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…

Well, I can’t really blame you if such a flash of shabbiness (there are exceptions, of course) is the first thing that came in your mind. What the Mahatma has introduced to us as the fabric of freedom has since then changed into power, corruption, and violence and in smaller dozes some scattered honesty today.

It was when I was just about to lean back resigned to the state of affairs when it come to this fabulous hands-spun fabric, I heard about the promotion of the same by the government of Rajasthan in Jaipur. As much excited as I was hearing this piece of news, I was even more thrilled when I heard that design innovations of this fabric for the shows were being introduced via such best-known fashion designers in this country as Abraham & Thakore, Jason Anshu, Ritu Kumar, Hemant Trevedi, New York-based Lars Andersson, Pallavi Jaipur, Bibi Russel and Rohit Kamra (young compared to the rest, but over the last few years I have seen their menswear collections with growing admiration). Adding on the event’s excitement was the inclusion of some of the unsung heroes of the fashion industry… the weavers. And yes, at the helm of the event was Prasad Bidapa, one of the most revered names in India’s fashion industry.

The first thing at the Rajastan Heritage Week held in Jaipur recently that I noticed was the avid interest shown by its chief minister Vasundara Raje on promoting khadi through glamorous shows on the fashion runway. Not only did she attend all shows every day, but was seen applauding and encouraging the weavers and fashion designers who appeared on the runway as well.

In the past too various governments have funded fashion shows but the incumbent ministers have never showed visible enthusiasm on the aisles of fashion runways. They usually come, light a lamp make a dreary speech and sit for a show, that too barely looking at the models and clothes appearing on the runway. Rajasthan CM’s very presence was a welcome change to the otherwise no-support signs usually shown by the state governments.

That said, khadi even when it is proved to be a tough fabric to handle when it comes to high fashion and its various silhouettes, could well be our answer to flannel. With its loosely woven nature, mostly in cotton, this fabric can make good drapes and fluid silhouettes. And Rajasthan Heritage Week proved that tradition could blend well with modernity. Several weavers, some of them national awardees, came on the runway with their sari drapes, such designers as Abraham & Thakore, Jason Anshu and Hemant Trevedi introduced contemporary silhouettes. Ritu Kumar and Bibi Russel played with the fabrics in fusion and traditional forms and Rohit Kamra came out with an impressive lineup of menswear using this traditional hand woven fabric. The entire line-up of khadi in western silhouettes including ‘reversed or inside-out looks’ by Lars Andersson was particularly interesting.

The case in point here is the initiative taken by a state government to promote some thing that is very Indian and under exposed in the high fashion circuit. Khadi Board, in the past, had tied up with such fashion designers as Rohit Bal to introduce and promote khadi in the designer wear segment and has been selling the same through its outlets all across the country. The Gujarat government in the recent past has also evinced interest in promoting khadi through high fashion platforms such as the Fashion Design Council of India-run fashion weeks in Delhi titled ‘Hut to High Street’. This could well be a wake-up call for some of the other states whose handloom industry is still struggling for recognition and owing to the same reason the textile industry in those states remain small scale and under exposed to the world.

What the Rajasthan and Gujarat governments did to promote khadi through glamour platforms could well be the beginning of this national fabric getting onto international fashion streets.

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A few years ago, when Lakme Fashion Week decided to start a men’swear day right in the middle of its fashion week, I was happy that atleast one day we will get to see what Indian designers have to offer to men from their respective stables. I must say, it was interesting to see one full day various designers presenting their creations for men on the fashion runway, even as some of them came out with questionable collections that were effeminate and could well have been for women…

Then the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) made its bid to start a men’s wear fashion week in India in association with Van Heusen. As expected, Van Heusen India Men’s Week was talked about in all fashion circles as unique and some of the promising names in Indian designer men’s wear took part in it and the event ran for a successful three years.

