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Psychology was my major in college.  I was quite mesmerized by the Freudian theories of Id, Ego and Superego.

The Id theory is the part of the personality predicating on the pleasure principle.  Instant gratification.  

Speaking of instant gratification, I was passing by the Louis Vuitton store the other day and saw a horde of people inside.  There was commotion and chaos.  Kids were running around and adults looked frazzled.  The first thought that crossed my mind was oh my goodness; there is a mob inside the store!  

Usually one does not expect to see droves of people inside stores with LV kind of exclusivity factor.  You expect to see a select few carousing the products in their well-heeled soles and under the very watchful eye of the security guard.  The tones are hush and the sales staff move around stealthily in the background in their dark sleek uniforms and perfectly gelled hair.

So why the radical change?  Why do I hear sounds of babies howling rather than hush mellifluous tones?  Why do I see baby bottles on the counters rather than strategically placed trinkets to lure the buyer to buy add-ons “just because” along with the other hefty four-figure purchases.

Such swarms are seen in and expected to be seen in more “mass friendly” stores.  Curiosity got the better of me and I peeked inside.  To my utter shock what did I see?  A line, yes a queue of people waiting patiently to pay for the “exclusive” four figures and up monogramed bags!  There was surrealism to the moment.

I was befuddled, confused and perturbed.  Aren’t we going through the worst global economic crisis of all times?  Isn’t the employment rate in the U.S. the highest since the Great Depression?  Isn’t the crashing Greek economy threating to cast a dark shadow of doom over the entire economy of the European continent?  But here, right before my eyes, straight in my ocular field I was witnessing a long queue of people clamoring to have thousands of dollars charged on their credit cards for a few alphabetic symbols.

Were these people simply succumbing to satisfying their Id personality?  Seeking instant gratification.  Or were they endorsing their status in society via the monogrammed letters, giving them a feeling of success and a sense of having arrived? 

Most likely it is a mixture of both, satisfying the Id and an endorsement of societal status.  After all, aren’t the two interchangeable?

While in the Western world, there is an economic crisis, in the remaining parts of the world there is an economic boom.  The BRIC nations, Brazil, Russia, India and China are going through an unparalleled monetary upward swing.  The buying power of the so-called middle-class is rising exponentially.  Such amassing of wealth has given rise to a heightening in the Id personality.  And how is the Id gratified?  On a base level, by an acquisition of Brand products.

On one of my recent visits to India, I was amazed to see the power of the Brands on the psyche of the masses.  The worth of a person is judged according to the Brands he or she is wearing.  For example the Brand of purse she is carrying or the wallet he is whipping out.  There is plenty of disposable income and the Brands are happily obliging by rushing to satiate the deep hunger of masses with increasingly deep pockets.

There is most likely minimal to zero knowledge regarding the rich history, the origin, the culture or the value of the Brand, but there is definite knowledge of the power the Brand wields in society.  Such consumer may mis-pronounce an elite Brand such as Hermes and de-value it by rhyming it with a viral genital disease, (you know what I mean) but hey everyone recognizes the giant lock on the bag which will lead to the unanimous verdict of having arrived, thereby satisfying the Id.

Such consumers use their Brand possessions strategically.  The monogrammed Brands usually “come-out” during group gatherings such as parties, swanky club get-togethers, ladies lunches etc.  The Brands are not used for solitary occasions.  I mean, why use a Brand when nobody can see it. 

This makes me wonder.  Was the Brand purchased solely for display?  Is the value of the Brand solely to exhibit ones status in society?  Does the Brand have absolutely no worth to the user as an individual?

If such is the case, in my opinion the Brand is de-valued.

The symbols are meant for enjoyment-the LV, the H, the two G’s, the two C’s, the EA.  They most certainly satisfy the Id.  But let’s move to a higher level of Ego and leave behind the superficiality of merely the possessory and display value of the alphabets.  How about exploring the history and origin of the alphabets.  Learn how a poor cobbler in the remote village of France started the business, one hide at a time, hand stitching each bag to the point of utmost perfection.  How an empire was built from a mom and pop owned family business.  Learn the vision of the brand, its culture, its ethics. 

Use it for your own enjoyment and think of its rich history while carrying it to the supermarket where you don’t expect to meet any one from your social circle. 

Then you will truly derive “added-value” from your Brand possession.  You will satisfy not just the Id but the Ego.

Potiche or Trophy Wife.  Just saw the French film and enjoyed it.  It is set in 1977 and has iconic stars or should I say legends such as Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu.

potiche

I like watching foreign films as it gives me an insight to the culture, food, fashion, lifestyle of a country without actually going there.  Of course, if I have a choice between visiting a foreign country versus sitting in a dark theater, munching on extra-calorie pop-corn and living life vicariously via celluloid, I will definitely opt for the former.

Like I said earlier the film is set in 1977 and although a light hearted comedy portrays a sort of “coming out” of women, an emancipation if you will.  It explores serious cultural issues such as embarkation of women’s journey in the corporate work place, sexual liberation of women, women in politics-strong women yet retaining their femininity.

