure or Madonna. Or they are depicted as the wanton, sexy, lustful, glamour doll or whore.
The sacrificing maternal figure may as well be called a sacrificial lamb. The adversities of her life are higher than Mount Everest and insurmountable; not even Edmund Hillary in flesh and blood could peak the heights of such misery.
The hardships start at a young age when she is coerced into marriage against her will to a much older man and from there on the misery chapter of her life starts. The script usually goes like this-she gets pregnant after marriage; one of her kids is born without a limb and is handicapped; the burden of taking care of this child falls entirely upon her slim shoulders; the husband is an alcoholic loser who drinks, gambles and at the end of the day beats her up; she works like a dog doing menial jobs where again she is abused and exploited by her employer and then the poverty, oh such cruel poverty that two square meals will be considered to be a banquet. Despite all these calamities, she is able to educate her handicapped child who in turn becomes a famous doctor and just when one would think that the anguish is about to end, she gets cancer and dies. Throughout the movie she is dressed in a white sari, the color of grieving. It is a perpetual saga of despondency, melancholy and wretchedness.
One of the great classic Indian movies of all times named Mother India, is a perfect example of this ideal, sacrificing woman.
The audiences come out of such a movie with tears rolling down their cheeks and a renewed respect and reverence for a woman.
This mother or “ Madonna” figure is the signature illustration of an ideal Indian woman in Bollywood. She is pious, sacrificing and wallowing in eternal suffering. The audiences bow to her-she is Madonna.
In the opposite extreme you have the woman depicted as a seductress. She is an enchantress, a femme fatale, a temptress, a vamp all rolled into one tight package. She oozes sexuality and lust with flat abs, protruding breasts, luscious lips, cascading ravenous hair, skimpy clothes and a husky voice. Most of the camera frames are angled to focus on her anatomy, especially the sexually stimulating body parts such as the plump lips, heaving breasts and swinging derriere.
The sexuality interpreted through this woman is so over the top that it makes all the Victoria’s Secret models look like nuns.
The audiences come out of her movie panting with lust and sexual tension. This woman is purely objectified as a sex-object-she is a whore.
You must have noted the dichotomy in Bollywood movies by now. Women are either put on a pedestal and given the veneration and respect of a Madonna or simply portrayed as an object of lust.
Interestingly, most Indian cinema is hesitant to portray Indian women as both being a mother and also a seductress. The two concepts appear to be diametrically opposed and do not seem to merge in a Bollywood woman.
In all honesty, the tides are changing in Indian cinema. Modern cinema is becoming trendy, issue based, somewhat intelligent and more realistic. But for the past many decades the true and tried formula of the Madonna/whore theme has been a sure shot success at the box office.
What is your opinion? Can meaningful cinema depict a woman both as a Madonna and a sex object?
Anish Kapoor is an acclaimed British sculptor with roots in India. He was born in India, but has lived in England for many a decades. His works include bright medleys of deeply pigmented colors. The colors are audacious and daring. He uses reds, yellows, burnt oranges, royal blues, maroons. Such colors are deeply rooted in the culture and fabric of his birthplace, India. It is obvious that he was inspired by his roots.
But, his works also include gigantic stark, bold, curved and metallic forms; almost industrial and space-age in nature. These sculptures are a significant departure from his colored works. Such works are indicative of a shift, an evolution, a progression and an expansion in his work.
I have been discussing inspiration at length in my prior blogs and want to make a shift. I do not want to discuss the “standard application” of inspiration for example from a magazine, website or even a book. True, one can get inspired from anything and everything. The creator of Chanel nail varnishes was inspired by the color on a grocery store bag for creating the Mimosa colored nail vernis (yellow). So, when it comes to inspiration anything and everything can be inspiring as long as you have an open mind.
Part of our inspiration comes from our roots. The place of our birth has a genetic predisposition on our thoughts and behavior. That is why you see Anish Kapoor using deeply pigmented mounds of color in his sculptures. The colors and the actual forms of the mounds are deep rooted in the traditions of India. During the festival of colors called Holi, the Indian bazaars are littered with a psychedelic array of optical colors. The bright blues, fuchsias, reds, oranges, yellows are meant to be besmeared on friends and loved ones in joy and celebration (no, it is not barbaric or offensive, but simply pure fun!)
In addition, the spice markets in India are cluttered with heaps of various shades of red hot chili powder, bright yellow turmeric powder and an array of colors. Anish’s sculptures are very reminiscent of the Holi festival and the colorful spice bazaars of India. He was inspired by his roots.