At least I thought it was successful…

Looking back at these menswear day and the men’s fashion week, I wonder how successful they really were for both LFW and the FDCI decided do discontinue these menswear shows for some reasons best known to them. Seeing the turn outs for the shows and the enthusiasm woven around these events, I thought these events will flourish. In any case I didn’t expect them to kind of establish themselves on the first few attempts anyway… so I wanted to wait and watch and see how this is going to mark its territory in India’s growing designer fashion industry. But that was not to be… they were gone as fast as they came… Even as early as last season I asked LFW whether they were interested in restarting the menswear day and I realized that’s not something that’s going to happen in the near future.

Menswear shows are important. It may be true that buying for the same may not be as hectic as those of the womenswear but the fact is that buyings are happening. Lot of Indian men are buying Indian designer menswear not just for such occasions as weddings and receptions. That in any case is happening. Indian designer wear for men may not be seen in the board rooms or office spaces that often but the fact is that the market for it is there and a boost should be given to this segment.

This not only give a fillip to those designers who are concentrating on various looks for men, but it will also create an awareness of the existence of creations for men other than the ones meant for weddings, etc. Of course, such an event will also be music to the ears of our male models who otherwise are seen as mere props at regular fashion weeks that are dedicated to women!

So, when I heard the announcement of Van Heusen+GQ Fashion Nights 2015 that’s making its debut at the Grand Hyatt on December 1 and 2, I was pretty pleased. The event has a hand-picked lineup of Rajesh Pratap Singh, Rohit Gandhi & Rahul Khanna, Raghavendra Rathore, Troy Costa, Ujjwal Dubey, Dhruv Kapoor and Shantanu & Nikhil and I am told the six shows that they are going to present will be spread across two evenings.

The concept of GQ looks interesting and the lineup is also convincing enough to have a two-day showcasing of some of the interesting creations for men on the fashion runway next week.

Atleast I am happy that GQ has picked up the thread from where it was left earlier, albeit in a new format and with its brand backing and vision coupled with the renewed interest in Indian designer menswear that it is going to generate, this could well be the start for more style in India’s menswear.

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It’s amazing to see the kind of enthusiasm people show when it comes to any kind of fashion weeks in South India. It doesn’t matter who organise it or why, response I see has always been that of huge. Lots of people from all walks of life attend, television, print and online media extensively cover these events and surprisingly good brands end up sponsoring the same as well.

However, what lack in these events is the quality. Most these events seem to be happy with a sprinkle of four or five so called ‘big’ names and fill the rest with substandard participants.

The big names participate for two reasons: one, they get paid for it and two, they take it as a paid holiday. Because of this reason, collections showcased by these senior designers are never something specially made for the show. It’s always something that they showed elsewhere. But then you can’t blame them as there are no buyers present at these fashion weeks and there’s hardly any scope for B2B or B2C happening on the spot.

So why these big names? Well, without their names sponsors show no interest in being part of such events. So the organisers go all out to please some names who are willing to be part of their event with money, holiday and other stuff.

So in the end it’s all the same. National media and buyers are not interested in this event because they have already seen some collections at fashion weeks in Delhi or Mumbai and addons at these events are not really appealing enough. But the local media laps it up and splash the same around local dailies. But is that enough for the organisers? It definitely appears so as they are happy making it their few bucks through this and becoming local glamour entities.

What surprises me is not even one of them think of doing something unique in these regions. India is a country which has unique characters strewn all over the place. South has its culture and character, noth is different, north-east is entirely different from the rest, etc. There is plenty of scope for doing things and events related to fashion that are never done before. Still these guys carry the leftovers from Mumbai and Delhi to their regional events. Collections are substandard, models are B grade, other professionals are down market… they cut corners every possible way to bring out small fashion weeks (fashion weeks are all about media and buyers and business. Don’t even know why they call them fashion weeks!).

About a couple of years ago, there were a lot of such events… glad to notice many of them are now dead and buried deep. The existing ones are spending money and stuggling to keep afloat… if atleast them think of doing something unique for the region’s, atleast it would have added to the over all fashion experience!

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Looking back, it’s rather difficult to believe that fashion weeks in India are 15 years old. I remember the time when there were few scattered individual shows done by India’s fashion designers that were more like social gatherings over drinks and dinner than commercial events that they are today.

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This season there are two interesting things about fashion weeks, first one happening in Mumbai next week and the one in Delhi after that. [Read more]

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