Being a fashion fiend, I was particularly impressed by the clothes worn by the actors.  They were stylish, strong and sexy while still maintaining a sense of elegance and dignity.  The outfits resonated the sentiment of the era.  Liberation of women without sacrificing seductive style.  Women have tread a thin line when it comes to fashion, particularly working women.  As a practicing attorney and a full participant of the corporate world I subject myself to the daily dilemma of presenting a no-nonsense corporate image; an image of trust and reliability; an image not so distracting that my words are not heard but without sacrificing style and staying true to my gender.

The movie was forthcoming in such a context.  The outfits were form-fitted, accentuating the curves of the female body, yet maintained a virtuous decorum (wow that is one word seldom used in the context of modern fashion.)

For example a form fitted skirt was paired with a chiffon blouse tied at the collar with long sleeves; a mid-length skirt was seen worn with a thin fitted shirt, buttons open at the collar, thereby exposing the nape of the neck and leaving certain things to the  imagination of the viewer.  Such small measures of seductivity and provocation are so much more titillating than leaving nothing to the imagination.

guccigucci

As fashion is circular, I have seen designers take cue from the past this year.  Dresses continue to have the fun and the flirtatious element but some designers have juxtaposed tasteful accents.  Gucci’s Fall/Winter 2011 selection is an example.  Frida Giannini has a bow tie collar dress with full-length sleeves constructed in mounds of ravishing flowy fabrics.  She has models wearing a silk tie scarf with an elegant cashmere fur-collar coat.  Such outfits are demure yet suggestive.

So, the mantra to be repeated is “yes, you can assert your intellect, femininity and style without being a Potiche-Trophy Wife.”

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.”

Lately the runways are fuming with “smoking” models, literally “smoking” on the runways

kate moss

One can see the super-thin models walking in the buff and emanating a “puff” from their perfectly matte or super-glossed pout, depending whether you are at Yves Saint Laurent or Gucci.

lady gaga

I was a bit astounded and bewildered,as I thought to myself, unbeknownst to me, did the Surgeon General revise the much touted cigarette warning?  My query was quickly answered in the negative by the omniscient Google.

melbourne fashion week

Then why am I seeing models running rampant on the slicked runways with a cigarette dangling from their lips?  From Kate Moss for Louis Vuitton Fall 2011 to Lady Gaga for Mugler show.  Melbourne fashion week had models dressed as “women of luxury” with billowing swirls of smoke rising between their delicate lacquered fingers in a smoky salon environment.  Cult blogger Bryanboy is seen flaunting a drag from his ciggy.

bryanboy

The most likely reason is that the fashion industry is in a perpetual quest of the next “it” concept; the next “unparalleled” runway show and the next “shock inspiring” campaign.  What better way to grab the attention of the consumer than using a prop that is synonymous with notoriety.  A prop that can be the subject of much heated debates and is counter-cultural.  It truly can be called the “it” prop.  (Disclaimer:  I am not promoting (or not) cigarettes, but merely analyzing the wide use of cigarette as a prop on runways.)

 Another reason for using cigarettes as props is because fashion is cyclical.  It is like karma, it is bound to come back.  Flares come back, platforms come back, and even big padded shoulders have made a come-back.  So, why not cigarettes.  This season there has been a surge of the 70s.  Gucci, Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton, Tom Ford all have hustled down to the 70s and brought back ideas for their respective lines.  And what could be more synonymous with the 70s than smoking. 

 So, in summary, without making this blog political or for that matter medical by weighing in on the pros and cons (well, mostly cons) of smoking, it is fair to say that the fashion industry is always on the abyss to find ways to “shock.”  Sooner or later, we all run out of shock ideas and  revert back in time to re-visit old ideas and re-package them.  

What will we see next…a model rolling a marijuana joint while walking in Eiffel tower-esque Pierre Hardy heels!!  Now that will be trippy, no I mean it in the most literal sense!

Hey there lil’ Red Riding Hood, you surely are looking good! Owwwww!

Little Red Riding Hood is a beautiful girl, wearing a long, bold red cape with a golden cascade of curls escaping from beneath her hood. She has rosy cheeks, plump lips, and she carries a wicker basket brimming with cakes and sundry—a fairy tale that kindles several levels of imagination in various people. One day she was eaten by a big bad wolf on her way to deliver cake and wine to her grandmother. However, a kind woodsman saved her from the stomach of the wolf, where she came bursting out, and reigned triumphant after killing the wolf.

Parables or fairy tales appeal to our senses as they are magical. They tell a story of victory of good over evil. They shape our culture as they can be interpreted in every century. Little Red Riding Hood is a tale preceding the 17th century, and continues to be interpreted in the 21st century. And now we have the Red Riding Hood moving coming up. It is a tale of innocence, boldness, love, courage and triumph. It is a tale of interpretation.