Well that is all very well and good. But, he just did not stop there. He evolved. He did not stagnate. His took his art form not just a notch higher, but did a paradigm shift by creating industrial looking sculptures. In fact, he recently designed espresso cups for my favorite brand of coffee, Illy. As you will note, there is no semblance of color or of Indian origin in the cup. He released his roots, evolved and made an illusory cup for Illy.
In fashion, art or literature, I have often seen a repetition. The original work is unique and inspired. But subsequently there is a repetition. That is why we see some designers repeating their designs season after season, authors writing books on basically the same story line, a sort of déjà vu, if you will. Painters following the same theme, work after work. Directors directing the same plots movie after movie (no pun intended Hangover 2!) Ironically, if the product becomes commercially successful, the chances of evolution are even less likely as nobody wants to forego a true and tried formula for success.
The point is stagnation leads to decay. Especially in creative fields, evolution leads to new ideas. You simply cannot churn out the same old idea and package it with new marketing. Anish is an example of true creativity as he eschewed inspirational roots for evolution.
In my photo, there is a whiff of my colorful roots of India, but I too eschewed my roots by wearing Church’s men’s oxfords with it. It is a step towards evolution and up-rooting.
Inspiration is an idea. Inspiration is a vision. Inspiration is a revelation. Inspiration is creative genius. We are all inspired by something or the other when it comes to expression of our personal style. We use our inspiration and adapt it to our personal sensitivity and perception. However, at times we inhibit ourselves from fully expressing our core personality due to multiple reasons. It could be because we have an image to uphold; shyness; societal pressures; past experiences or just because we have never done it before and do not want to set any precedence.
Uninhibited expression is liberating! That is what makes us truly unique!
I want to provide this forum as an opportunity to my readers to express themselves freely. A forum where you can have absolute creative freedom with no inhibitions or restrictions, even if it lasts for one blog entry. I requested one of my very favorite bloggers and my dear sensitive friend Jamillah to adapt one of her inspirations to her personal style sans inhibitions and restrictions. Thank you Jamillah for putting so much thought and effort into the blog. You have dared to shed your inhibitions and taken a beautiful step towards uninhibited expression. Enjoy!
Hello friends of Ambuji, my name is Jamillah and I blog over at made-to-travel. I am thrilled to be guest posting on Ambu’s blog and really was inspired (and flattered!) by her request.
When it comes to personal style we all make our own boundaries whether due to our professions or a persona we want to embody or the fear of a certain kind of attention or the want of a certain kind of attention…for whatever reason we stop ourselves from being something else.
But that does not keep us from being inspired by something or wishing for something more. Ambu’s challenge to me was to choose a piece of art that inspires something in me that is not articulated in my personal style and try to personify it.
Not an easy task, but the first piece of art that came to mind was Egon Schiele’s Kneeling Girl in Orange-Red Dress (1910).
Egon Schiele was born in 1890 in the Austrian village Tulln on the Danube. His father was a station agent in the railways and after his death Schiele was sent to live with his maternal uncle. Once his uncle saw Schiele had a proclivity to art and no interest in traditional academics he had Schiele apply to Kunstgewerbeschule (the School of Arts and Crafts) in Vienna in 1906. Then at the insistence of his professors at the School of Arts and Crafts Schiele was sent to the more traditional Akademie der Bildenden Künste to study painting and drawing.
But this new setting frustrated Schiele, he did not take to the conservative ways of the Academy so he sought out Gustav Klimt. Klimt was known to generously mentor and take in young artist and after meeting Schiele he took a special interest to him and his talents.
Schiele left the Academy and began to explore not just the human form but also its sexuality. His work was often called grotesque, deemed pornography, and labeled disturbing.
Sadly, Egon Schiele died young in 1918, a victim of the Spanish Flu epidemic at the age of 28. Schiele was able to experience acceptance and success in his art before his early passing; read more on Egon Schiele here.
Schiele’s work is amazing to me. His nudes are incredibly graphic and human but also surreal. There is something incredibly raw and strong and sexy in his work which is what made me choose him and what made me select Kneeling Girl in Orange-Red Dress.
So I should tell you a bit about myself. My blog, made-to-travel is really a joyful space. I blog on my ethical fashion finds, my personal style and random happiness I find. In my real life and blogsphere I am a positive person, a happy person, easily excited and warm, and really I LOVE it. Those qualities are lovely and I would not change ANY of that.
