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India is on the global radar.  India is the “talk of the globe.”  India is Conspicuous!

It has gone from being the land of snake charmers, beggars, saffron robed sadhus (hermits) and the home of the “new” 7th wonder of the world, the Taj Mahal, to one of the fastest rising BRIC nations, boasting the top 15 richest people on the Forbes list and having an array of luxury brands forgoing opening stores in U.S. and Europe and courting and serenading India.

The tags have changed from the “third world country” to the “rising super power.”  All of a sudden the peaceful yogic and meditative nation has become an exploding power to reckon.

 masaba gupta

Fashion has come to the forefront with the rise of the middle class and increase in the disposable income.  Expedited globalization has increased the awareness quotient for international brands, fashion styles, the “it” bags, shoes etc.  There is an exponential growth of the fine taste of luxury.

masaba gupta

There is a boom of international brands such as Louis Vuitton who released a special edition Diwali dress to join in the jubilations of the festival of lights; Gucci who came up with a special clutch as the accessory to be carried with the traditional sari; Burberry, Christopher Bailey himself made a recent trip to India for a tete-a-tete with the who’s who of Bollywood; Dior; L’Occitane and of course the very flamboyant Roberto Cavalli to satisfy the ostentatious element of the Indian psyche.  After all, what is the point of all the wealth when one can’t flaunt it by wearing a theatrical Cavalli caftan!

anand kabra

 Indian designers have jumped on the fast speeding fashion Ferrari as well (no longer the term band wagon can be used for the speeding growth in India.)

Indian designers have made an effort to understand the “international” fashion market.  The fashion shows have increased.  The fall/winter, spring/summer concepts have been adopted and the runway shows are becoming artistic productions with Bollywood stars being lured to walk the ramp as “show stoppers.”  Famous musicians croon in the background in fashion shows as gangly and lanky models with “not so” quintessential Indian features slither on the runway with angry expressions on their faces.

The designers have learnt that they need to veer away from the traditional dresses such as the sari to cater to the global market.  They have grasped that they need to make their clothes reach out to the “much enamored by the West” masses of India if they want to compete with the infiltrating international brands. 

I understand that change is the essential element for all growth.  Stagnancy can only cause decay and eventually death.  However, as a much exposed fashion aficionado, I do have a bone to pick with the Indian designers.  I understand that they need to compete in the global market and venture outside the customary conventionalism.  However, simply aping the West is not the answer either.  Because then there is no uniqueness, no originality, no newness.  We already have the McQueen, McCartney, Balenciaga and Lanvin, we do not need a clone of them.  Anna dello Russo has done the cherry hat a million times, conjure up another accessory!  View the photos below, are they reminiscent of looks we may have recently seen…a deja vu, if you will!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are a few Indian designers who are unique and churn out awe-inspiring designs season after season.  They have stayed true to their unique signature designs and incorporated them with modernism for the global appeal.  My favorites are Sabyasachi, Masaba Gupta and Anand Kabra. 

I perfectly understand that we all seek inspiration from somewhere.  Even the masters such as Da Vinci and Michelangelo were inspired by other artists.  Nothing wrong with that.  Be inspired, but bring your true identity to your designs to make them unique.  Especially in fashion, uniqueness is a prerequisite, else it is “mass fashion.”

Balenciaga 2011-2012, ready-to-wear collection stayed true to its name and was in fact “ready to wear.” The term was not used as a euphemism to describe clothes that had absolutely no scope of being translated or transgressing even to the hi-fashion streets of London, Milan or Paris.

Long flowery silky skirts, boxy jackets, bright neon body-contouring dresses worn with cigarette pants and coats inspired by the actual archives of Cristobal Balenciaga. Even the description is redolent of every day wear.

The latest collection of Balenciaga is an amalgamation of my prior blogs focusing on taking risks in fashion and non-conformity in order to fully explore our creative potential. It has been the running theme of my blog entries. 