Fashion too is the same. At different times, it can be different things: innocent, bold, fun or shocking.

For example, fashion has a love-hate relationship with the color red. Too bold, too old, too young, too provocative, too statement making, too this or too that!!

Well I say, just like our parables, red invokes various emotions in us is therefore a color subject to multiple interpretations.

On a young woman it can be sweet and frolicky; on a woman of the world it can be sophisticated; on a sexy woman it can be provocative; and on an older woman it can be regal. And the Chinese wear it for good luck and fortune.

I love when fashion can be analyzed and perceived in multiple ways. It provokes thought and dialogue. And as erudite beings, we are always up for analysis, correct?

Look at the dresses below; they range from sweet, to sexy, to simply scandalous. The same goes for the bold red lacquered lips; they can be interpreted as sexy, bold, fun or sophisticated.

So, the moral of this story is forget societal labels. Labels limit and constrict us. We are not too old to be bold, too young to be sophisticated, “too this or too that.” We are like parables. Our style is like parables—subject to numerous interpretations. Just wear it, and leave the rest open for debate and interpretation…. Owwwwww!

Ahhh the tug of war begins between the lure of fair or tanned skin. Do we prefer dark or light skin? Black or white? Creamy or brown complexion? Does the color of your skin make you pretty, attractive, seductive, exotic, erotic, ugly or even repulsive? Is the deciphering of one’s skin color a form of racism? Is the international perception of beauty in keeping with the “western” skin color and hence the aspiration for fair skin? The debate has continued from times immemorial and will continue to be a subject of contention.

The history of fair skin goes back many centuries to when fair skin was a sign of noble lineage, a sign of belonging to the “upper” class or nobility. The reason being that the “upper” class led such a luxurious and decadent life that they never had to weather the harsh rays of the Sun. They were shielded from the harsh UVA/UVB rays by their expensive hats or a multitude of servants carrying umbrellas to shield the milky white skin of the “fair” ladies from the unforgiving rays of the brutal Sun.

In contrast, the “working” class had no option but to toil and expose their skin to the harsh elements of nature, thereby “imperiling” their skin to the rays of the Sun.

The quest for light or dark skin is also marked by cultural and continental demarcations. For example in the Western world a tanned complexion is a sign of a lady of luxury. One can picture a lady languoring and basking in the glory of the Sun to such a point where her skin color is akin to a shade of shiny liquid gold. You can imagine such a lady with a glass of martini between her long manicured fingers, in the most expensive lycra bikini, shades of gold in her hair, exorbitantly priced sunglasses perched on the bridge of her nose….in a nutshell the “Gucci girl.”

By contrast in the Asian world, specifically in China, Southeast Asia and the Middle East, a woman’s beauty is defined by the fairness of her skin. A possible reason is that Western women have been considered the epitome of beauty for centuries, with their fair skin, blue eyes and “golden” hair, just as in the fairy tale “Goldilocks.”

That is why you will often note Asian women driving with white gloves in the heat of summer as they do not want the rays of the Sun to tint their creamy complexion.

In most of the countries in Asia the aisles of the beauty stores—and even grocery stores—are stacked with an array of skin lightening products, including lotions, potions, bleaching creams, etc., all derived to enhance the fairness of the skin by a shade or two.

In India, before the marriage ceremony, a turmeric concoction is rubbed on the entire body of the woman to make her fairer for the big day in order to lure her husband. In fact, there is a popular brand of creams and lotions produced by a major company called “Fair and Lovely,” specifically to bring out the “white” of the skin.

Surprisingly, even men have jumped on the band wagon and the top Bollywood heroes are brand ambassadors for fairness creams.

Crack open any Asian paper, especially from the sub-continent of India, and you will not be able to escape a matrimonial ad wanting a “young bride, highly educated with fair skin, for a handsome fair skinned boy….” Alright, so much fairness makes me get up and dowse myself in a tub of cream!

What is the reason for the lure of a particular skin color? Aren’t we born with a color that nature has bestowed upon us, best suited for our facial features? In my opinion it is a primitive thought process holding on to antiquated pre-conceived notions. Fair skinned girls are associated with innocence, fragility and submissiveness (just like the princesses or fairy tale characters such as Snowhite), which works well in societies dominated by men. Yes, such societies can find dark skinned women attractive, but often in an erotic, exotic way, mostly to derive sexual gratification rather than entering into a long-term meaningful relationship.

I remember a famous ad-maker once said that he looks for fair skinned girls to cast in wholesome family ads as they portray a picture of stability. On the other hand, if he is making an ad for a condom or a lubricating cream, he will look for dark skinned girls as they are associated with eroticism, fun, and sexuality, but not wholesome goodness.

In my opinion, the color of one’s skin is a façade, a mask, a shield. We cannot determine a person’s goodness, value system, sexual preferences, or biases by their skin. We need to dig deeper for that!!! So, let’s raise our glasses to both “my fair and my dark ladies”!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IXweyahEuc