About Vinod Nair

Stepping into fashion was pre-meditated for Vinod Nair. Hailing from a small town in Kerala, where men wore dhotis like mini skirts, most women smelt like drums of coconut oil, he thought the only way to size up pretty girls and still not get hit by their stilettos was by writing about them. So he started that in 1991 when fashion was still small here. Writing, of course, was incidental. In 2004, Vinod Nair was awarded “Best Fashion Journalist” at the first fashion awards in the country, F-Awards. Fashion has gone a long way since then… but he still stands where he started…

When I met Rahul Mishra, the Indian fashion designer who got accolades from around the world, including from the legendary Suzy Menkes of Conde Nast for his maiden show on a Parisienne runway, I noticed him because he was new and different.

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All over the world luxury conferences are held, the most noted one being the one organized by Suzy Menkes, the former Fashion Editor of International New York Times and currently the International Vogue Editor. Suzy held these conferences at various cities around the world and the who’s who from the world of luxury flew into these destinations to speak at these conferences.

Now Suzy is about to do the same for her current company, Conde Nast. The first Conde Nast Luxury Conference will be held at Florence, Italy early next year. In the meantime, the International New York Times Luxury Conference is all set to be held at Miami end this year, first time in the US, hosted for the first time by Deborah Needleman and Vanessa Friedman of NYT. Then there is the Financial Times Luxury Conference as well.

In India, HT Media pioneered the concept of a luxury conference in 2006. Since then, most of the names from the world of luxury – the late Yves Carcelle of Louis Vuitton, Chanel’s Francoise Montenay, Herms’ Christian Blanckaert, Christian Louboutin, Angela Missoni, Fulvia Ferragamo, to mention just a few — have come to speak at the conference.

That time India was considered one of the most important countries among the emerging markets and most of the brands made a beeline for this market. However, owing to heavy tariffs and lack of infrastructure, the pace of growth for most of these brands wasn’t as fast as they expected it to be. Brands are here and are doing business, but most of them expected India to be the next China in terms of its sales. That never happened.

But what is keeping their expectations somewhat alive still is the increasing number of India’s well earning middle class population, especially dominated by its young members. It is with this in mind that the 8th Mint Luxury Conference with its theme “Luxury: Why India Matters” is coming up on October 31 and November 1 at The Palladium Hotel Mumbai. The conference will look into various aspects of India’s possibility to contribute to luxury in terms of production as well as distribution.

The lineup of speakers for the conference include several international as well as Indian speakers – Prabhal Gurung, one of the few Asians who made a mark in global fashion, Phillip Treacy the world famous hat maker, Chambre Syndicale de la Couture’s legendary President Didier Grumbach, British luxury brands association Walepole’s director Charlotte Keesing and its Italian counterpart Altagamma’s Vice Chairman Armando Branchini, one of the most expensive fragrance brand Clive Christian’s CEO Victoria Christian, etiquette’s publisher Debrett’s London CEO Joanne Milner, IPR counsel Charles Russel, Tranoi’s director Michael Hadida and many others. The conference will be inaugurated by India’s commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

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Last week I two separate mails from two separate brands with one saying a Bollywood celeb sitting on the front row of their fashion show abroad and the other brand saying the Bollywood lady wore its outfit while doing something in Noida.

Brands I suspect are getting a bit desperate to get attention. Reason why I say this is because they either get the wrong person at the right place or the right person at the wrong place. Well, whatever the case may be, none of these so called celebrities are brand loyal too… so in effect they are not really endorsing these brands.

Lets start with a foreign fashion show. Bollywood A listers won’t go just because a brand tells them they will be seated on the front row and they will be flown first class. That leaves with the has-beens and B or C class actors. As such they got nothing to do and when brands invite them to the shows they are more than happy to oblige for that two minutes of fame that will never convert into either more chances back at home or even the minutest chance of making it into the Hollywood! Of course, they also know that these brands approach them because a Shah Rukh or a Deepika aren’t available…

Then they get to London or Paris for the shows and the fun starts there. No one recognizes them there. While the rest of the world and its cats are getting mobbed by the paparazzi and the internations PRs scurrying around to please all the members of the international media, our Sharon Stones stand… well, like a stone… embarrassed and red faced as they get no attention. Then, that hurdle being jumped with difficulty, they go and place their derriers on the assigned seats… of course, the front row.

Usually, after you are seated there is a 20 minutes to half hour gap before the actual show starts. This is when every one talks to every one… well, not quite every one. Our B class star is sitting with no one to talk to. Guest on her left is talking to the guest on her right… she can almost feel the whiff of wind coming from both the mouths, but she has no one to talk to. Difficult moments pass and the lady (or the male star from B-wood) prays the show starts soon so that he/she can get the hell out of the place and hit the bar and down a few drinks (of course the brand pays for everything).

Next day, the supplements carry big pictures of these ‘stars’ on ‘front rows’ attending famous fashion shows along with quotes from these people saying how wonderful the ‘cut’ and the ‘silhouettes’ were!

You must be thinking how terrible I am saying all these, but what I said above are all true. No one gives a damn in the West unless you are a Shah Rukh Khan or a Kareena, Katrina or Deepika.

But I understand that brands spend all the money because they could do with all the mileage that it can get. While else would a famous brand cloth a star going to Noida or Lokhandwala? Not sure, whether it is a two way benefit… but sure, the ones who have nothing else to do get the chance to travel even when they face total ‘who the hell are you?’ look from everyone there.

(but then they realize this only when they land there!)

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Monsieur Didier Grumbach is the big boss of the fashion world. Being the President of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture for 16 long years, when Didier says something, the fashion world stops to listen. [Read more]

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