Balenciaga

A twist on the traditional suit. Note, the textured grey cigarette pants and structured coat, worn with a long dress inside. Yes, a dress, a tad bit longer than the coat. Imagine a dress worn inside an almost traditional suit. Some of you may scoff and say dowdy, not fitted enough, too loose. You have to open your mind and treat fashion as art. Truly, it is all about structure, lines, forms and individuality. Notice how the pants are fitted in order to pare down the volume of the coat. It is almost as if the famous architects Frank Gehry or Zaha Hadid drafted the designs. I am getting goose bumps typing this piece as the potential of fashion is so unlimited. The suit is not fitted or restricted. Yet, its structure, ease and layering makes it über modern and stylish. Imagine walking down the streets of Paris in this outfit, or in the alternative, dressed for a corporate boardroom meeting. It makes a forceful impact on the viewer in any setting. Can a skin-tight fitted dress have the same effect? Maybe a lascivious one, but the wearers of Balenciaga are not vying for such an effect.

Balenciaga A/W 2011-2012

Look at the above photo. A much below the knee torrent of fuchsia dress worn with muted grey pants. The perfect combination of bright and muted colors. Nicolas Ghesquiere did not feel compelled to make this dress in a body hugging, thigh high silhouette. It was not needed as despite its length, the impact is style, coquettish sexiness and grace. Imagine the juxtaposition of these elements and the result is sheer fashion combustion.

Balenciaga

A boxy color block sweater made of what appears to be the sponge used in surfer’s suits worn with an almost ankle-length patent skirt. No revelation of chest, back, arms, legs, except the ankles. What is the effect? It leaves the interpretation to the viewers imagination. 

This is what I call “ready-to-wear.”

We as human beings have an innate desire to be physically admired and liked. It gives our ego a boost of confidence and strengthens our self-esteem. How do we achieve this?  The answer is by being BOLD!!

Unfortunately, most of us try our level best to fit into a “mold” of conformity all our lives and never fully explore the limitless potential to express our indivdual style sense and the infinite fashion opportunities that lie ahead of us. Life is fleeting so take the risk and be BOLD!!

Just read a line on style icon Carey Mulligan: “She’s got great taste; carefully avoiding anything above the knee, tight…” Buck, Joan Juliet. “The Talented Miss Mulligan.” Vogue. 2 September 2010. http://www.vogue.com/magazine/article/the-talented-miss-mulligan. 30 September 2010.

As a lawyer, it set the wheels of my analytical legal mind in action as to what exactly is the definition of “good taste.” Is it subjective or objective? Can it be loosely interpreted by each individual’s own sensibilities, or do certain established standards apply to define good taste? Are being sexy and having good taste synonyms, antonyms or both? Is the good taste of one the obscenity of another? After all, there can be art form in pornography as well.

For some, an above-the-knee short (or very short) dress is taste. For others a tight fitting (even better if skin tight) dress is taste. For yet another demographic it’s chest-baring dresses, and for others if a woman wears all the above rolled into one it is the epitome of style and sex appeal. Conversely, for some (not necessarily the puritanical ones) it could have the opposite “turn off” effect.

Believe it or not, there is law on the issue of interpreting what I will call “good taste,” for the purposes of this blog. It is outlined in a 1973 Supreme Court case, Miller v. California. No, I will not belabor you with the case as we are on to something more important and interesting here.

The Court analyzed whether a certain form of art (style/fashion are forms of art) would be offensive to an “average person” applying “contemporary community standards.” I question the test, as the definition of “contemporary community standards” has significantly changed from 1973 to 2010. As a lifelong observer and student of style and fashion I have observed that any style that is not form fitting or body baring to some extent is not appreciated by the “community.” Loose clothing, no matter how stylish, is considered matronly and homely. (Right about now I can hear Stella McCartney, Alber Elbaz and Nicolas Ghesquière scoff!)

As a personal observation, and nothing against the opposite sex, I have noticed the tighter and shorter my clothes are the more admirable glances I get from my darker halves. I could run around in the most stylish and tasteful Balenciaga or Prada dress but somehow fail to pique the interest of men.

So, if we follow the above logic is it appropriate to deduce that our “community standards” adhere to a blatant exhibition of a woman’s curves? Unless a woman succumbs to such exhibitionism will she not be considered stylish? Is that in keeping with “good taste?” Has there been such degeneration in our society that style and taste is all about body-baring sex appeal?

The sad part is that we are talking about “community standards.” Most of us human beings are gluttons for approval and such approval will obviously come from a “community.” And to please that “community” we will continue to comply with the “acceptable standards of the community,” i.e. body baring tight clothing, conformity and lack of imagination!