But these qualities I think influence my style and how my style is perceived. I’m often called cute and pretty and while those are great things to be I am so inspired by this raw, edgy, provocative work of Schiele’s because I think I wish I would incorporate more of that edge and feeling into my persona and style.
I want to feel sexy and raw and be provocative. And thanks to Ambu I get to express that.
Ok, admittedly maybe not the most obviously sexy or provocative dress but that’s not how the Kneeling Girl in Orange-Red Dress projects sexuality and that is not how I believe Schiele depicts it in his work (yes, I am referring to the nudes too).
I believe it is much more human than showing skin and so much deeper than nudity…it is that look in the eyes of Schiele’s subjects that make me think desire. That human look of being coy and being raw and mischievous with intent.
If I am completely honest I have to say what holds me back from keeping that look in my eyes lies in confidence and also being a bit specific in the kind of attention I want to attract.
I come from a family that didn’t talk about appearance much. I was really raised to be academic, kind and strong and now I think I manage my appearance to not distract from those qualities. And I am happy with that too, I really do enjoy my style and I’m sure it’s bound to evolve and change so maybe one day I’ll be more dark and sexy but right now I’m happy with being warm and pretty.
Thank you so much dear friend Ambu, for allowing me to express myself in this way. It’s actually been a real treat and a telling and valuable exercise for me.
The tagline for made-to-travel is , “look for joy…always” and really that’s my wish for all of you.
When I started writing my blog, I did not have a clear defined vision for the blog. I was unsure of the direction in which I wanted to take the blog. The only thing I was sure of was that along with my other passions, I wanted to share my concept of non-conformity with my readers, if and when I was privileged to have some readers.
Now some of you loyalists (whom I appreciate with all my heart) have bestowed upon me your precious time by reading my blog and commenting upon the entries. Your comments are so thought provoking that I want to make a mini-blog of all the comments. I am absolutely floored by your lacerating intellects, breakdowns and dissections. Oh how I wish to sit down with all of you over a cup of cappuccino and enter into a discussion on a myriad of subjects ranging from fashion to philosophy; architecture to inspiration and conformity to non-conformity. (Such a discussion, if held in a café on the Italian Riviera will be preferable haha!)
I am an advocate of non-conformity and will continue to write on it. I admire it because it shows strength, bravery and risk taking. It can be in any walk of life-be it fashion, art, music, literature, architecture or even a profession. If Mark Zuckerberg had continued to conform by following the tried and traditional path of diligently attending classes at Harvard, taking exams and upon graduating sending out resumes to be a computer programmer, would we be enjoying the fruits of the revolutionary powerhouse phenomenon called Facebook!
We all interpret non-conformity based on our personal life experiences and sensibilities. My sweet friend Anika just wrote a beautiful piece on her interpretation of non-conformity, that I enjoyed reading immensely.
There is no set archetype. One of my interpretations of non-conformity is to explore, to veer away my comfort zone and forego established gauges and measures. I am not necessarily being rebellious or radical just to make a point of being a non-conformist, but merely pivoting towards the edge in order to find my edge, my extreme, my limit. I am testing my strength. I am taking a risk.
Androgyny in fashion is a way to step out of the comfort zone for both men and women. I have written earlier blogs on androgyny as applied to both men and women. I find androgyny extremely intriguing and captivating. What makes us want to digress and explore the sexuality of the opposite sex? What is so alluring about role reversal? Is it empowering or simply a way of testing our limit, our edge and our extreme.
Androgyny in fashion is a perfect example of non-conformism. Both men and women who dress androgynously take a risk. The risk of being ridiculed, judged and possibly be even rejected. Yet, they test their limits by using their strength and stepping outside the comfort zone.
James Franco photographed the embodiment of androgyny, Agyness Deyn for Elle magazine. The shot is inspired by James Dean. Agyness is a brave girl and so comfortable with her overt androgynous sexuality. She is unique and hence one of the most sought after models. Yes, non-conformity pays and can bring huge dividends!
Marc Jacobs is wearing pearls and a skirt while supporting a day old stubble from Prada’s fall 2011 collection. It is an ode to being an ardent Miuccia Prada fan. He look simply scrumptious! Marc took a risk to don a skirt and wear a strand of pearls on that perfectly chiseled Greek God body of his.
I too explored my androgyny by dressing in a man’s suit, albeit a somewhat shrunken one inspired more by Thom Brown than Brooks Brothers! It was a step towards finding my strength, even if the pivot towards the edge was only slight. I think I still have it in me to risk a steeper incline to find my edge. As for the day old stubble, I will have to stand on the precipice of my edge for that!